July 7, 2020

Why and What Editors do for Authors

Nancy Arant Williams

First and most importantly, I’d like to thank Susan Reichert for the chance to address you all. Let me introduce myself. My name is Nancy Arant Williams and I’m a multi-published author and have been editing freelance for nearly twenty years. Not long ago, I was humbled and blessed to be named #2 of the top nineteen editors in the U.S. You may have recently read my author blog here—well, this particular blog speaks to my editing career.

I would never have learned to edit had I not struggled with an editor who repeatedly pulled my chain on my first several books. Through that process, I realized that an author truly needs an editor who sees eye to eye philosophically. In my case, that editor used a red marker to exclaim her annoyance at things she couldn’t understand—like the jargon/conversations between teens and parents. After many sleepless nights and high stress interactions, I finally asked for another editor. The new one was a dream come true, praise God.

As I wrote one book after another I developed the ability to look at others’ books and see what should be done next, for instance, if it lacked order, or left unanswered questions, I could see it right up front, which was God’s gift, showing me what was missing or needed to be changed. After two years of writing, I decided I could edit, and I put up my shingle, after taking several editing courses. And I have to admit that I had found another wonderful niche—I really love it. Imagine, earning a living while turning a mess into a masterpiece.

Editing is an art, and every editor must develop an ‘ear’ for certain things. Even authors can and should develop abilities to recognize whether their book has a powerful hook, a solid middle, and a satisfying ending. They can learn to ‘hear’ dialogue, and realize when it’s not realistic, or sounds unnatural. We just have to ask ourselves: “Would my character actually say that?” “Would a reader believe this?” If not, it needs work. Then we have to step out of our author mode and get a little distance, before we can truly answer that question without prejudice. Of course, it’s natural for every author to see her book as ‘my baby’, and most will struggle to let others make suggestions. But in the end, it’s essential to hire an editor to improve the flow, bring it to life, and make it ‘sing.’

Remember, we only have one chance to make a great first impression, so we dare not waste it with amateurish work. It needs to be our best work, in order to bring glory to our wonderful Lord.

Some tips on editing your own work.
Ask the Lord for help to finish the book, because some authors are still working on the book ten years later, and are not still not satisfied, even then. There are limits. Find yours and stick with it, resisting the temptation to keep changing things.
Put some distance/time between completion and review, because after looking at a document many times, human beings can no longer see the errors and will skip right over them. But if you give it a week, and go back, you’ll be able to see and correct them. Even at a traditional publishing house it takes 3-4 proofreaders to catch every error. In fact, when you read a book, use a critical eye to see if the proofreaders missed anything.

In my own case, I’ve reviewed some amazing books, very well written, that I just couldn’t finish, because there were so many obvious errors to distract me. In the end, I had to decline to review them. Not a good thing for an author.
Read it aloud, and you’ll find that though your eyes might not see an error, your voice will pick up on it.
Put the document in a new and larger font and a different color, and it will look like a new book, so that you’ll be able to find errors more easily.

If you use these tips, you’ll be much happier with the finished document, even before you send it for professional editing.

There are several levels of editing:
Manuscript evaluation will give you the big picture—a better idea of what it needs to be ready for publication.
Proofreading: looks for issues with punctuation, usage, grammar and spelling.
Copyediting: looks for flow, head hopping, poor wording, tense issues, etc.
Developmental editing: is needed when the document needs much rewriting.
Ghost writing: starts with nothing but notes, tapes, or other scraps of writing that need to be organized, brought to life, and written in an orderly way, to produce a book the author can be proud of.

If you’re looking for an editor who will protect your voice, and polish your manuscript to a high sheen, check out my website at and let me give you an estimate. I’d love to be your go-to gal for editing. Thanks so much for joining me, and I pray that you would be bold and confident as you simply follow where He leads, to the glory of God. 

Blessings and big hugs, Nancy

Nancy Arant Williams is a professional editor; doing everything from simple proofreading, correcting punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling, to complete creative rewrites. She also Ghost Writes

She is also an author. Her latest book is Murder Walks on Peachtree Street. 

Nancy and her husband are Nebraska natives, who retired to Missouri. They have two grown children and six wonderful grandchildren. Her interest include quilts, decorating, wire art and reading.

To learn more visit


  1. Nancy,

    Thank you for these tips for authors about editing their own work and using an editor. Every author needs an editor for their work whether it is their first book or their 50th book. Editors play an important role in publishing to produce quality and lasting work.

    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

  2. I chuckled at your first editor. I've been blessed with Southern editors who understand my work. That's not to say I haven't kicked a cabinet or two, but I've come to trust mine highly. I think editors are God's gift to authors.

  3. Great tips, Nancy! I never thought about increasing the font size. I always say every piece can be improved.

  4. Thank you Nancy for your post. We definitely agree, authors need editors.

  5. Love your tips! And I'll be changing the font and color on my next read-thru. I have yet to meet an edit that I didn't eventually embrace. :-)