At What Point in Your Writing Process Should You Work with an Editor?

Image: A white, circular vintage alarm clock with two bells on top in a flat lay with a binder clip, pen, and a spiral-bound calendar.

Are you wondering when you should engage an editor to work with you on developing or perfecting a manuscript you’ve been working on? There’s no one perfect time to engage an editor—in fact, we can be helpful at many points in the writing and publication process.

Below I’ve outlined some of the most common times that authors come to us for help:

1. When you have an idea but don’t know how to put it into a solid piece of writing.

Have you been playing with an idea and you don’t know how to solidify it into a plan for an article or book? Or are you wondering what type of manuscript would be the best fit for the amount of material that you have?

Writing coaches, who are often also developmental editors, can help you identify how best to present your research to the world, including guidance on organization, argumentation/thesis, and even the different sections or chapters that might work best. Coaches can also help you plan out your writing process and provide you with accountability if you meet with them regularly.

One of our recent clients is working with a coach to determine which of the themes from their dissertation would be the best to pursue when turning the manuscript into a book.

2. When you have a draft and want to tighten it.

Perhaps you’re not sure whether or not your argument flows through your entire dissertation chapter or you need help deciding which sections would be best to support the thesis of your journal article.

Whether you’re a graduate student who wants to submit the best writing to their advisor or an author who just wants to publish more, developmental editors can give you the kind of targeted feedback you need to step up your writing. They look at big-picture issues and give you the type of feedback that you only wish that the dreaded reviewer 2 would provide: critical, but supportive.

In the past month, our developmental editors have worked with a graduate student who was trying to fit too much research into one of their dissertation chapters and multiple authors who were getting ready to submit manuscripts to calls for papers at journals and wanted to make sure it was in tip-top shape.

3. Right before submitting a manuscript to a journal or publisher.

Your ideas are clear, argumentation solid, but you’re just not the most attentive writer when it comes to grammar or you don’t know how to format your citations to Chicago style. At this stage, you need a copyeditor.

Copyeditors work with all manner of clients, from those who aren’t native English speakers to those who need clean copy to send to a publisher or designer. These types of edits will ensure that your reader won’t get tripped up by sticky sentences or incorrectly formatted footnotes.

We have worked with recent copyediting clients by editing various chapters of multi-author books to ensure consistency across texts and smoothing non-native English manuscripts to submit for publication.

4. After you’ve received peer-review feedback and you want help incorporating it.

Occasionally, we also come across clients who have submitted texts to a publisher, received peer-review feedback, and need help incorporating the comments into the text or ensuring that they’ve adequately addressed all suggestions.

Developmental editors might also come in at this stage to give your manuscript a quick assessment or a full edit to push you in the right direction and to let you know which comments you definitely should address and which can be politely declined.

5. When you want perfection.

Whether you feel compelled by your own volition, or it’s required by your advisor or publisher, sometimes you need your copy to be flawless—no typos, punctuation properly placed, consistent image captions and running headers—the whole nine yards.

Proofreading is the very last stage in the manuscript editing process and should be done by a professional right before you make your text public, either by sending it to print, publishing it on the web, or otherwise. They’ll check every aspect of your manuscript, from the covers to the TOC, the body text and footnotes, as well as the entire layout, to ensure consistency and remove any errors that the copyeditor may have missed.

Our most recent proofreading projects have included a publisher’s proof of a multi-author book and a journal issue with various digital aspects.

No matter where you are in the writing or publication process, we’re here to help. One of the many benefits of working with our team is that we can handle your needs: from the seed to the flower. Just reach out with an email and I can give you guidance.