How becoming an editor transformed my approach to writing

When I started writing in 2009, I had only the vaguest idea of what an editor was. I self-published four novels, without any form of editorial assistance. It didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped, although it did represent the beginning of my journey towards becoming an editor and proofreader. And that journey has transformed my approach to writing. Here’s what happened.

I write science fiction and fantasy novels that are allegories of the human condition, based on my experience of Asperger’s Syndrome, and my personal worldview. I felt protective of my writing, and because I didn’t understand the value editing could offer me as a writer, I didn’t go down that path. I found it difficult to acknowledge that feedback would be of value, because then I’d have to accept that my stories weren’t perfect and that I’d have to rewrite or revise them, and I wasn’t confident I could do that well enough.

At the time, self-publishing was an exciting prospect, envisaging the achievement of actually getting your book ‘out there’. But I hadn’t done my research, so I didn’t know that the ‘preparing to publish’ process wasn’t just about formatting an ebook, meeting cover specifications, sending publishing information – and writing the darn novel in the first place!

So, what changed?

I fell into proofreading when I started helping writer friends by proofreading their stories, and proofreading articles for a local arts organisation. I found that writers welcomed constructive feedback, and this gave me a more positive view of editorial intervention in a writer’s work. I came across SfEP (now CIEP), and having discovered their training courses I decided to gain professional qualifications to ensure I really had what it took to work on texts. My interests took me from proofreading to copy-editing, and fiction editing in particular.

What next for my writing?

Having established myself as an editor, while still practising as a writer, I’ve been working on new writing projects of my own – mainly fantasy.  I haven’t perfected self-editing, but I’m more open to rewriting. I’ve learned the discipline of redrafting, and decided not to rush into the self-publishing process until my manuscript is ready. It’s been fun getting feedback from trusted readers, reflecting on how their comments can improve my work, and reshaping my story into a clearer vision of what I had originally intended. I can now see value in feedback from an experienced editorial professional. I’m learning to build that partnership, and I’m looking forward to discovering where the editorial process will take my writing.


Alex James
Author and Betterwrite Associate

Posted in Advice to Writers.

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