Skip to main content

Best Practices for a Symbiotic Writer/Editor Relationship

Marlene is an editor who writers hire to edit and polish up their manuscripts for submitting to publishing houses or for self-publishing.

Before and after editing.

Before and after editing.

Working With An Editor

Working with an editor requires that a writer relinquishes a small portion of control of their completed manuscript to a professional editor whose primary purpose is to help their work become a work of art of which they can be proud.

Most editors are task-oriented, and that is a good thing.

I am an editor who prefers to work on a manuscript in a prescribed manner. It is not easy to do a good job when writers call in daily to change their minds about replacing words or phrases. It takes time scrolling through a manuscript to find that one word or phrase that the writer feels sounds better than the original word or phrase. I call it back-tracking. Back-tracking is a time-waster, and I prefer not to do it.

To alleviate back-tracking, I created a schedule that works best to eliminate the back and forth, time-consuming activities that often result from not having a systematic writer/editor structure. I have found that when expectations are set in place prior to beginning the editing process, there is less stress between the writer and editor.

Here are my steps for developing a symbiotic writer/editor relationship.

  1. Rest the manuscript.
    a. Upon completing the manuscript, the writer sets the manuscript aside for seven (7) days. During this seven-day period, the writer does not open the manuscript. The writer does not pick it up for any reason except maybe to dust off the cover.

    b. During the resting period, it is alright for the writer to take notes that they think about adding or changing the manuscript but they are not to open the manuscript for any reason. They are to let it rest.

    c. After seven days, if the writer feels there are changes to be made, now is the time to make those changes. Then, after these changes are made, the writer is to let the manuscript rest again. This time, for three (3) days.

    d. Continue the steps in (b.) and (c.) until there are no more changes to be made.
  2. Assess the project length.

    a. The writer estimates the word count and number of pages and gives this information to the editor.

    b. The editor calculates the cost and estimates the time it will take to complete the FIRST DRAFT edits. Next, determine the date you need to receive the completed manuscript and when the edited FIRST DRAFT will be delivered to the writer.
  3. Send the manuscript to the editor.

    a. The writer shall submit the completed manuscript to the editor on the day requested.

    b. The editor shall begin editing. If the editor has questions for the writer, the editor shall place these questions in the margins.
  4. Send the FIRST DRAFT of the manuscript to the writer.

    a. The editor shall submit the edited manuscript (with notes) to the writer by the due date.

    b. This completed manuscript shall be considered the FIRST DRAFT.

    c. The writer shall address the editor's notes in either of two ways:

    i. Manually type the changes directly into the manuscript and provide a summary of changes to the editor. Or,

    ii. Provide an overview of changes and let the editor make the changes.

    d. SPECIAL NOTE: The writer is not to make changes other than to address the editor's notes. At this time, it is not prudent to go back through the manuscript to make changes. Doing so will incur additional costs as other words and pages were not included in the editor's original quote. Additional words and pages require extra time, and this additional time shall be added to the original editing costs.
  5. Send the changes to the FIRST DRAFT back to the editor.

    a. The editor shall edit the changes made to the FIRST DRAFT of the manuscript.

    b. Upon completing this editing process, the editor will now deliver the manuscript's SECOND DRAFT.

    c. At this stage, the manuscript should be considered done.

    d. If the writer wants to change any portion of the SECOND DRAFT and wants to submit these changes to the editor for review, new costs will be computed to edit a THIRD or SUBSEQUENT draft.

Timelines for Writing and Editing Activities

See below for a list of activities and timelines that the writer and editor can project. Setting goals for when each stage of the writing and editing project is expected to be completed helps assure the writer and editor are both in sync with each other’s timeline expectations. Establish these timelines ahead of time and if they need to be adjusted, the writer and editor can discuss the projected dates and incorporate them into their respective schedules.

  1. Manuscript Complete:
    Write the date you completed your manuscript.

  2. 7-Day Rest Period:
    Set your manuscript down and rest it for seven days. Write the date the 7-day period ends.

  3. Update (#1):
    Write the date Update #1 begins.
    3-Day Rest Period (#1):
    Write the end date for the 3-day rest period.

    Update (#2):
    Write the date Update #2 begins.
    3-Day Rest Period (#2):
    Write the end date for the 3-day rest period

    NOTE: If you have more than two updates after each rest period, you may use additional sheets.
  4. Project Completion Date:
    Send approximate page count and number of pages to the editor for price quoting purposes. At this stage, the editor will determine how long it will take to edit the manuscript. The writer and editor agree on a price and completion date. Write in the Project Completion Date. Once the quote and editing agreement has been approved, go to step 5.
  5. Send the manuscript to the editor:
    The editor will edit the manuscript and return the manuscript to the writer a few days before the Project Completion Date. At this stage, the writer answers the editor’s questions, or if there are no questions, the writer approves the edits.

    NOTE: If the writer changes the manuscript at this stage, additional editing costs shall be incurred, and the Project Completion Date will be extended.

Writing a manuscript is like nurturing a baby. As writers write, they grow their manuscripts to maturity. Setting aside the manuscript gives writers a chance to detach from it so that they can look at it more objectively.

Stick to the agreed-upon schedule so that both the writer's time and the editor’s time are respected. Understand that once the manuscript is handed to the editor, each subsequent addition to the manuscript incurs additional costs. So, it is best to be sure the manuscript is complete prior to handing it to the editor for editing.

While the editor is polishing the current manuscript, the writer might want to take this time to get started on their next book. This is also another way to help detach and move forward in the completion and publication of the current book.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Marlene Bertrand


Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 07, 2021:

Thank you very much, Misbah, for your kind words of encouragement. I am so glad you found this article to be helpful.

Misbah Sheikh on July 06, 2021:

You've explained everything in great depth. Your efforts are much appreciated, Marlene. Knowing the steps involved in the process is both intriguing and useful. Thank you for providing this information.


Scroll to Continue

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 06, 2021:

Thank you, Peg! One of the writers I work with encouraged me to write more about what editors do. Thank you for your feedback. It means a lot to me.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 04, 2021:

I like the systematic method you've outlined for editing and reviewing a manuscript. Having a detailed scope of work ensures that all extra work and time spent working is compensated. Great job on explaining this relationship and identifying the expectations between authors and editors.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 01, 2021:

Thank you, Manatita. One of my clients asked me to show her what goes into the process of editing, so I did and then thought it would be a good idea to share it with others.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 01, 2021:

Yes, DDE, I am enjoying this job very much. The fact that I get paid to do it is rewarding, but the most fun comes from being able to read great books and articles that writers write.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 01, 2021:

Thank you, DDE.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 01, 2021:

You are so kind Chitrangada. Thank you for your compliments. The thing about being in the editing business is that I enjoy reading and so I have the joy of reading along with the job of editing.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on July 01, 2021:

Thank you John. A lot of people don't know what is involved with the editing process. One of my clients suggested I show the process from the editor's side.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 01, 2021:

It is interesting and helpful to know the process involved, Marlene. Thank you for sharing.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 01, 2021:

A very well explained, step by step article, about the editing process. I am so happy for you, that you have involved yourself in the editing job, and enjoying it.

I am sure, the writers must be satisfied by the final results. Wish you all the best and keep sharing your expertise with the readers.

Thank you so much.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 01, 2021:

All the best to you.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 01, 2021:

Hi Marlene sounds like you enjoying the job. Earning from it must be of great help. You deserve it and you should do what you love.

manatita44 from london on June 30, 2021:

I really love the way you did that first edit. Awesome! Great pointers to consider

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on June 30, 2021:

Hi Pamela, being a writer, I do know how you feel. One of the benefits I have as an editor is that I know what it feels like to be a writer, so I take that into consideration when editing. Thank you very much for your compliments.

Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on June 30, 2021:

Bill, you are like the mentor I never had. Whether you know it or not, I pay close attention to you and the tips you share with writers. I learned a lot of what I know through you. I just recently started getting hired regularly to do editing for local writers and now it almost seems like this is my full-time job. And, I am overwhelmed by the fact that people actually pay me to do this. I love it!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 30, 2021:

I do not like worker with an editor, so I write on Hubpages. I do like your ways to work with an edito,r and I think your suggestions are very good, Marlene.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 30, 2021:

If I was younger, and actually took book sales seriously, and if I had money, I would hire you in a New York minute....just sayin'

I hope all is well with you, my friend. Take care and may the blessings you deserve always be with you.

Related Articles