Top 3 Tips for editing fiction (be an author's dream editor)

Top 3 Tips for Editing Fiction (Be An Author’s Dream Editor!)

Hello, my people! I hope everyone’s 2023 is off to an amazing start. We set goals and we’re planning and taking action but also making sure we’re resting, right? Good. Okay. Today, we are going to shift the focus from writing to the process that comes after (and oftentimes during but that’s another story): Editing. Let’s discuss some helpful tips for editing fiction so you can be someone’s (or your own) dream editor!

Top 3 Tips for editing fiction (be an author's dream editor)

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link! This helps me provide more content for you, & pay my bills.*

There is so much that goes into editing your own work and the work of others. For one, having an understanding of the different types of editing and exactly what an author may be expecting from you, or if you are the author, consider the depth at which you can and are willing to review your own work – we can dig into developmental, evaluation, content, line editing, etc. in a separate post (adds to list). Another thing would be knowing of any required house styles the story must be compliant with to ensure formatting is accurate – this can be discussed separately as well (adds to list). But even in knowing the basics of your job as an editor for a particular story, there are additional “unwritten” actions you can take to be top tier, because nobody wants to be basic. So, let’s discuss top 3 tips for editing fiction to make authors absolutely adore you (and keep authors that are their own editors from driving themselves insane)!

Top 3 Tips for Editing Fiction

  1. Preserve the Author’s Voice
  2. Keep it Light
  3. Read Through the Story More than Once
  4. *Bonus Tip at the End*

Preserve the Author’s Voice

There may be a required house style, but you need to be sure the author’s voice is present no matter what. Now, house style should have nothing to do with tone, but when it comes to checking grammatical errors and such this is where things can get a tad bit tricky. So, when in doubt, try to remember that you do not want to sacrifice the author’s voice for anything. If something doesn’t make sense to you or there is uncertainty, whether from blatant inconsistencies or misspellings, or a simple lack of understanding about vernacular, check in with the author. Allow them the chance to provide clarity and give yourself a chance to confirm what you are seeing within the story before you go wild rearranging and “fixing” things. Those misspellings may be intentional for a particular dialect and your correcting may actually be diminishing that important aspect. So, before you assume something is a mistake, do what you need to do to make sure you are protecting their art. You intend to improve it, not unintentionally tarnish it.

Authors – do not feel pressured to dim your voice out of fear of misunderstandings. If your story calls for slang words, “improper” language, and sayings everyone may not be privy to, then perhaps it’s not meant for those that aren’t interested in understanding. It is your story. The right editor will make sure your voice is heard while also making sure everything makes sense for your readers. And the right readers will love your writing even more for being your unique style they can’t get from anyone else. The ones that get it, get it.

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Keep it Light

Keeping it light goes hand-in-hand with the understanding of the type of editing you have been enlisted to do. There are levels to this, so you and the author should be on the same page about what they need and what you are providing.

For example, you may be providing developmental editing, but you still may not want to suggest “improvements” to the plot or give unsolicited advice on character development. If the author requests that, then sure, but sometimes going overboard in being helpful may come across as being overly critical of someone’s art. If the story makes sense and there are no discrepancies, you don’t want to go digging for issues and things to change about it. Instead, read to understand the story and if anything gets in the way of that understanding, set out to fix that obstacle.

Authors – keep it light for yourselves when editing your work too. Don’t get wrapped up in looking for issues, but rather simply reading the story and addressing any nuances along the way. This is why it’s vitally important to take time away from your projects when you’ve finished writing them before you jump into editing. The more time away, the better for a greater chance at returning to your work with fresh eyes. You want to have the eyes of a reader when you go in to edit your story, not the eyes you have when you’re in “creator mode”. Because those “creator mode eyes” are biased. They already know the makings of your plot, your characters, subplots, etc. But the fresh reader eyes are more removed. You need to be able to simply see the words in front of you and not so much everything you know lies between the lines. So, take time away and when you do begin editing, fix what needs to be fixed for your story to be everything you want it to be and do not be so hard on yourself in the process.

Related Post: Benefits of Taking a Break (& how to do so Effectively)

Read Through the Story More than Once

Speaking of everyone taking their time, if you think you can properly edit a book in one reading you’ve got another thing coming.

That brings us to one of my favorite tips for editing fiction: focus on one goal per reading. The goal of the first reading should be getting to know the story. This is when you piece where and what everything is, pace the storyline, understand the plot, meet the characters, peep the dialect and the author’s writing style and voice.

The goal of the second reading can be catching and noting discrepancies that may ruin the story for readers. This is where you get more into the meat and potatoes and flag any mistakes that throw off the plot. This reading can also be where you pay attention to formatting and grammatical errors. Since you learned the author’s voice in the first reading, now you can better notice and correct errors with minimal mistaken correction to purposeful dialects and verbiage. Or you can save all the grammatical and formatting business for the third reading. Whatever works best for you. The point is, you do not and should not try to fix it all in one go. Take your time. You’ll be less stressed and effortlessly more thorough.

And authors – same goes for you: focus on one thing at a time. Do not drive yourself crazy trying to catch grammatical and formatting errors and mistakes in the plot, unintentional misspellings in the dialect, etc. all at once. This story is your baby. Don’t rush its growth and try to force perfection. Give it, and yourself, time to breathe. Your art and your readers will love you for it.

Related Post: Undeniable Process: Writing the First Draft of Your Book

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*Bonus Tip* Do Not Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Do not be afraid to ask questions. As mentioned earlier, sometimes we need a little clarity. Whether you need to ask the author, or you are the author and you need to ask yourself.

Authors – allow yourself to sit back and ponder. Rediscover the purpose. Identify the “why” behind any confusing pieces. If an answer isn’t clear, reconsider and revise as needed.

Editors – reach out to the author for more information when you need it. Every single time you need it. They will appreciate you for it and tell all their author friends how amazing you are and BOOM, booked and busy. You’re welcome.

Everyone has the ability to do their part in bringing a masterpiece to life. You are preparing a new world to be shared. Don’t half-ass it. Don’t make assumptions. Make sure when this story reaches the public that they receive everything that is intended for them to receive. Because they’re looking for it, they need it, and they deserve it at its absolute best.

If these tips for editing fiction are helpful to you, please share with a friend and/or leave comments! I would love to connect with you all and hear about other topics you may like to read and learn about in this world of writing. Thanks so much for reading, and I’ll catch you next time!


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