top of page

5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Working With a Fiction Editor

Updated: Jul 31

5 Common Pitfalls of to Avoid When Working With a Fiction Editor

Pitfalls to Avoid When Working With a Fiction Editor


I read a second book series from a moderately new author not too long ago whose first series I really enjoyed. I liked the story but also the flow and quality of the prose. However, this author's latest series (from a different publisher) was not nearly as good as the first.

The story was alright, but the quality of the writing took a steep dive. It had none of the flavors of this author's previous writing which I'd read. It honestly felt like it was written by someone else.

Now, it could simply be that the first series was better written overall and that the second series couldn't live up to my expectations in comparison.

There are many reasons I can come up with why the latest series wasn't on par with the first. Perhaps the author wasn't in love with this book and was just trying to meet a deadline.

Maybe they had a stroke.

But I did get a sneaking suspicion, one that tingled on the back of my neck like some strange editorial-spidey sense. The difference is that the first series got more thorough editing than the second.

The first series I read was likely edited by one publisher, while the second series was edited by a different publisher. The second publisher may have different standards for editing, which can lead to a marked difference in quality between the two series.


Sad. But simple.

Interestingly, the first series was published by a smaller press than the second, but I won't go there in this post.

But all this got me thinking of editors and how authors work with them. How can working with one editor have such a striking difference in quality? I mean, did this author not learn anything working with the first editor?

Or did they merely pass the reins of the book over to the editor and check out?

I don't want that for you. So here are 5 pitfalls to avoid when working with a fiction editor.

"Why you no big edit?" - heading image for Pitfalls to avoid when working with a fiction editor

Foregoing the Developmental Edit

Developmental editors are expensive, so I understand why indie authors might be wary of hiring one.

But it is sometimes the largest difference between an enjoyable read and a forgettable one. In the two book series I mentioned above, this is where I feel the divide was.

The first series was concise, it was direct, and it contained very little filler. It was well developmentally edited.

The second was filled with pages of extra material, dragged on in many places, and was HUGE. A good developmental editor could have cut the word count by at least a quarter, if not more, and it wouldn't have affected the storyline at all.

I once watched a YouTube video from a writer who told authors that they should NOT get a developmental editor because all the feedback might damage the author's confidence and...well...make them feel bad?

While I agree that if you are an unconfident writer, you might be swayed by an editor to change things you regret later. That happens, sure. But the double-edged sword is that you are unconfident because you obviously don't believe in your skill. You haven't learned enough.

And you can't gain that confidence without knowledge and experience. A developmental editor can give you the tools to learn what you are doing wrong and how to fix it. A good one can streamline your learning curve and teach you more than 50 textbooks.

You will also learn more by doing the work—hands-on experience—than through merely reading. You can see the results in your work immediately and gauge the quality of the advice yourself.

Confidence developed by absorbing criticism and mulling over it honestly and thoughtfully is confiden