Guest Blog: Jim Webster on The Importance of Having a Good Editor

Author Jim Webster jumps back on The Bandwagon to explain the importance of having a good editor.

I'm backI’m clinging desperately to the description ‘fifty-something’, I’m a farmer, freelance journalist, writer, whatever. Married, three daughters, I’ve got no dress sense and a self depreciated sense of humour which masks my innate inability to do things properly.

One important part of writing is working with an editor. The first thing you have to understand is what a good editor will do. Firstly an editor is far more than just somebody who will tell you that you’ve got a comma instead of a semi-colon. The editor is somebody who will pick up much deeper problems with the book.

Obviously there are things editors can do with regard the text. I’ve noticed that there are words I somehow mix up. For me the big problem is ‘draws and drawers.’ I know the difference, I can spell them without effort, but in the haste of writing I’ll use the wrong one and when it comes to my edits, I never notice it. But obviously my editor does.

Another issue the editor will pick up is over-use of a particular word. In a passage your protagonist might have been careful. So careful that in a paragraph you’ve used the word four times! But there again, you will often find that you don’t notice it when you read it through.

If you don’t have an editor there are two tricks you can use to help you with these two. One is to forget the manuscript for at least three months and come back to it fresh. Another is to read it aloud.

But where an editor can really force you to lift your game is where the editor asks questions. Once the editor is ‘into’ your work, they will have a feel for the ‘voice’ of various characters. I’ve had my editor comment, “I don’t think she would say it like that.”

Another thing an editor should do is pick up on plot. A note at the side of the text saying “As a reader I’m not convinced that he would do that, given what I know,” is always a prod to get deeper into the story and produce the evidence that does drive your protagonist in the ‘right’ direction.

There are also times when you, as the writer, are in a hurry to get to the good bits. So you write ‘laughing and joking they walked down the street.’ With a good editor there’s that note at the side of the page saying, ‘What were they laughing at, what was the joke, how does it help us understand and like the characters. What was the street like, was it cobbled, was it raining, were there streetlights.’

This sort of thing is very bad for the writer to pick up for themselves. After all they ‘know’ the character’s motivation. What we have to do is allow the reader to understand it. We know what the scenery is like, but we’ve got to let the reader see it.

Have you got an editor? If not, think seriously about it. A sensible professional rate is between £20 and £30 per thousand words. For that you’re not going to get line by line proof-reading, but you will get the push you need to lift your game and become a better writer.

Lambent Dreams Cover5As it is, I’ve got two books I’m pushing that both appear on the 1st August. One is short, about 20,000 words, called ‘Flotsam or Jetsam.’ It’s set in the same background as my other fantasy and is a short detective story.

The other is ‘Lambent Dreams’, a slim volume of poetry and literary criticism which Vikki has read [and enjoyed!]. Lambent Dreams will be free from 31st July to 4th August.

Also, and at last, my publishers have put my four fantasy novels out in paperback. You’ll find the first at, I’ll let you work the details of the rest out for yourselves.

To find out more about Jim, visit his blog:
Don’t forget – Lambent Dreams is free from today!


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