Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Toast to Editors

By Christine Dillon

“Why is your point of view character thinking?” wrote the editor. “She should be feeling.”

This comment on my first novel manuscript set me thinking rather than feeling. Why was my character like that? It didn’t take me long to realise my main character is like me.

“I’m an ISTJ (Myer’s Brigg personality type - Introvert- Sensing-Thinking-Judging),” I told my editor. ”Welcome to my world.”

The editor wrote back:

“I’m an ENFP (Extrovert-iNtuitive-Feeling-Perceptive). If someone even looks at me crossly I become teary.”

That was the day I began to respect editors in a new way. 

No longer just for their hard work and abilities with words and grammar. But more for their ability to see what is not there on the page and to make a story richer and deeper. As the editor said:

“To make your writing about the emotional inner world as beautiful as your descriptions of the outer, visible world.”

When I first wrote a book (non-fiction), it didn’t take me long to realise editors were the unsung heroes of writing. Like authors, they come in all kinds of styles and qualities. How was I going to find the right editor for my first novel? I was ignorant of so many parts of the process, including what kind of editors there were. As a church planter in Taiwan, I was also cut off from other authors and their networks. I couldn’t easily attend writer’s conferences or meet editors face to face.

However, I do have one huge advantage: 

I’m a Christian and therefore have many unseen resources. I have a God who not only can help me write (and fiction has been a more than four-year journey towards the first novel) but who answers prayer. He knew where the networks were, and He knew the editors that were both right for me personally and for my manuscript.

I was a slow convert to Facebook but am grateful for it in one huge aspect—groups. Through Facebook, I found many other Christian authors. It quickly became clear that the one essential to writing and publishing a novel was professional editing (and later, a professional cover).

Finding the right editor is a bit like dating. 

Not everyone is a good ‘match’. As my novel is based in Australia, I wanted someone who could understand the Australian context. And I wanted someone who had my values about Christian novels and their purpose. Soon I had a short list and kept praying. I might not know who was right for my book, but God would.

I sent off a sample of my writing and the summary. The editor I chose said, “It’s not ready for me yet”. She listed a few pages of things I needed to do to improve my writing.

That was a disappointing start as I’d planned to publish it four months after I first sent it. Discovering it was much further from ‘ready’ than I’d thought meant delaying the publication by fifteen months because I am seldom in Australia, and I wanted a physical book launch in Australia.

How could I have ever doubted that God had things under control. 

Every minute of the extra time has been needed to improve my writing, build networks, learn to market, run an author website, and grow my email list.

It was an exciting day when the editor finally said, “Now your manuscript is ready to edit.”
Once we worked out each others styles, we settled into a rhythm. However, the day I really knew God had matched us was the day we had the ISTJ/ENFP conversation. My natural tendency would have been to choose someone like me. Without an ENFP editor, all my main characters would have been ISTJ’s!

After the edit was complete I thought the book was done. 

Then God stepped in again although at the time it felt more like more stress, and more cost. I submitted a sample for a cost estimate for a final copy edit. Imagine my horror when the chapters were returned covered in comments. It was time for me to learn more lessons about showing not telling, and narrative distance.

After this second editor read the whole manuscript she said, “This is one and a half books, not one.” I found myself planning a trilogy and having to cut the first book off at the two-thirds point and add a new conclusion.

Has it been worth it?

A million times yes! Without these editors I would have published something that was about a 30% standard. Those editors had the courage to say what needed to be said.

Hurrah for editors (good ones, of course) and a toast to them.

What have you learned about finding a good author/editor match?

About Christine Dillon

Based in southern Taiwan, Christine loves to tell Bible stories (to adults) as part of a church planting team. Traditionally published in non-fiction and is now working towards self-publishing in fiction, she keeps telling God she really doesn’t want to write.

In her spare time—now much reduced due to writing—she loves hiking, cycling, genealogy and of course, reading.

You can find Christine at her website, www.storytellerchristine.com, and on Facebook.


  1. Bravo, Christine. Yes, where would we authors be without editors? I cherish mine. My editors are continually teaching me to write. No writers conference or writing craft book can give you the same education in writing. And then together you produce a better manuscript.

    I love how you've described your process of finding your editor and giving time for the Lord to lead you to the right one.

  2. What an encouraging post. I'm an editor, but also a writer. I love helping people with their manuscripts, but I've also received feedback written all over my own manuscripts. Sometimes it's hard to realise more work is needed when you've already spent so long on it. But the extra effort is so worth it. Good on you for not settling for that 30% manuscript. I hope it does really well :)

    1. we shall see. 3 months to publication. Should be sending it to layout tomorrow. Then advance copy readers/proof readers

  3. As an author and an editor, I know how hard it is on either side of the fence. :-)