Tuesday, May 7, 2019

How to Navigate a Writing Conference—Make Friends and Influence Editors

by PeggySue Wells @PeggySueWells

What do editors know, anyhow?
Early in my career, that was my initial thought when an editor returned my manuscript, outlining necessary changes before the piece would be published. When the manuscript for my first book was sent back after being edited so I no longer recognized it, I sat in my dormer window and cried. 

For a day. 

Then I got to work.

Later, when an editor returned a project, I ate copious amounts of chocolate. It was therapeutic. Medicinal. 

Then I got to work.

After awhile, I no longer needed the chocolate. I just got to work.

Presently, I ask for feedback. I eat feedback for breakfast. When an editor, agent, or publisher with a reputation for being particularly critical is at a conference, I ask that person to look at my work and show me where I can improve.

My principles for working with an editor include:
  • The editor knows the publication and what material fits best.
  • The editor knows what their audience wants. 
  • Usually I can learn a thing or two from an editor.
  • A fresh look at my project, another pair of skilled eyes, a voice other than my own, is good for my craft.
  • I give the editor every change I can.
  • When an editor wants changes that I feel particularly strong about, I reword the section to say what I want the passage to say andbe acceptable to the editor.

During the final editing for my book, Rediscovering Your Happily Ever After, my editor wanted to cut a paragraph I felt was critical. I telephoned my co-author on previous projects. 

“I feel this is important because …” 

“Say that,” she said. “Write what you just said to me.”

The first draft was writer-ese. The second version was my heart. I wrote from my passion. The editor had seen the difference and rejected the first draft but was pleased with my rewrite. 

Typically, my editor catches when what I wrote isn’t clearly what I meant to say. There are enough words in our extensive vocabulary to mold a phrase, a paragraph, or an article to read clear and concise. An editor’s job is to make certain that the piece communicates with excellence to a target audience.

Writing is a team sport. My work is polished and improved when I partner with a skilled editor. Jerry Jenkins says writing is a duet between the writer and the editor. Thanks to my editor, who may know a thing or two after all, the finished project is better for the editor’s expert interference.


Don't Miss the Rest of the Posts in This Series:
How to Navigate a Writing Conference, part 1
After the Conference: How to Navigate a Writing Conference, part 2
How to Navigate a Writing Conference: Make Friends & Influence Editors

Tropical island votary and history buff, PeggySue Wells parasails, skydives, snorkels, scuba dives, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. Writing from the 100-Acre wood in Indiana, Wells is the bestselling author of twenty-eight books including The Slave Across the Street, Slavery in the Land of the Free, Bonding With Your Child Through Boundaries, Homeless for the Holidays, and Chasing Sunrise. Optimistic dream-driver, PeggySue is named for the Buddy Holly song with the great drumbeat. At school author visits, she teaches students the secrets to writing, and speaks at events and conferences. Connect with her at www.PeggySueWells.com, on Facebook at PeggySue Wells, and Twitter @PeggySueWells. 


  1. PeggySue,

    Thanks for the great wisdom in this article about how to work with editors. It is not easy to play a team sport and let go of our words (yes crying and chocolate help sometimes). It is a process to recognize the editor is looking out for their readers and trying to draw the very best writing from you. No one said it would be easy and I appreciate that you pointed out this aspect.

    Straight Talk From the Editor

    1. You might know something about this, Terry, having been on both sides of the desk.

  2. That’s great stuff, PeggySue. Thanks for laying it out with practical honesty. “Writing is a team sport.” - Now THAT is memorable. :)

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