WRITERLY WISDOM: Karen R Sanderson



Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn about whether or not we really need an editor…


I don’t need no stinkin’ editor
by Karen R. Sanderson

I know…what an opening sentence for an editor’s post, right?


What is an editor?


Ask any editor, you get a different answer. Developmental editing, line editing, copy editing – and the list goes on. Then you need to worry about the final proofread – punctuation, spelling, etc.

With each editor you find, he/she will have a different idea about each type of editing and proofreading as well as a different skill set.


Get samples


No matter what you are looking for in an editor or proofreader, I suggest discussing your work in progress with at least a handful of editors. Ask for free samples so you can assess the skill set of each editor.

Send them all the same bit of your work – see how they edit and what mistakes they find on a proofread, see what suggestions they make. Do you love their ideas or totally disagree? Do they “get” you?


Develop a relationship


I cannot harp on this enough. I have had so many strangers come to me (with imminent deadlines) – how can I edit you if I don’t know you? What sort of writer are you? What are you looking for in an editor? Do our styles mesh or clash?

Of course, each editor has his or her own specialties – I love poetry, horror, women’s fiction, historical, memoir, and non-fiction. I do not care for sci-fi or fantasy, so I don’t think I’d be the best match if you are a writer of those genres.


My Editor Spotlight series


realize not every editor/proofreader is perfect for every writer. That’s why I’ve presented the blog series, Editor Spotlight. Over the years, I’ve highlighted other editors on my blog. I want every writer to find the right editor (even if it’s not me!).

If you don’t have an editor, perhaps you can find one by paging through my Editor Spotlight blogs. Here’s one to get you started – my own editor, Shawn MacKenzie.

Here’s another editor I find particularly awesome and her Editor Spotlight – Chris Eboch.


Let’s back up


Before you start the search for an editor…have you learned the craft of writing, plot, and dialog? Have you tried to improve your writing skills? Have you learned about showing not telling? Do you understand punctuation?


My three favorite writing-craft references


Donald Maass – Writing the Breakout Novel
Deb Everson Borofka – Memory, Muses, Memoir (additional note – I took her class through UCLA Extension and it rocked!)
Stephen King – On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft


Additional desk references


Diana Hacker – Rules for Writers
Strunk and White – The Elements of Style


Must haves


A comprehensive dictionary and a thesaurus (Roget’s of course). I’m old school, and I still prefer the paper tomes. My mom used to work for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader (this apple didn’t fall very far, did she?), so I like M-W.

For you new-wave writers, there are loads of online references.


Quick Editorial Tips series


Are you making these mistakes? Here’s a list of the blogs I’ve posted with Quick Editorial Tips.

Quick Editorial Tips I – Discusses pronouns, name consistency, adjectives, commas, redundancy, ellipses, listing chapters.

Quick Editorial Tips II – Discusses just and that, adverbs, white space, echoes, answered/expressed/questioned (instead of said).

Quick Editorial Tips III – Discusses was and were, seemed, appeared, dialog, same mundane sentence structure.

Quick Editorial Tips IV – Stop following my advice – Discusses your editor/writer relationships, are you getting advice that doesn’t feel right, are you in sync with your editor?

Quick Editorial Tips V – Lessons from home – Discusses lay and lie, exact same, continue on, me or I.

Done writing. Now what?

Are you ready to edit or proofread? Are you about to hire an editor? Can you afford an editor?

I have answers to all these questions in my four-pack of DIY Editing and Proofreading.

Proofreading an inch at a time
Copy editing – getting the bugs out
Hiring a proofreader – don’t get stung
Can’t afford a proofreader? Jump in with all eight legs

Photos on the four-pack of editing by Gwen Dubeau.


Karen was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun. Her favorite book is the dictionary.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, writer, and an awesome grandmother. Connect with Karen on her website, blog, Facebook, Fan Page, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.


Donna L

Hybrid award winning author; aspiring sketch artist; and 4th Degree Senior Certified Taekwondo Instructor. Host of BOOK NOOK REVIEWS. Member of SCBWI. Mom to fabulous son and adventurer delving into the tricky world of indie-publishing.

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