Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. With that said, I have not partnered with any of the authors or publishers for sponsorship. All recommendations and endorsements are based solely on my personal experiences.
As an author and freelance editor (book my services!), I’ve often been asked about my favorite editing books. I don’t necessarily reference these books every time I sit down to edit, but they definitely come in handy.
Whether I’m editing fantasy, horror, or another genre for my clients—or my own work, for that matter—I find myself coming back to these books. I’m sharing them in hopes you’ll find them useful too.
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE EDITING BOOKS
For anyone who wants to get better at line edits.
Line edits are my favorite stage of the editorial process. It also happens to be one of the most difficult. Luckily, books like this one help make everything easier. Although I bought this book expecting more help with developmental editing, I’m glad it’s an invaluable resource for at least one step in the editorial process.
For anyone looking to make big-picture edits.
Story structure may be naturally ingrained in human thinking, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get that across on paper. With decades of experience making good books great, Coyne offers spectacular insight on fiction editing and helps you lay out your story for literary success. This isn’t my favorite book because it can be intimidating, but I can definitely understand its value to other writers and editors.
For a comprehensive look at editing, geared toward those hoping for traditional publication.
I love this book because it covers almost all aspects of the revision process, with special tips for the first read-through. You’ll focus on plot, characters, theme, voice, style, setting, and endings. The book also showcases innovative exercises to help you hone your craft.
For anyone who wants to write more books in less time, or get through first drafts faster.
This book is phenomenal because it helps you the words down faster, without sacrificing quality. She teaches you not only how to make your writing sessions more productive, but also how to plot if you hate plotting and edit if you hate editing. I LOVE THIS BOOK.
For anyone who wants to get more writing done in general.
Like the previous book, this one is chock full of tips and techniques for increasing your overall writing productivity. Fox also introduces the concept of the editing sprint, which involves working in focused bursts for short periods of time. Highly recommend.
No matter how much writing and editing experience you have, these books will provide a solid foundation for any author’s editing toolkit. Of course, if you’re dreading diving back into your manuscript to make the necessary changes… you can always hire an editor to do the dirty work for you. 😉
One of the biggest challenges in being an author and an editor is turning off the editor brain. After spending all day proofreading and editing, it’s hard to come home and write or settle in with a book. Especially when I’m writing a first draft, it’s crucial to turn off my inner editor.
Lately, that’s been much easier said than done. And it’s not limited to my work. I read at least a chapter before I go to bed, and most of the time, I can’t help skimming the pages for grammatical errors.
In some ways, this is good. It allows me to analyze literature, dissect a piece to figure out what works, and emulate it in my own writing. But it also detracts from my enjoyment of the piece.
The same goes for my writing. How am I supposed to finish a draft if I edit it to death? Instead of moving forward, I’m trapped in a hell of my own making (the road to which is paved with adverbs—thank you, Stephen King). Falling into this never-ending editing nightmare is a good way to guarantee I never finish a book.
As writers, it’s normal to want to edit your fiction. You may even enjoy editing someone else’s work. Even if you’re a writer and a freelance editor, you should do your best to keep the two realms separate. Let your writing time be writing time, sacred and non-negotiable. The same goes for your editing time.
For me, I’ve found that it’s best to stick to one project at a time (I’m only just now getting that!) unless I’m first-drafting one and editing another. It’s too much stress on my brain, and I’m trying to be kinder to it. I suggest you do the same—we need our brains for building books!
I’ve learned to turn off my editor brain easier than I used to, but I still have some way to go. What about you? Do you struggle to keep from editing when you’re supposed to be writing? Tell me about it in the comments below! I’ll see you all back here next week.
I’m an editor. I don’t think that’s a secret. I thoroughly enjoy going through my work and the work of others, pointing out what could be improved, and strategizing how to fix it. I enjoy the process so much that I even edited Blood and Water myself (with the help of some talented betas!). With that being said, I don’t recommend editing your own work. If possible, you should hire someone else to help you fix it. Everyone needs an editor.
Although I edited my novel myself, it took a great deal longer than I would have liked. I kept missing little things because I had gone through the book so many times. That’s one of the biggest issues with editing your own work—you end up missing a lot of mistakes because your mind fills in the blanks and tries to tell you that you know what your novel says… when truth be told, you might not.
Here are a few more reasons why you need an editor:
- They’ll save you time. Like I already mentioned, you can get your finished product out a lot quicker if you’re not spending time going over the same errors every revision.
- They’ll allow you to invest in yourself. You might be worried about the money, but editors are definitely worth the expense. You can rest assured you’re getting the best bang for your buck, and spending money to improve your work might make you feel more professional.
- They’ll make you a better writer. A good editor will not only point out areas of your writing that need improvement, but will also give you ideas for how to improve. If you’re paying for a full edit, chances are the editor will even advise you on craft and technique. The more you work with an editor, the better your writing will be.
- They’ll support and encourage you. Because an editor invests a lot of time in your work, it’s only natural for them to want you to succeed. Think of an editor as a built-in cheerleader who wants to do everything in his or her power to help you publish your best work.
If you’re still not convinced you should hire an editor, ask anyone who’s ever worked with one. They know what they’re talking about. You should also read this post by the wonderful Ksenia Anske, who explains why editing can be so difficult sometimes. Editors work hard, and they’re good at what they do. Hug an editor today, or even better—hire one! 😉
Why do you think it’s important to have an editor?
Don’t think you need an editor? @brianawrites says, “Think again.” (Click to tweet)
Fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and poets alike utilize red pens to edit their work. If you don’t use a red pen, you’re certainly familiar with the backspace key, comments feature, and the Track Changes option on your word processor.
Editing is a vital part of the writing process. You can’t have good writing without rewriting. As Patricia Fuller said, “Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” It’s foolish.
Of course, there is such a thing as too much editing.
When basic revising crosses the line into over-analyzing every single word and piece of punctuation, you know you’re in trouble. Although revising is important, it needs to have a finite end. No piece of writing can be more than nearly perfect. If you go through the same piece over and over again without stopping, you’re sacrificing time and effort better given to new projects.
I am now and have always been a perfectionist. I’m rarely satisfied with my completed pieces. When editing my work, I have a hard time stopping myself. There’s always something that needs to be fixed—in my eyes, at least.
As writers, we can also be our own worst critics. Our standards are different than everyone else’s. Sometimes the prose is not as bad as our minds make it out to be.
Additionally, editing can turn into a vehicle for procrastination. When we’re afraid to start new projects, we waste all our time on polishing pieces that are already excellent. Sometimes we just need to stop. Sometimes we need to give up.
We need to walk away.
If you’re waiting for someone to tell you that your work is perfect, the wait is over. You want someone to tell you that it’s okay to stop? To move on? To start something new?
That’s where I come in.
That thing you’ve been editing to death is fine as is, I promise.
It’s not a monster. It won’t frighten anybody. Slide it into your desk drawer, close the drawer, and go outside. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Play with your children.
Write something else.
The world doesn’t end just because you stop editing.
What do you think? When do you stop editing?
When is it time to stop editing?@brianawrites says it might be sooner than you think. (Click to tweet)