Crystal Nevin

When to Find an Editor

I often see authors on social media asking other authors for opinions on when to seek an editor. There are two answers to that: when you’re stuck and when you’ve reached the limit of what you can do yourself.

When You’re Stuck

Sometimes when you’re writing, you have an idea and you just can’t quite figure out where to go next in the plot or you have a plot hole and can’t figure out how to close it. Or you know your character is kind of flat and you want some help figuring out a character arc.

Alternatively, you want to improve your writing craft, and the best way for you to learn is to to get timely feedback on your writing and suggestions for ways to grow.

For either of these, you can search for an editor who provides coaching services. A lot of editors are happy to provide one-on-one coaching for an hourly fee that accounts for the time they spend researching for you, reading your writing, and communicating with you (plan on a total of three hours for every one hour of communication as a very general rule). Usually the editors have prescribed packages available that describe what kind of coaching they offer, but most will be happy to customize something that fits exactly what you need.

Most importantly, find someone who will provide you the type of coaching you need. If you need help with time management, then a coach for plot won’t be helpful. Next in importance, find someone you click with and can trust to give you honest, kind feedback and keep you accountable and on track.

The best coaching is set up so that there’s an introductory session to learn about each other, figure out what the root issue is (it may not be what’s evident on the surface), and agree on a path forward. The number of subsequent sessions should depend on the issue. If it takes three sessions or twenty, or is ongoing indefinitely, should depend on what you need.

When You’ve Reached Your Limit

If you’re on the road to publishing, my recommendation is to plow through the first draft and make notes along the way of things you need to go back and change. After you finish, go make those changes; let’s call this draft 1A. If you can bear it, let it sit for a while and let your brain think about other things. Maybe work on other projects for a bit. A week or six later (the longer, the better), read through draft 1A and rewrite it with changes you can see yourself. (See some of my prior blog posts; click on Self-editing to filter.) Repeat until you think it’s in pretty good shape or can’t figure out how to solve an issue.


This is a good time to find a developmental editor. As a professional, the editor will be able to help you elevate your work (and your craft!) to the next level by identifying and helping you solve issues that you didn’t notice. If you know there’s an issue but can’t figure out how to solve it, either bring it up as you’re hiring the editor for a developmental edit, or perhaps pursue the coaching option as noted above. The editor should be able to help advise you on which path would be a better (cheaper) option for you.

Find an Editor When You Can’t Do It Yourself

Basically, the time to find an editor is when you can’t do something yourself. An editor’s job is to help. We love doing it! Also, if you do all you can before hiring an editor, you’re more likely to spend less on an edit because your manuscript will be in better shape. It’ll also be a good representation of what your current writing level is so that your editor can help you improve to the next level.

Interested in coaching or a developmental edit? Not sure, but know you need help? Contact me, and we’ll get it figured out.


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