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4 Lessons Learned From Editing

I'm not just the editor of excuses, I actually edit other writers' stuff from time to time. As a matter of fact, editing has become my one of my primary responsibilities at my day job. I'm very lucky, because I was originally hired as a temporary employee to help out doing financial things, which often involves numbers and math, and, well, let's just say its best for all involved that I stay away from that.

Instead, the owner of the company asked me to look over one of his upcoming newspaper columns and I practically rewrote it. I liked the challenge to make a published columnist's work even better, and I wasn't worried that he would take offense. I was SUPPOSED to be temporary.

It was clear my talents were better suited to low-calculator-use environments, so I shifted to the marketing department and have been there ever since. By editing my boss' and other people's work, I've learned a few lessons that serve me when I approach my own pages.

1. Agree to Disagree
You may disagree with the philosophy of the writer you are editing, but this is not your work; this is not your message. You were hired to make the author's point of view as understandable as possible. It actually helps  the work if you disagree, because you won’t take their point of view for granted and you will be better suited to show the author where they need to be more convincing.

This helps your own work by reminding you to be creative, think of your opposition, and consider those who would call your scene unbelievable.

2. Crap can be fixed
NO! I'm not saying I've had to edit "crap"(especially not from that person who gives me a paycheck), but I have witnessed how a tweak here and there can make a world of difference. The main theme is clearer; the flow eases the reader into the story-- just from flipping the order of the sentences or getting rid of an unnecessary tangent.

This is critical knowledge for the editor by day/ writer by night folks. When you start your own pages, and they have that certain 'scent of rough draft,' keep going. Rough drafts are supposed to be rough. You have to get material to work with.

3. Everybody needs an editor    
We all make mistakes. We all read through those mistakes, so sure that we would never write “their” when we mean “there” that we don’t even see it. When I edit someone else’s work, I find the simple things that they missed while they were enthusiastically trying to get their point across. (And yes, I miss it in my own.) Their message wasn't lost, but leaving such errors in a final text could lose them readers!

Don’t edit your own query letter, synopsis, short story or e-book. You are too close to the project. If you are unwilling or unable to hire someone, find a writer friend (or a reader friend) to help you out. Even if you are a great editor, you still need your own editor after you've done your own edits.

4. Writers make time to write
Writers who get their work to me to edit or to analyze as part of my coaching services have put in their time. They have pages to work with. They've also had to deal with everything else life throws their way—jobs, families, household chores, unexpected family emergencies—and yet, here they are, with rough (or better) drafts anyway.

When I spend my own time editing or coaching at the day job or with the few clients I help, I am aware that if I want to be in the same position they are—with a completed manuscript just weeks away from self-publishing or submitting to an agent—I have to make the time. Life will always be busy. But, for those of us who want to write, we must create space in our lives to do so.

Switch over to your Work-In-Progress right now and give it some attention. That’s what I’m going to do.

Happy Writing!  --Tina

By the way, my newest blog is Little Bit Married. In it, I share how I went from being a walking contradiction—a hopeless romantic with marriage phobia—to the strange shade of wed I find myself in today. Stop by, and let me know what you think on my new Facebook page. Excuse Editor is about your writing, “Tina Haapala, Writer” is about mine;)


  1. One thing that editing other people's work has taught me is to be more objective about my own. Now that I've been freelance editing for a while, I find it mostly painless to go back to my own writing and rework/delete when something doesn't make sense. I may still have typos and such, but I no longer feel like a part of my soul has been ripped out if I need to change things in my writing.


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