Why Editors Take So Long and What You Can Do About It

(Note: this article applies only to finished projects, not developmental edits.)


Have you ever sent your project to an editor, only to find out it’s going to take twice as long to complete as you imagined? Why? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

Editors don’t work eight hours a day.

We can’t. Our focus falters; we start missing mistakes or, even worse, creating them; our eyes get physically tired; and our brains stop processing properly.

Breaks help, but after hours of staring at walls of text, we’re spent. If we don’t step away, the project is going to suffer—and so are we.

Every editor is different, but I personally can manage 4–5 hours a day at most. The biggest predictor is the quality of the project. The higher the quality, the longer I can work.

Which brings me to my next point: What can you do as a writer to shorten the turnaround time of a project?

Get your project into the best shape possible before you send it out.

This means run spellcheck, cite what needs citing, put punctuation inside quotation marks, check for obvious continuity issues, have test readers give you feedback—anything and everything you can do as a writer to allow the editor to focus on his/her job: namely, to help make your work as clear as possible to readers.

Staring at page after page of content on a daily basis, trying to glue it all together in some kind of sensible form, is not an easy task. But editors do it every day. Why? Because we love our authors!

It is truly my pleasure to get up every day and collaborate with writers all over the world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Inspiration …

Whenever I start feeling harried, worn down, or just plain burned out, I look for a little help. Recently, I found Dr. Shelley Provost’s website. It’s filled with calming, inspiring, and motivating words of wisdom that will get you thinking more deeply about your life and what you want from it:

“Over the years, I’ve heard from many clients that they’re afraid the path they’ve chosen isn’t the right one. We are lured into thinking that the purpose of life equals upward social mobility, establishing a career, accumulating wealth, competing (and winning), and holding power. Even if we can admit to ourselves that we aren’t fulfilled with success’ trappings, all too often we cling to our illusions because they’re all we know.”

Schedule for September

Just a friendly little reminder that I will be taking off most of the week of 9/9 – 9/14 from work.

Currently, I am booked through October 1, so if you have a project you’d like to discuss, give me a shout soon!

Article: “How to Copyedit The Atlantic”

If you’ve ever been curious about the copyediting process for magazines and journals, this is the article for you!

We start the process by reading each piece four times among ourselves. I might read the piece on my monitor, read it again on a printout, and then pass it to one of my fellow copy editors to repeat the process. We alternate reading onscreen and on page because we tend to catch different things with each method—stylistic errors jump out on the screen; timeline issues or abrupt shifts in narrative are clearer on the page. On my first read of Ross’s piece, for example, I flagged its abundance of metaphors: The satellite dish looked like an inverted mushroom cap and like God’s fingerprint; its surface looked like a taut bedsheet. Metaphors can bring vividness to image descriptions, of course, but like salt sprinkled over a finished dish, they’re best used in moderation. On the page, meanwhile, I found myself confused between the two extraterrestrial-research teams we mentioned, so I left a note asking the editor to clarify.

How to Copyedit The Atlantic by Karen Ostergren

Article: “Not Busy, Focused”

Did you wake up this morning, immediately turn on some kind of technology—your phone, your computer—and get down to work? Me too.

I’ve spent the last few years trying to be far more mindful of slowing down, taking my time, and being present. But sometimes I slip, and these past two weeks have been fast, quick, and over before I knew it.

Life is not a race, and just because we’re busy doesn’t mean we’re being productive or even doing things to our best ability. Here is an article that never fails to remind me of that—and what to do about it:

“Take a look around: everyone is multitasking. We’re doing more than we’ve ever done, attempting to fill every interstitial zone with more work. Every downtown scene is the same: heads tilted downward, faces lost in glowing screens, technology turning people into zombies …”