How to be Edited as a New Author (Or at Any Level, Really…)

by Michael Mohr


A-number one advice for new writers especially: Don’t rush the process. Man oh man. How many writers approach me who think they’re going to hand me their first or second draft of a novel and after one developmental edit they’re going to be done? Far too many. In this new landscape of 21st century ‘everyone’s a writer’ world, the culture has simply been infected with the idea that ‘anyone can do it.’ This isn’t to mock or knock anyone. Believe me. I take every email I receive seriously. But my point is: Respect the craft of writing.

Like anything—plumbing, law, construction, acting—there is much to learn before you can really write a serious novel. Some go to college and do the MFA. Some join a professional workshop. Some simply read constantly and write every day. There is no one right way to become a writer. Mostly I think it’s about drive, ambition, life experience, perseverance. Ambitious, nascent writers will go to writers’ conferences, join critique groups, carve out a daily or several-times-weekly writing discipline. They take it seriously. When they write a novel, they go through half a dozen or more drafts before even considering it anywhere near being “done.”

Referring to my opening paragraph, I’m not saying a writer can’t approach me—or any other editor—early in the stages of their novel-in-progress, or in their career. They can and should. But be aware that when you do, at this early stage, you will most likely be asked—encouraged—to follow up with several developmental edits. This isn’t because I want your money and am trying to squeeze you. Yes, I do editing more or less fulltime, and yes, I need to eat and survive. But, honestly, it’s really all about the fact that serious novels take serious time and care.

Debut novelist Gabriel Tallent (“My Absolute Darling”) took eight years to create the final draft of his book. It took Stephanie Danler many, many years and drafts and hardship to create “Sweetbitter.” Emma Cline took several years writing “The Girls.” My ex neo-Nazi skinhead client (now anti-hate activist), Christian Picciolini, worked on his book, “White American Youth” for years before at last coming to an editor and working with me for a full year before his book was released in early 2018. (Hachette Book Group. He now has an MSNBC TV docu-series airing called Breaking Hate.)

My point? It takes TIME. Be patient. Respect the process and the craft. Don’t rush it. Accept that you’re going to have to spend time and money. No, it’s not as easy as the media may make it seem. Writing a book is like raising a child. Think of it that way. It’ll wake you up in the middle of the night, torturing you. It’ll scream at you when you’re so tired you feel like you can’t go on. It takes finesse and kindness and love and every ounce of your energy and attention and respect.

It’s up to you, writers. You said it, let’s edit.



Guest post contributed by Michael Mohr is a published, Pushcart Prize-nominated writer, former literary agent’s assistant and freelance book editor. His fiction has been published in: Concho River Review; Adelaide Literary Magazine; Bethlehem Writers’ Roundtable; Fiction Magazines; Tincture; and more. His blog pieces have been included in Writers’ Digest, Writer Unboxed, Creative Penn and MASH. A recent editing client accomplishment is a memoir, White American Youth, by Christian Picciolini, a former neo Nazi who changed his life. (Hachette, Dec 26, 2017.) Christian’s MSNBC TV docu-series is airing now (Breaking Hate). Michael edits memoir, adult literary and commercial novels, YA and suspense/thriller. His writing/editing website is



12 thoughts on “How to be Edited as a New Author (Or at Any Level, Really…)

  1. Totally agree with this. When I started writing my novel (at age 11) I had no idea about the drafting process. Even now I’m only on my second draft, but I’m prepared to do as many as necessary to get my work to the highest level.


  2. I agree. For me there is a question of personal pride, namely how would I feel about paying for something which wasn’t as good as it could be? That said, I’ve read a number of novels over time, even by “big” authors which have contained spelling errors and the like (and they will have been through a professional process), so no matter how many iterations you go through there is always a risk of something creeping through. While I’d never claim to be anything other than an amateur writer, I still want to check, check, check and check again to make sure things link up, make sense, don’t have repetition, seem grammatically correct and the spelling is good…and most importantly read as well as I can make it do.

    My first novel, “Baabaric” (which is free until end of 3rd August) took me about four months to get to end of first draft, but another eight to edit and refine until I was happy to publish. Everyone is different though.


  3. So glad to read this article. I have thought myself failing as I labor over my work, while others are cranking out books in a matter of a month or two. But quantity does not always mean quality, as the saying goes.


  4. At least four different editors took a swipe at my first book – one of whom I paid rather well and they all had different ideas about how I should be writing. It was hell. Another good thing for first time writers to keep in mind is to go with your gut and don’t be flattered by the first editor to show an interest. Check the reviews for books they have edited. Read the first few pages on Amazon and see what you think.


  5. I remember my first blog post. I was convinced that this one is so well written. When I revisited it after a few months. I realize how awful it was. And it keeps happening. What appears to be a good writing today will become somewhat low-quality tomorrow.

    Awesome post-Michael! Keep sharing


  6. I agree that writing a book is like raising a child. I’ve done both, and neither feel like the process will EVER be complete.
    Thank you for the tips. I will do my best to be patient.


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