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3 Things to Look for in an Editor for Your Fantasy Novel

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You write to COMMUNICATE to THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF OTHERS what’s burning inside you, and WE EDIT TO LET THE FIRE SHOW through the smoke.”

—Arthur Plotnik

Ah, to be a fantasy author in the epic throes of completing a first draft.

To hold that manuscript in your hands for the first time – the testament to hours laying awake at night imagining worlds and quippy dialogue exchanges instead of sleeping, still warm from the printer – and feel the weight of your labour. You printed it, even though you’re a big supporter of The Environment™, because it’s a rite of passage – because you earned it. You finished the damn thing. 

…But also because now, it’s time for an entirely new journey. Now, it’s time to edit!

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If you haven’t already been searching for an editor by the time you complete your manuscript, I suggest you start while you’re still in the process of completing your own edits (which I also suggest you do by hand – the printing serves a greater purpose than simply providing you with a tangible object to drip tears onto). Editors are a busy lot. Many have waitlists over a year long. But alas, the “writing to editing to publishing” pipeline is another blog post entirely. For now, let’s talk about the most pressing question: how do you choose an editor?

Well, authors, I’m glad you asked. The first step is determining what you need and what you can afford to spend. Remember that editing is a collaborative effort. It’s not as simple as handing your work over to be “fixed” by some enigma who’s an expert at everything. No, it’s important you find someone with a skillset that compliments your story, your message, and your style. Someone that sees what you’re going for and is excited about the vision. That’s why editing isn’t necessarily a “you get what you pay for” type of service; though, you can expect more experience at higher price points. It’s more nuanced than that. And, for the most part, it’s up to you to decide who will provide the most value for your unique story.

But don’t worry – I’m here to help! Here are 3 things to look for when choosing an editor for your fantasy novel.

One

You vibe together.

Starting out strong: you have to like your editor.

You have to respect them and they have to respect you if you hope to collaborate successfully. Keep in mind that for the duration of the project, you’ll be in fairly regular communication. If you disagree on your basic ideologies, you might run into problems regardless of if these ideologies come into play in your story.

Editors play a crucial role in shaping your story – it’s essential you see eye to eye, and that they offer feedback and suggestions that are relevant and align with your goals for the book, rather than trying to impose their own agenda.

If they don’t “get” you, they’ll be half as helpful as an editor who does. It’s not about refusing to work with anyone different from yourself, it’s about aligning on what’s important. If you have an entirely queer cast of characters, for example, it’s vital that your editor is, at the very least, an ally. 

So, how do you make sure you vibe with someone before you hire them? The easiest way, in my opinion, is through social media. Start a private collection on your Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, etc., and save posts from editors whose content you connect with. When the time comes to start actively seeking editing services, those you found yourself vibing with most on social media are the editors to start with!

two

They specialize in fantasy.

Not all editors are created equal. Same as writers, they have strengths and weaknesses, preferences and biases. Responsible editors will politely refuse work they know they can’t add sufficient value to, but the onus is still on you to find the perfect editor for the job.

As a fantasy author, you’ll seek out editors who specialize in fantasy. You may even seek editors who specialize in specific sub-genres of fantasy, like urban fantasy or romantasy, or who specialize in specific age ranges, such as young adult or new adult. The reason this is important is that different genres have different conventions and expectations from readers and publishers. Fantasy in particular has a nuance that is not taught so much as it is felt and learned through experience and love for the genre. It’s considered a specialization for a very good reason: it requires a specific set of skills.

Finding editors in your genre isn’t difficult – what can be difficult is finding a fantasy editor that ticks every box in terms of what your particular story needs. The best thing you can do to simplify this process is to literally make a checklist of your story’s requirements (genre, age range, experience editing complex magic systems, an understanding of a specific culture – whatever you believe would be beneficial for you story!) then be sure to ask all of your questions before you sign a contract. You should have a good idea of who your editor is through the social media research you’ve done; now, it’s time to ask the deep questions and make sure they have the expertise necessary to meet you where you’re at and further elevate your story. They might not check every box, but you’ll get a good idea of what they can bring to the table versus other fantasy editors.

Three

Your styles complement each other.

Just like you need to vibe with your editor as a person, you need to vibe with each others’ styles.

A good editor adapts to the voice and style of every author they work with, but beyond that, every editor also has their own way of doing things. Find someone who suits you, and who communicates in a way that clicks with you.

Editors should provide relevant and constructive feedback in a clear, respectful manner. A successful collaborative environment is one where everyone feels understood, safe, and comfortable discussing the nitty gritty details of their work. This can be especially challenging (and especially important) if you’re exploring sensitive topics in your writing such as race, sex, gender, religion, etc.. Professionalism and reliability are obviously important traits in an editor, but more than anything, it’s crucial that you trust them. Your editor must respect your voice and creative vision and work within that, providing guidance that enhances rather than changes or detracts.

A surefire way to ensure you click with your editor’s communication style is through the sample edit. Always get a sample edit – in fact, get sample edits from a few different editors that tick a lot of the boxes we talked about earlier. Most editors offer free sample edits, and will edit around 1,000 to 2,000 words, including a brief analysis. This process helps both them and you get acquainted with each others’ style, and allows both parties an opportunity to show the quality of their work without making any hard and fast commitments. Don’t feel like you’re obligated to work with someone because they provided a great sample edit – if you don’t jive with how they do things, there are no hard feelings about moving on.

Every story needs something a bit different from the editing process. That’s why it’s crucial to do your research and find the right editor for your fantasy novel.

As I said before, a responsible editor should refuse work they know they cannot add sufficient value to, but at the end of the day, it’s your story, your vision, and your name going on the final product. It’s up to you to make sure you find the best of the best within the budget you’re comfortable with.

There are some excellent online resources available to help match authors with professional editors (listed below), and while I do encourage you to use these, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get to know the editor you’re trusting with your story. Always be sure to track them down on social media to get a preview of their communication style and make sure you connect on a personal level. When you’re ready to start inquiring about services, reach out to a few different editors who specialize in your genre and ask lots of questions to ensure their expertise aligns with what your story needs. You may land on one editor right away, or you may find that you click with more than one – that’s where the sample edits come in! Don’t be afraid to shop around for sample edits and get to know a few different editors’ styles. Again, at the end of the day, it’s your story, and editing is expensive; you need to be sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

I hope this advice for choosing an editor for your fantasy novel proves helpful! Feel free to comment any questions you may have below, or reach out to me @vineandparchment to talk more about how to find the right fantasy editor for you. Thanks for reading, and happy editing!

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