A question I often get from potential new clients is, “Can’t you just do one review of my manuscript so it can get done faster?” So, with this post, I thought I’d touch on why it’s rarely ever a good idea to rush the editing process for time’s sake.

With the digital age, the pace of our culture has definitely increased—seemingly light years in only the past decade or so. Take a look around you on any given day and you’ll see that most of us feel an almost constant need for speed and activity. In just the past week or so while sitting at a stop light, I’ve twice seen cars just sit there when the light turned green because the drivers were so focused on their phones.

This post, though, is not about debating the right or wrong of how much we’ve allowed the pace of our own lives to increase. Rather, it’s specifically about resisting this pull when it comes to something you hold dear to your heart: the book manuscript you’ve completed.

Whether it’s a how-to booklet, a nonfiction book, a novella, or a heavyweight novel, your book required some sacrifice on your part. You invested time that you could have spent elsewhere. You invested mental, physical, and emotional energy that could have gone to some other life pursuit. You possibly also invested some financial resources in working with a writing coach/mentor in preparation for crafting your book. Perhaps the book even cost you in terms of relationships—maybe because some “friends” just didn’t see the point of you “wasting” your time on writing some “foo-foo” story you’ve been talking about since high school.

Whatever your investment along the way, you chose to persevere in writing your book until you finished it, even on the hard days when sentences might have come only two or three stilted words at a time rather than in the rhythmic, flowing prose that made you feel alive and as though you were doing exactly what you were created for in this season of your life.

So let’s go back to the question that I hear frequently enough that it warranted me investing some time to talk about it today: “Can’t you just do one review of my manuscript so it can get done faster?”

As an editor who has been working with words for almost two decades, I have to answer the question with another question: “Why would you want me to rush my work on your book when you’ve sacrificed so much already to see it move from dream to reality?”

I actually just finished a phone call a bit ago with a potential new client, and when she asked about the editing process, I explained my usual method—and made sure to tell her why any good editor should do at least two editorial reviews of a manuscript: First, no editor is going to catch everything the first time she or he goes through a manuscript. And second, quality editing takes time. I felt grateful that this author understood and accepted this line of thinking without any hesitation—even though she understandably may not be able to visualize everything that goes into the editing of a manuscript, since she’s on the writer’s side of this process and that’s her main focus.

On the editor’s side, though, at any given point during the editing process (depending on the genre and type of edit), an editor may possibly be keeping in mind:

  • strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript (Is the plot of this rom-com novel working? Could the suggestions on how to study the Bible be more reader-friendly?)
  • consistency issues (Why is Maggie now wearing an aquamarine dress when she just had on a fuchsia pantsuit? Why did it say that the Ranger alpha team carried M4A1 carbines on their mission but now they are laying down covering fire with M16A2 assault rifles?)
  • the need to verify facts/sources (Could a fictional Viking raid have taken place at such a place during this time period? Did that quotation really come from A. W. Tozer?)
  • misspellings (no nede to explane this, I thinck)
  • grammar snarls (nor that either)
  • punctuation problems (no. really!”)
  • names of characters (Joe Davidson becomes Joe Davison at times in a story)
  • sequence of events from a previous book in the series (The starship Stellar is back? Didn’t it burn up in orbit in the last book after being torpedoed by the Gark destroyer?)
  • math mayhem (Duane was nine years old when the accident happened, and it’s been twenty long years since then, but now at thirty-three, he’s finally past it. Or, Here’s a list of three foundational parenting concepts: 1. Understand first, then be understood, 2. Focus on the positive, 3. Speak the truth in love, and, 4. Be firm and assertive, but gentle.)
  • and the list could go on and on …

Bottom line: a quality edit takes time. Editors who care enough about giving you the highest-quality edit possible need that time to serve you to the best of their abilities. So as you consider contracting an editor to walk alongside you during the next stage of your journey toward publication, be prepared for whatever timeline she or he may propose to you. Remember, the editor wants the same thing you do: to see your finished book be the very best it can be.