By Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes

By Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes

Working as an editor is fulfilling and frustrating. As professionals, we’re able to take unpolished work and buff it until it shines. Our expertise is supposed to find the mistakes and takeaways and help mold an author’s voice to sing its best. At times, we may come across obstacles that require skills we lack. In such situations, it’s essential to seek guidance, clarity, or motivation.

Like most editors, I’ve worked hard to gain a range of skills and resources to excel as a freelancer. Drawing on my experiences, I’ve put together a list of twelve editing essentials that have enabled me to develop as an editor for nonfiction and fiction. I trust they can be of assistance to you as well.

  1. The Chicago Manual of Style: Effective communication is always crucial. The Chicago Manual of Style is the trusted guide for word workers. The seventeenth edition includes guidelines for electronic workflows and recognizes the needs of self-publishers and those following open access or Creative Commons publishing models. It encompasses electronic sources, gender-neutral language, punctuation, and citation style. Crafted with input from publishing experts and readers, The Chicago Manual of Style remains the ultimate resource for accuracy.
  2. The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style: The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style is a valuable resource for writers in the Christian publishing industry. Its fourth edition provides guidance on style questions and includes updated content. It emphasizes the importance of maintaining credibility and inclusiveness in writing and offers helpful tips on word choice and turning blogs into books. This guide is a must-have for Christian authors and professionals.
  3. The Copyeditor’s Handbook (Einsohn, Schwartz)/The Copyeditor’s Workbook (Buky, Einsohn, Schwartz,): Improve your editing skills with The Copyeditor’s Handbook and Workbook. These books are valuable resources for all levels of experience. They include various exercises that build in difficulty and cover diverse topics to enhance confidence. Answer keys provide guidance on editorial fundamentals, usage choices, and communication with clients and authors. The workbook provides exercises and a thorough workout for modern editors, and the handbook provides a blueprint for the business of an editor.
  4. The Chicago Guide to Copyediting Fiction: Aspiring editors/fiction writers have longed for a comprehensive guide to copyediting, and their prayers have been answered. The Chicago Guide to Copyediting Fiction is a groundbreaking book by veteran copyeditor Amy J. Schneider that provides a much-needed resource for fiction copyeditors. The user-friendly guide covers a range of topics specific to fiction editing, including dialogue, voice, grammar, and conscious language. Her focus on keeping track of characters, places, and events ensures consistency throughout the work. This guide is a game-changer for the fiction community and a source of inspiration for those striving to perfect their craft. 
  5. Actually, the Comma Goes Here: Lucy Cripps helps improve punctuation with this guidebook that covers everything from semicolons to exclamation points and includes fun examples and historical context. Use this resource to perfect skills and become a more confident writer/editor.
  6. The Art of War for Writers: In this book, James Scott Bell compares the process of writing a publishable novel to fighting a series of battles. These battles include overcoming obstacles like self-doubt, rebellious characters, and the blank page. It offers concise and innovative writing strategies and exercises to help editors/writers develop their ideas, characters, plot, and overall writing process. It also addresses common challenges like dealing with rejection, envy, and unrealistic expectations. Essentially, it is like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for novelists and those who work with them.
  7. Page after Page: Discover the power of daily writing practice and mindset with the guidance of Heather Sellers, an experienced author and teacher. Benefit from her practical advice and exercises to gain valuable insights into the world of writers and establish a productive routine for consistent creativity.
  8. Spunk & Bite: Arthur Plotnik shows that when too tightly leashed, writing chokes and loses its vitality. Although the rules of composition popularized in William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White’s Elements of Style have been de rigueurfor decades, they won’t exactly set the author’s writing free. To the rescue comes Spunk & Bite, a guide to bold and radiant language and style. The secret, according to bestselling author and former publishing executive Arthur Plotnik, is to embrace those qualities that composition rulebooks sidestep, among them surprise, personality, engagement, edge, and fearlessness. Plotnik reveals the tricks and techniques that make prose fresh, forceful, and publishable.
  9. Elements of Fiction: Walter Mosley’s book is a helpful guide for writers who want to improve their craft. It covers important aspects of fiction writing such as character development, plot, narration, context, and description. Mosley provides examples of his own writing to illustrate these concepts. The book takes the reader through the entire writing process, from the first draft to rewriting multiple times. The Elements of Fiction is an inspiring and accessible guide that will encourage editors, writers, and readers.
  10. Unleash the Writer Within: Internationally renowned writer Cecil Murphey accompanies the reader in discovering authenticity in the writing voice, learning to write with heart, becoming authentic to our readers, overcoming writer’s block, and expanding our comfort zone. According to Murphey, it’s important to continue improving our writing skills while staying true to ourselves or else our voices become lifeless. With hundreds of books written or co-written and millions of copies sold, Murphey is a New York Times bestselling author and international speaker who has brought hope and encouragement to countless people worldwide.
  11. Troubleshooting Your Novel: If you are looking for a reliable and user-friendly guide to enhance editing/writing skills, then Steven James’s award-winning book is the right choice. It’s packed with useful techniques, checklists, and time-saving tips that will aid in the writing journey. By following the detailed instructions and analysis provided, readers learn how to adjust critical elements of story progression like tension and plot twists, create authentic and engaging characters, and master narrative techniques such as dialogue and suspense. Additionally, editors/authors will learn how to keep readers engaged and invested in the story by meeting their expectations and ensuring continuity throughout.
  12. The Dance of Character & Plot: Written by award-winning author and writing coach DiAnn Mills, this book offers a step-by-step instructional guide packed with clear and concise information, examples of techniques, and fresh exercises to apply to writing projects. Learn how to create characters with distinct personalities, build the dynamics of the setting, plot like a pro, understand points of view, and help authors write sparkling dialogue.

Additional Resource Links:
American Copy Editors Society
A group of copy editors that improves journalism quality and journalists’ working conditions.

American Society of Indexers (ASI)
Focuses solely on indexing, abstracting, and database construction in the US.

Associated Press Managing Editors (APME)
An online hub of the Associated Press Managing Editors, a group of US and Canadian newspaper editors.

Editor & Publisher
Print and online resources for editors, publishers, and media professionals. Includes news, articles, and a media database.

Editorial Freelancers Association
A national nonprofit professional organization of self-employed workers in the publishing and communications industries.

Journalism Section at Writers Write
Comprehensive resources for journalists including categorized links and discussion.

Proofreading Tips and Exercises
Tips and exercises to help you become a better proofreader.

Editing for fiction writing.

The Write Jobs: Editing Jobs
The latest editor job information from The Write Jobs.

What Do Editors Do?
The Bay Area Editors’ Forum provides answers to questions about the role of editors and how to become an editor.

Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes, EdD, is a writer/content editor. She works for Iron Stream Media as a book coach/editor. She’s a sensitivity reader for Sensitivity Between the Lines and an editor/contributor for Inkspirations. She is the board’s vice chair for the 540 Writers community. Her writing has been published in Guideposts.