On Being Edited

closeup red marks on proofreading english document

Some of you may remember me asking for editors a couple of months ago. I had (have) a novel finished and the last agent I sent it to recommended that I have it edited before I sent it to any other agents. Having been rejected a few times, I decided to take the plunge. It’s been an education.

First of all, thanks to all of you who sent me suggestions. I had no idea where to start and many of you did. I ended up with a couple dozen possibilities. All of them professional editors with many books to their credit. And I was diligent. I reached out to all of them.

Some simply did not respond. I guess they have enough work, or my novel did not resonate with them. I had one ghost me – let me along to the point where I asked to meet and then they disappeared off the face of the earth. One or two were too busy. Even so, I had choices and talked with them, learning about editing, process, and all kinds of things I did not know about the editing business.

I ended up with a lady in Pennsylvania. Her name is Andira Dodge, and she works at Bloomsburg University. She “got” the book. She is a poet herself and she understood that there is an element of poetry even in my prose. She treated the story with respect, but oh my the things she found and fixed! We are closing in on our third or fourth round of edits, probably the last and my novel is so much better for her work I can hardly believe it. I can remember a local writer telling me that having a good editor was worth whatever the cost might be. She was right. Her work was timely, spot-on. and no-nonsense without being harsh.

I have to admit, however, I was a little afraid of being edited. My experience with being edited has not been a good one. I have had people who ignored the heart of what I was writing as they made corrections. I have had editors that scolded me when I kept making the same mistakes. Chewed me up and spat me out they did. To the point the whole idea of being edited made me feel like a dumb fifth-grader.

But that was not the case here. Andira made no judgments. She just marked things. Fixed things. Where there were discrepancies, she found them, asked my thoughts on which way to go, and fixed those too. As a result of her way of working, I learned a lot about some tendencies I need to break, learned mistakes I need to be on the lookout for, learned, in short, how to be a better writer of prose, which is not my natural medium.

I could not have done this with a judgemental editor. That would have triggered that awkward fifth-grader emotion and I would have ended up resistant. I might not have made the changes I needed to. I definitely would not have been able to take the lessons to heart and become better.

It would be easy to say that I had no way of knowing whether she would be harsh and judgemental when I was looking at editors. And that is true. But I think you get a sense of people when you talk to them. Some editors I talked to seemed, even in their conversations, to think writers are children who need correcting. Almost like a verbal nanny. And not in a good way. Others didn’t care about the story. It was just a technical exercise. Andira was clear. She explained her process and it made sense to me. She was true to that process.

I was dreading the experience. But it turned out well. I not only have a FAR better manuscript. The experience has made me want to get back to writing the next novel. I am four chapters in and once stalled, I am now ready to begin again. Because I know I can be fixed, without feeling shame. And that is powerful. So very powerful/

All of which is to say two things: First, to repeat what my local writer friend said – that a good editor is a writer’s best friend. and second, if you need a good editor, contact me, I’ll give you Andira’s information.

I am glad I took the plunge, even if I was dreading it. You will be too.

Be well. Travel wisely,


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