Working With the Industry: The Importance of Editing

By Michael Ehret

“Everyone needs an editor.”

These are words I have spoken—as an editor—to many writers who wondered if they needed to spend money on editing. Yes. Yes, you do. And I don’t say that as a freelance editor who likes to eat and sleep indoors.

I say that as a mentoring editor who wants to see every client succeed. It was true then and it’s true now. It will always be true.

Everyone needs an editor.

Then one day The Publishing Fairy knocked on my door.

“Yoo-hoo!” She flitted into the room on preposterously tiny wings, flinging eraser shavings like they were glitter. “Your writing group, The Penwrights, is putting together a collection of novellas and we’d like you to write one. You in?”

After a quick pinch to make sure I was awake—hey, I’m a writer and I daydream—I agreed.

Just like that, I was on the other side of the keyboard and writing on deadline. Jinkies! Fortunately, I am an editor, so I could shave a little time by skipping…

“Oh,” the PF said right before she typed -30- and left the room, “Everyone needs an editor. Remember that.”

“Right,” I said. Everyone but me, because I’m an editor.

The perfect manuscript

So, after I finished my story, “Big Love,” I dutifully sent it off to the editor, Linda Yezak, knowing that while she might find an occasional typo or missing word, extensive editing was not needed. It was close to perfect, I said all humble, as I tried not to break my arm patting myself on the back.

But—and I’m not sure exactly how this happened—when I received my manuscript back, there were edits. On every page.

No, really. The manuscript was full of them.

She called me “dash happy” and even questioned my parentage! Apparently, writing—like—William Shatner talks—is—a little—too much—style. And I guess I prefer the British spellings of certain words to the less colourful American spellings. So kill me.

But then it got worse.

Linda—bless her heart!—said I wrote a cliché. Or, maybe, several. Land o’ Goshen! That woman couldn’t see the forest for the trees. She left no stone unturned trying to ferret out clichés. In a nutshell, at the end of the day, even though she was bold as brass, Linda was right (that hurts) because two wrongs don’t make a right and two (or more) clichés don’t make great sentences. Am I right?

But she wasn’t done

A good editor walks the line between suggesting improvements and making improvements. In the following example, Linda suggested that I could do a better job of showing Rafe’s evolving feelings for Berly. She was right—again. Here’s the original:

He opened his file for another review of his research and was gripped again by her eyes in the IBJ portrait piece—as well as the playfulness of the pose. The photographer had shot her as Rosie the Riveter, only she had a hammer in her hands. It was cute. Very cute.

And then, from the final manuscript:

He opened his file for another review of his research and saw Timberly’s portrait again. Those eyes. So deep and sparkling with playfulness. The photographer had shot her as Rosie the Riveter, only she had a hammer in her hands. It was cute. And charming. 

In the first—“was gripped again by her eyes”—is narrative telling. The second—“Those eyes. So deep and sparkling with playfulness”—is deeper POV showing. The reader sees Berly’s eyes from Rafe’s point of view, not mine.

Linda, like any fine editor, took my story, in my voice, and showed me ways to improve it—make it stronger. That is the benefit of a great editor. And that is why—say it with me!—everyone needs an editor. Even me.

Click to tweet: Everyone needs an editor. Just ask Michael Ehret. #amwriting #WritersLife


Michael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation to write with Him and is also a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal magazine for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), was editor-in-chief of the Christian Writers Guild, and he pays the bills as the Assistant Bookstore Coordinator for the Indianapolis Public Library. His novella, “Big Love,” appears in the collection Coming Home: A Tiny Home Collection.

He’s been married for 37 years to Deb and they have three children, one dog (a miniature Schnauzer named Baxter), and a granddog. He’s currently working on a new novel that WILL need editing.


Coming Home ~ A Tiny House Collection

Tiny houses are all the rage these days, but what can you do with something so small? Here are seven stories about people chasing their dreams, making fresh starts, finding love, stumbling upon forgiveness, and embarking upon new adventures in tiny houses. Travel with them around the country in this big novella collection.

Love is Sweeter in Sugar Hill: She has a tiny house. He lives in a mansion. She vows to charge a doctor with malpractice. His job depends on that doctor’s finances. Will love find a way?

Kayla’s Challenge: She was one “I do” short of marrying the man her pushy parents chose for her. Now, half a country away, she needs a tiny house to finally be free.

If These Walls Could Talk: Both claim to have inherited the same Queen Anne until an unexpected blessing changes everything.

First Love: Betrayed by her husband and desperate for healing, she can only move forward by going back home.

Dash of Pepper: His responsibilities tie him to the small town he loves, but her career plans will lead her to the big city. Will he cut his roots for her or will she clip her wings for him?

Big Love: Homelessness expanded her world and constricted his. Now she needs his help, but he only remembers the pain. Can they find big love in a tiny house?

The Light Holding Her: Friends since childhood. She’s being stalked. He’s in danger. Is their faith big enough to carry them through the trials into a deeper relationship?