53 – Editing With a ‘Reader First’ Mindset, with Samantha Hanni
When you’re writing a book, it’s just you, banging out beautiful words. “Writing the first draft is all blood, sweat, and tears,” says freelance editor, Samantha Hanni. But when you finish the draft, “you’re not done. It’s just the beginning.”
The next step involves inviting other people to help prepare your manuscript for publication.
Your editor is a critical member of your publishing team.
When you send your completed manuscript to an editor, it’s not like leaving a perfect, ready-to-eat apple pie on their doorstep, Samantha explains. Rather, you’re inviting your editor into your “kitchen” to critique your crust and fiddle with your filling.
Last week, in episode 52, Samantha and I discussed how to write with a ‘reader first’ mindset. Today, we’re sharing three ways authors can bring the ‘reader first’ mindset into the editing process.
1. Stay humble about your message.
Telling your editor, “God gave me this book,” implies that it’s perfect and that nothing needs to be changed.
“I’m pretty sure God believes in editing,” says Samantha. She refers to Isaiah 50:4-5, in which God is “the great initiator.” The author’s part is to listen and obey.
The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.
2. Stay humble about your edits.
“You will receive edits, comments, and suggestions for changes that you do not like,” says Samantha. “It’s easy to get defensive about the work of art you’ve created that comes from a deep place within you.”
Rather than getting defensive, trust that your editor wants to partner with you to bring your book into the world and to make it the best possible experience for your readers.
3. Communicate with your editor.
Don’t ignore the changes your editor makes or change their edits back to what you originally wrote. Instead, open a dialogue with your editor.
Ask what prompted their suggestion.
Ask if you can have some time to think about it.
Ask for a compromise.
Word Nerd Moment
Check spelling, punctuation, and grammar before sending your manuscript to your editor.
Samantha says, “You wouldn’t go to the dentist without brushing your teeth for a week because ‘it’s the dentist’s job to clean my teeth.’ Any amount of editing you do beforehand will help your editor focus on what actually needs to be fixed.”
Leave one space after a period (not two or three… or a space, then a period, then another space). This rule applies to all end punctuation, including periods, question marks, and exclamation points.
Final thoughts about editing
Changes and edits can seem scary, but you may be surprised at the improvements they lead to in your work.
Writing a book is hard work.
Editing a book is hard work.
Your readers will thank you by not putting your down your book until they’ve finished it.
About Samantha Hanni
Samantha is a freelance editor and writer. Since 2015, she has authored four books and edited and written more than one hundred articles and posts for clients in the mental health, Christian living, and lifestyle industries.
Some of her work has appeared on the YouVersion Bible app; Devotional Diva; To Love, Honor, and Vacuum; Families Alive, and the OCHEC Informer. Samantha has copyedited for The Odyssey Online and currently copyedits for a local publishing house. She has also taught creative writing and literature for homeschool highschoolers.
Samantha graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and she and her husband Kurtis live in Oklahoma City with their dog, Podrick. She enjoys reading, traveling (when not prohibited by a pandemic), and working with her husband on their fixer-upper home, along with discipling in the local church.
Visit Samantha at mrshanni.com
How Do I Put My Reader First, Part 1
How Do I Put My Reader First, Part 2
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