How to Know if an Editor is Good

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Editors seem to be as abundant as fleas on a hound nowadays. An online word search for “free-lance editor” can result in a daunting number of possibilities.

And editors are in demand. Not only because of the proliferation of self-publishing but also because, in this competitive publishing market, writers often hire free-lance editors to clean up a manuscript before showing it to an agent or an acquisitions editor.

But how can you tell if an editor is good?picking person with idea

If I were looking for an editor, the first question out of my lips would be: What editorial training have you received?

Especially among free-lance editors, you might hear, “I’ve published two books and been in a critique group for five years. Everyone in the group tells me my critiques are the best.”

That would be an unimpressive response. Being published means you’re a decent writer. But you might have the editorial instincts of a cockroach. The two skill sets don’t necessarily equate.

Even being a strong critiquer doesn’t mean you know how to edit. It’s one thing to pinpoint a trouble spot in a manuscript; it’s another to understand why that’s a problem and still another to know how to fix it.

Having someone provide you with a list of manuscripts he has edited isn’t proof of strong editing skills either. That person just might be great at marketing himself. You have no idea what shape those manuscripts were in when he got his hands on them, nor how improved they were when he finished.

Most really strong editors were mentored by a gifted editor. It’s like an apprenticeship. I don’t believe editor wannabes should be released out into the publishing world without having the oversight of a talented editor. Even if the person is a natural-born editor, that skill needs to be honed.

I don’t claim to be the world’s best editor, but I was trained by not one editor but by a team of editors. And my apprenticeship wasn’t for a few months; it was for several years.

I joined the staff of Cru right out of college, having majored in English. I had taken a creative writing class. And I liked to write poetry. That was it. Some qualifications, right?

But the director of Cru’s publications department saw some latent ability in me and requested that I be assigned to her department. Then the training began. Each week all the new recruits attended classes in which we learned: editing marks, common grammatical errors, headline writing, newspaper layout, caption writing, writing techniques, interviewing skills, editing know-how, AP style book, proofreading methods, the steps to produce both newspapers and magazines–from conceiving an issue’s contents to going to the printer to okay the print run, etc. Eventually we published books as well, and that meant adjusting our skills to a very different kind of format. We took tests. We were individually coached on weaknesses. It was intense and intentional.

We also were given assignments–not as a test, but to be published–to write brochures, slide shows, news articles, and feature articles. Sometimes we were given transcribed talks and told to transform them into great articles. I remember one time being handed a 50-page transcript of a speech and told to cut it down to a 300-word article that retained the colorful style of the well-known speaker. And, I might add, this was the era in which you literally cut and pasted an article together from the transcript. If you don’t learn editing with a task like that, ain’t nothin’ going to teach you how to edit.

We interviewed staff members who were working in a variety of countries and had returned to Cru’s headquarters (as well as some pretty famous folks). From the interviews we wrote articles.

I’ll now confess to the time I interviewed the head of a significant foreign division in the organization and forgot to turn on my tape recorder. It was a long interview. At the end, he suggested I check to make sure the recorder had worked.

Mistakes were made. Some were never repeated.

When we finished each assignment, an editor sat down with us individually and told us what we did well and what needed work. We revised. We were critiqued again. We revised…for some assignments, the write-critique-write cycle went on for several rounds. And, of course, our work was edited. We were then given the job of retyping our work, incorporating the edits–a great way to learn how to write better and how to edit.

Because we were working with different editors depending on what type of writing we were doing, we benefited from the strengths of each editor.

Many of us went on to become full-time editors, and while we already had received considerable training in the publishing process, classes and individual feedback remained  in place. We never rested on our laurels.

After many years at Cru, I transitioned into book publishing and worked at Zondervan. Even though I was given an imprint (which is like running your own publishing venture within the larger publishing house), the managing editor’s job was to oversee my work. She became yet another mentor to me, noting areas I needed to shore up and offering guidance.

I view myself as privileged to have had mentors eager to push me forward, to offer me insights, and to make sure I never thought I’d arrived.

That is the kind of editor you want to hire. Someone whose skills have been developed under the watchful eye of others. You most certainly don’t want an individual who decided to augment her writing income with some editing on the side, or someone who designed an editor-for-hire business card and added a landing page with prices on his website.

 While you want to dig into an editor’s background, what other questions or exercises could you use to ascertain an editor’s skill level?


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76 Responses

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  1. Super post, Janet. The questions I would have would relate to the specifics of the background –
    * What kind of editing formed the bulk of your experience, developmental or copy (leaving out acquisitions and managing editors, who would not likely be freelancing)?
    * With which genres do you have experience? And how current is that experience, since, while the definition of ‘good writing’ changes but glacially, it DOES change.
    * For a nonfiction editor, what other credentials do you have, in terms of expertise in specific fields? Do you understand the use of occupation-specific jargon, and can you edit ‘around’ it?
    * For a fiction editor, the same can apply, at least for some genres. For a Civil War novel, do you understand the advantages conferred by a Hery repeated in terms of rate of fire, versus the ballistic power of a Sharps throwing a .55 caliber Minie ball? Will your edits skate over the ‘gun stuff’, or are you qualified to lend an expert, or at least qualified hand?
    * While it’s a delicate area, I’d like to try to ascertain whether an editor has any special agendas. A large part of my “Emerald Isle” deals with abortion; will an editor’s personal feeling colour her suggestions? Likewise, EI has Catholic characters (hard to imagine a Protestant member of the IRA); how might this affect suggested changes?
    * Finally, I’d be interested in knowing what the editor-under-consideration likes to read. Our vocations pay us; our avocations shape us. I want to see that shape.

    • Aargh,

      Fourth bullet point – should be Henry REPEATER, not repeated. Sorry.

    • An editorial case-in-point, if I may – of something done right, and something done wrong. (In a film; it’s a bit more vivid, as you shall see.)
      * The latest installment of Stallone’s “Rambo” is actually quite good, hitting the moral – and Christian – high points with appropriate candor and subtlety. The graphic nature of the action is as close to “what it’s really like” as you might care to see.
      * The point of interest in editing comes in the depiction of a sniper; this is an area in which I feel qualified to express an opinion.
      * Most spectacularly, the sniper’s targets are, in one scene, blown off their feet by the impact of the bullet. This may seem exaggerated; it’s not, as the sniper was using a Barrett M82, which fires the .50 BMG cartridge. This is a round ordinarily used in a crew-served heavy machine gun, and it easily has the energy to send someone flying. (That the dude was carrying it on a long foot-mobile infil does raise a separate question, but some people just LOVE the Beast enough to bear its 31-lb weight. I certainly do.)
      * What’s unrealistic are the ‘head shots’; snipers aim at center-of-mass wherever possible. Unless you’re using a suppressed .22 (not unknown in urban sniping), almost every sniper weapon is C.O.M. effective. Head shots are Hollywood, and the ‘through the scope’ shots make me cringe.
      * Given that most authors have to rely on a hired freelance editor for at least come level of fact-checking, my assumption would be that an editor should be at least familiar enough with the details used in a story to ask the questions raised above. Is this true, or am I over-thinking the editorial process?

      • Iola says:

        I’ve seen so many similar errors in novels from the major CBA publishers that I wonder if anyone checks facts.

        But reviewers certainly “snipe” about factual errors, so it should be more important than it is.

      • I sure agree with that, Iola. It seems to me that both contemporary and historical fiction carry a responsibility to represent the depicted world accurately, because fiction will form a large part of how future generations can have any idea of “how it was”.
        * Think of the French Revolution; where do you get your primary picture, the one that’s in your heart? Not through the written ephemera of the time, but from “A Tale of Two Cities”.
        * That’s why (at least to me) good editing’s so important – to preserve both the facts and the flavour.

      • peter says:

        Valuable Janet. Perhaps I share Andrew’s concern on issues of theology, only mine is more of a minefield. I suspect their is a limit to every editor. They are not subject matter experts, but do expect a writer to have done enough research or to have tested their writing with experts. Even so, I see errors in books and movies that fail technically but work anyway and that is probably because the editors did well within their limits. I think the responsibility for technical accuracy as well as ultimate responsibility for grammar and so on, will always remain with the manuscript owner. I had a client berate me because “I offered to cancel his existing arrangements”, but I had to tactfully point out that offering to do so does not make it my responsibility until he accepts that offer – even then it is still his ultimate responsibility, especially given the way so many clients do their own thing or can’t make up their minds or ignore sound advice, and so on. I suspect an editor faces similar challenges and must professionally know their limits and make that known to the client. The boundaries between editor and writer must never blur, but less professional editors will do so misguidedly. Well that’s how I see it anyway.

      • peter says:

        So wish I could edit my comments – from their to there … maybe a good time to make the point. But I suppose a seasoned editor sees far more than obvious errors.

    • Great questions, Andrew! You got my mind thinking about what I’d look for if I needed an editor.

    • Janet Grant says:

      These are great questions, Andrew. I think the editor needs to be comfortable with the author’s approach, even if the editor doesn’t agree with it. On the other hand, having an editor who mildly disagrees and asks you tough questions, can be beneficial.
      I don’t think you can expect an editor to necessarily have military/arms expertise. As Peter, suggested in his comment, it would be difficult for an editor to have detailed knowledge about many topics.
      Ultimately, it is the author’s job to be accurate. The editor’s job is to have a questioning mind and to be curious. If some aspect of the writing doesn’t jive with reality or with a nugget of information the editor checks, the editor will ask about the accuracy of a statement.
      I recall an editor challenging one of my clients on whether a blind, historical character would have a cane since canes for the blind weren’t invented yet. My client came back with a blizzard of research on the earliest canes for the blind. Okay, then. It was clear that my client had done her homework.
      But it’s the sort of question you want an editor to ask, just in case the author needed to rework certain scenes.

  2. *A good editor “Girds up the loins of his/her mind” (1 Peter 1:13): Mind, in Greek, dianoia–diá, “from side-to-side,” and noús, “mind,” as in considering a matter from one side of an issue to the other to reach a balanced conclusion.
    *A good editor sees from the differing sides of potential readers.That includes the grammar geeks, the history buffs, the students of science and the folks who read just for the fun of it.
    *A good editor may make it look easy, but it’s not an easy job.

  3. I’ve often wondered about this. Thanks for sharing.

    What I’ve done in the past is pay an editor for a one chapter edit. That gave me a feel for if I thought they were helpful to me for my story.

    A few years ago, I liked an editor and sent her my story. Then I worked on her suggestions and sent it off to an agent. I appreciated the agent responding with the advice to find my own voice and resubmit. That was a huge lesson learned. I know this doesn’t really answer your question, but I wanted to share this warning.

    Thanks so much for this great post!

    • peter says:

      I can see the loss of your own voice as a valid issue. I think Wendy said it last week, that a highly edited ms could obscure the writer’s talents. I may get roasted here, but I can’t help feeling that no matter how much we edit, a publisher will want their own trusted editors to rework it all, in line with their marketing strategies, etc. So, perhaps an own editor is more of a critical review. Grammar can be addressed with useful tools, but getting a trusted adviser (more than one) to give their impressions and critiques is a useful prelude to submission, as long as it isn’t their writing, lest you deceive or risk being found out.

      • Janet Grant says:

        Peter, while a publisher certainly will have its editors work on your manuscript, they would be unlikely to reframe your work so it matches their marketing vision. They’ll want your manuscript to be a close reflection of what you promised in your proposal and chapter summaries/synopsis. That doesn’t mean an editor might not come back and say that the direction you took a character made him less likable. Or that a certain twist isn’t believable. But the editor won’t actually make those kinds of changes; the editor wants the author to so the author’s voice isn’t lost in the process.

  4. Great post, Janet. One time, I judged a book for a contest, and was surprised by the lack of editor the author’s editor did. Multiple, glaring writing faux pas made the book difficult to read.
    *I think Andrew’s questions are spot on. Our of curiosity, would it be good to know an editor’s process of editing?
    *And, I guess, in selecting an editor, clear expectations need to be discussed beforehand. Are they going to focus on big picture issues with the story, or will they go into the more detailed aspects as well. Will they give suggestions for improvement, or will they merely show where the story is weak?
    *Knowing an editor’s strengths would be important to see if they are a good fit for what I know my writing weaknesses are, I’m thinking.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Those are very good questions, Jeane. You want to be sure that what the editor intends to do is a match with what you want done.
      But I wouldn’t limit the editor to focusing on what I know are my weaknesses; I’d want an unvarnished edit. If you point out specific weaknesses, an editor might work mainly on those rather than entering into the process with a critical eye toward the writing in general.

      • Janet, a question – in your experience, do writers have a good idea of their own weaknesses? I suspect that I am aware of minor weaknesses, but that at times I overlook those that are more substantial, and more critical, perhaps because I don’t really want to see them, for fear of discouragement.

      • Janet Grant says:

        Andrew, writers have some awareness of weaknesses, but generally they know about the parts that are easier to fix. The more complex, layered challenges need to be excavated by someone not as close to the material as the writer is.

      • That makes sense, Janet. Thanks for clarifying that. I’m all for an unvarnished edit! I guess, if the editor is good, he/she will see my weaknesses anyway. 🙂

  5. Pete raised a good point about an editor’s goal being marketability, and how voice may sometimes have to be subordinated to the marketplace.
    * It brings to mind a comment made by Jennifer Major a few weeks ago, that a contest judge had derided her western historical because he’d seen a lot of Westerns; he apparently regarded her work as inauthentic because it didn’t fit the stereotype of the genre as he knew it.
    * There’s an implicit question raised here, about what I would call ‘authenticity of voice’. Jennifer could (and should) write a guide for authors on how to approach historical research, and her work has the ring of truth.
    * It is, however, a truth that many don’t want to hear. The West has been romanticized out of recognition, making of cowboys rather rough-hewn ‘gentyle, parfit knyghts’, and infusing the time with an air of nobility.
    * That wasn’t the case; the West’s denizens were disappointingly flawed, like you and me. Were they Crusaders in Stetson? Well, maybe…if you consider that many Crusaders were freebooters, or men who took the road to Jerusalem because they enjoyed killing.
    * A cinematic example may be appropriate; while a CBA audience might find films like ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘The 3:10 to Yuma’ praiseworthy for their realism, they’re seemingly happier with the adaptations of Janette Oke’s ‘Love’ series. I’m not denigrating the latter; I like Janette Oke, and the message she writes. But they leave a lot of everyday nastiness out.
    * So, the question is begged – what should an editor do? Stay within the confines of the writer’s authenticity of voice, or seek to modify it to have more appeal for the audience that she sees as the book’s ‘home’?

    • Carol Ashby says:

      Perception and reality are often in conflict. One in four cowboys after the Civil War were African-American. Roscoe Lee Brown’s character in the 1972 movie, The Cowboys, with John Wayne is one of the few well-rounded portrayals I remember in the western movie genre. Are there any Christian western historicals that feature nonwhite lead characters?

      • Excellent point, Carol. Brown’s character was so well done and added a rich texture to the tale. I’m also interested in an answer to your question.

      • I’d love to know the answer to this one as well. There was also a huge Asian presence in the West; look at the stereotypical Chinese cook. But there were Asian cowboys (mainly in the northwest), and their lives were virtually unrecorded.
        * Well, in “The Magnificent Seven” Yul Brynner’s character DID look kind of Chinese…so I shall therefore claim HIM.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Your comment, Andrew, moves us into a discussion about genre. Westerns, as is true for romances, are a set genre. The reader approaches them with certain expectations of how the story will unfold. At its core, the story is based on a formula. Now, you can have all kinds of fun dancing around the formula, but ultimately, you can’t veer too far from it.
      I don’t think I would characterize Jennifer’s manuscript as a formula Western; it’s a historical novel. The contest judge expected a formula Western; Jennifer’s didn’t fit so the judge assumed Jennifer didn’t know what the formula was.
      If Jennifer’s work were correctly seen as historical fiction, the judge’s comment becomes irrelevant and Jennifer’s voice remains in tact.

      • Good point, Janet; and I agree than Jennifer’s work is nowhere near formula Western.
        * The impression that I had (and I can’t find the original comment, unfortunately) was that the judge said he’d seen enough film and TV westerns to form a negative impression of Jennifer’s work. Granted that television and film do tend to follow literary formulae, but it’s interesting that a perceived’expertise’ in a totally different medium can make one feel confident in passing judgement on work in another.
        * I guess the question that I was approaching (clumsily) was this – to what degree will or should perceived marketability (based on stereotypes within a multimedia survey of that, and similar genres) motivate an editor to ‘undo’ authenticity, and to what degree should an author be prepared to face that, and to acquiesce to it?

      • Carol Ashby says:

        Do you know of any westerns or historicals set in the western period and locale that have nonwhite leads, especially romantic ones?

      • Janet Grant says:

        I don’t, Carol, but I don’t read many westerns, nor represent many, so I don’t keep careful track of what’s being published.

  6. “To make sure I never thought I’d arrived” … I love that, Janet.

  7. Lara Hosselton says:

    I imagine the fact check aspect of of editing is like a two way street of trust between editor and author. In order to avoid a collision, the editor must trust the author has throughly researched his/her subject and the author should expect a good editor to question the research. I’d be leery, not to mention disappointed if one didn’t.
    P.S. Andrew, I knew you meant a Henry Repeater. Your knowledge of weapons is impressive and interesting.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Lara, I agree with your view of the editor-author relationship. The editor assumes the author has done adequate research but stays alert to details that don’t ring true. And checks out questionable details or asks the author to.

  8. Sarah Thomas says:

    I found my first editor (Jamie Chavez) via recommendations from acquisitions editors who thought my work was promising, but needed a polish. Recommendations from trusted sources are a GREAT place to start.

    And, oh. How I miss the AP style book. Sigh.

  9. Ah, yes. The newspaper trenches. I still double check journalistic writing with my AP Style Book when editing for a syndicated-columnist friend. But how I now cherish those brutal red-pen days as an underling reporter. Many style points are different for fiction writing, and I have several style books on my desk. But the bones, the essence of tight writing are priceless. One of the best concepts I learned was to tell the story of the war by telling the story of the soldier. Yet I still need other eyes on my own work! Good editors are priceless.

  10. Jaime Wright says:

    “the editing skills of a cockroach”!!! LOL I died. That is me in a nutshell. Horrific. This is why I must have a good freelance editor read through everything before I even submit to my agent.

    • Jaime Wright says:

      Reading through the comments here, I think maybe there should be distinction made between a content editor vs a line editor? They both do very different things. For example: when my content editor reads my story, she’s looking for plot flow, pacing, factual authenticity, etc. My line editor: (who is the one who makes me look like a skilled cockroach), is the one who lives, breathes, and dies for CMOS and can quote every grammatical rule from her training.

      • Carol says:

        In my techie brain, CMOS = complementary metal oxide semiconductor, the basis of the integrated circuits in silicon electronics. What is it in writing circles?

        I love the skilled cockroach image, too!

      • Janet Grant says:

        Thanks for pointing out the difference between the two types of editors, Jaime. Both offer invaluable insights but focus on very different aspects of a manuscript.
        I’m glad you like the cockroach line. I must have had a buggy brain when I wrote the blog since I moved from fleas to cockroaches…

      • Jamie Chavez says:

        Carol, CMOS (or CMS) is the Chicago Manual of Style. 🙂

  11. peter says:

    Years ago I did a counselling course as part of a management program. They taught us that a great counselor will never tell you what to do, but will help to surface the unsaid sense inside you about what should be done – they help to clarify and articulate counsel in such a way that you so believe it is your own voice, that you commit to it. You know you have been with a great counselor when you are left wondering what they said that worked so well. A great referee once said, “I know I have done a great job when I don’t read about myself in the morning papers”. I think a great editor should be able to rise above the more obvious and sow a conviction about what to do that will empower the writer to see it through, yet without turning that writer into a clone of themselves. The Holy Spirit is the greatest counselor because he never prescribes, but works in such a way that you end up living up to what you sense inside you. The grammar stuff should be incidental to such a relationship, but guidance, coaching, direction, positioning … that is priceless.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Well expressed, Peter.
      I’ve noted that sometimes a person who LONGS to be a writer ends up as an editor instead. It’s a sad scenario for everyone. An editor understands that his job isn’t to make a work sound like him; his job is to make it sound more like the author because the clutter has been cleared away, and the path made smooth for the words to flow freely.
      Meanwhile the writer wannabe will take an author’s manuscript and turn it into the what the editor would write if only she had the opportunity.
      I recall one of my clients ended up with a writer wannabe who took a series protagonist and edited the manuscript to change who the character was. Uh, when you’re eight books into a series, that might not be the best choice–not that it ever is, but especially with an established character. Duh.

  12. What an amazing story, Janet! And what a great way to grow your talents and become an editor, that is a whole lot of work, wow.
    Cru is very special to me actually. My dear husband, who was antagonistic to Christianity and in the beginning stages of alcoholism at the tender age of 21, came to know Christ because some Christian guys asked him to play smashmouth football and invited him to Cru. A year of friendship and occasional Cru meetings and he came to know God…and then met me and swept me off my feet! So neat that you were involved with them for so many years.

  13. Janet, thank you for enlightening us about the various kinds of editors. When the time comes, I’m planning on approaching an editor I’ve heard lots of good things about, and then I’ll test the waters to see if we’re a suitable match. I’m used to intense and blunt critiques from my small circle of help, but I need to know an editor also likes my voice and has a good sense of humor to soften the gouges of the chisel. Laughter is my favorite medicine.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

  14. Janet, great post. In my experience, the independent editor is hired by the publisher or acquisitions editor if it’s in association with a contracted book, although there are times the author has input.

    Where it gets sticky is finding a good editor for a self-published book.

    I know of at least one agent who’s a fantastic editor–two, now that I know your credentials. But agents don’t have the time and energy to edit the work of their clients…do they?

    • Janet Grant says:

      Richard, you make a good point that, if you have a publishing contract, the publisher bears the responsibility of deciding who edits the manuscript, and whether that person is in-house or free-lance. Lots of variables go into that decision. Sometimes an author has the opportunity to request a specific free-lance editor, but lots of variables come into play with that as well.
      Agents, unfortunately, don’t tend to have time to edit their clients’ work. Although some agents do offer their editing services separate from their agenting.

      • Janet Grant says:

        Richard, I had an additional thought about your question on how to find a good editor. Most agencies have lists of free-lance editors they recommend to clients. I know our agency does.

  15. So, Janet, are you available? Just kidding. Although…. 🙂

    In trying to find an editor that I thought was good and that I could afford, I spent some time r-e-a-ding their websites. That’s all I needed to do to evaluate some of them–as in “mark them off the list.”

  16. Jamie Chavez says:

    Well, I was just going to check in and say THANK YOU, Janet, for saying out loud that just because someone has published a book doesn’t mean he or she is qualified to edit anything, although I have seen it said repeatedly not to trust anyone who isn’t published. (Oh, best not to get me started!)

    But then I read the comments and see nice things about me. 🙂 So thank you again. I’m sitting here cough-cough-sniffle-sniffle-sneezing, and you made my day!

    • Janet Grant says:

      Jamie, you and I hold the same view of published authors as editors.
      I’m happy I could make a cough-sniff-sneeze day a little brighter for you. And it makes ME happy that I can confidently recommend your editing to those who ask.

  17. Janet, if a manuscript as edited by a superstar like Jaime Chavez, should that be mentioned in a query?

    • Janet Grant says:

      Being able to say that Jamie or some other very established editor had worked with you on the manuscript would be a plus. But I’m sure Jamie would want to be mentioned only if she were hired to give you a thorough edit that included rewrites and then Jamie’s editing of the rewriting. Some individuals hire her for feedback only, I believe, and she wouldn’t want her name invoked as if she had put her imprimatur on the manuscript.

      • That makes sense, Janet; thanks. I’d never intentionally do a third-party reference without permission, but this might be a good thing to add to a pre-conference checklist…”Ask editor if she may be referenced”, because it could come out unintentionally in an elevator pitch.
        * Wow, I feel like a Real Live Writer, using the phrase ‘elevator pitch’ as if it’s part of my natural vocabulary!

  18. Lori says:


    Can I hire you as an editor when I am ready to I ready to have my novel reviewed? Hopefully word of mouth from other writers I know or an agent will help my decision.

    While I do edit a lot of documents as a techical writer and I am paid well for that, I would be the first to tell you that I should not edit someone’s novel or non-fiction book. Editing engineering documentation is a totally different animal. I am trained for the software/engineering world not for the rest of the world. I am sure some of my skill can tranfer over to the rest of the world but it at a risk to a client.

    • Lori, I have a similar background. It’s made trying to write fiction an interesting process. I’ve been told that I do dialogue fairly well, and narrative action seems to come across, but ‘lyrical’ description and character introspection are weak areas.
      * I wonder if you’d be able to present yourself as, say, a ‘dialogue doctor’? A lot of fiction (in my completely amateur opinion) is weak in this regard; dialogue comes across as declamation, and often doesn’t fit the flow of the scene. Characters are given lines that set a tone, or enhance description at the cost of realism.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Lori, I’m not looking for editing/reviewing work at this point, but thanks for the compliment of asking me.
      I’ve done some technical editing, and it is a different animal. As a matter of fact, an animal I didn’t particularly enjoy. It’s good for all of us to know where our talents lie.

  19. Your opportunities for learning the trade were rich indeed. I am amazed. Experience is everything in some businesses. For an editor it is essential. I’ve taken a couple of online proofreading and editing classes where we were given weekly proofing/editing assignments. It didn’t take long to realize there’s more to it than one might think. I especially liked the challenge you mentioned of reducing a full article into a 300-word article while also maintaining its integrity and tone. It made we want to go out and try my hand at that editing challenge. Your tips for finding the right editor will come in handy some day. It’s nice to learn your history in the business as well.

  20. Peggy Booher says:


    It sounds as though you were mentored by people who really cared about making sure you were the best you could be, because they took the time that was needed with you and the others. You have a “rich” background and it shows through in your posts.

    Nowadays, it seems to me (in my limited experience) that speed governs many things, overtaking considerations such as taking the time to do a good job, and taking the time to train people to do a good job.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Peggy, certainly the rush to get a book published has compromised the quality of editing at many houses. But some still take pains to make sure the manuscript receives an editor’s full attention to make it the best it can be.

  21. Janet, what a wonderful learning experience. The way we all should be mentored! In today’s society, I wonder how many are mentored this way? And I also think that while you were learning and growing, you must have handed in work that was acceptable and even good. This is where many writers are today. Many can’t find or afford editors with the complex and full background you have, so it is necessary to find someone “on their way.” In that case, what would you look for?

    • Janet Grant says:

      Linda, I know editors, like dentists, need to learn on someone, but I strongly prefer it not be me. So I would look for someone with some credentials, and I would ask at least three possibilities to edit 2-3 pages of my WIP. That way I could compare the work in an apples-to-apples way.

      • Thank you, Janet. That is a good way to see how the editor edits. I also think,and you mentioned this above, that they need to be familiar with your genre. I’ve had some questions that threw me until I realized an editor didn’t know my genre. For instance, cozy mysteries and thrillers are different! 🙂