How to Interview a Copy Editor

If you are a writer who has ever been confused by the jargon surrounding types of editing, you are not alone. You’ve poured your heart and soul into a project but apparently, you’re not done. You’ve been told your manuscript needs editing, but what kind? And does it matter what order they go in? How do you know how to pick a good editor?

If you’re not familiar with the editing process, there are multiple phases, which can vary depending on if you are pursuing indie publishing or if you are being published with a traditional house. If you are working with a traditional press, often the timeline will be much longer, and multiple editors will work on your manuscript. If you are choosing indie publishing, your timeline will be shorter, but due to finances or other constraints, you may choose to work with just one editor through one phase of editing. But in general, the phases a manuscript will move through are:

  • DevelopmentalCompleted before the first draft is done, provides direction for the entire manuscript and vetting for ideas and concepts.
  • SubstantiveAlso called line editing. This is the macro editing phase of the finished first draft and ensures overall flow, cohesiveness, plot holes are addressed, etc.
  • Copy EditingMicro editing which focuses on grammar, typos, formatting, consistencyAnswers the question “Do I have spinach in the teeth of my manuscript?”
  • ProofreadingA final read-through after the book has been formatted. Author may choose to do this step themselves.

In my opinion, for indie authors, copy editing should be the bare minimum editing that a MS goes through. So if you are looking at copy editors, here’s what to look for and ask about:

  • Appropriate experience: Have they edited something similar to your project before? How long have they been editing? Where else have they worked?
  • Good fit/flow of communication: Even if they have had an illustrious editing career, they may not be a good fit for you and your manuscript. It’s worth it to keep hunting for a good fit, even if it may mean the editor you choose has slightly less experience. If they seem to care about your project and are organized and prompt with communication, chances are you will enjoy that author/editor relationship.
  • Timeline on the project: Every editor is different, so be sure and ask when they think they could start working on your project and how long each phase of editing should take. They should be able to give you a ballpark figure.
  • Payment/contract methods: It is fairly standard to pay a deposit when beginning an editing project. Editing projects unfold over at least four weeks (potentially longer) and it’s unfair to ask an editor to wait that long to receive any payment for the hours and hours they have already put into your work. Be sure the terms of payment and other details are clearly detailed from the start, preferable in contract form because that protects both parties.
  • Delivery of edits: This will likely be spelled out in the contract, but make sure you understand how they will be editing your work and how you will need to respond to edits.

A good copy editor, or really any editor, should be a guide, not an overlord, though you have to understand the unique tension they face in their work. This article from Chicago Manual of Style explains it well! Editors are aiming for all that enhances clarity within a manuscript: consistency, correctness, conciseness. Yet they also make room for how language evolves and the needs of individual authors. The bible of the publishing industry, the Chicago Manual of Style, embraces this by using the word “usually” in many of their rules. Publishing houses and publications operate off their own “style guides” for certain word treatments, and you as an indie author can ask to create your own style guide when working with your editor.

I know the editing process can feel intimidating, but that’s why I’m here editing away in my own corner of the internet: I want to guide you through that editing process and provide you with quality editing so that your writing stands out in the crowd.


Don’t live in the fog of the editing process any longer. I offer a free discovery call for all potential clients to see if we would be a good author + editor fit. Now that you have a list of questions to ask me, send me a message, and let’s get your call scheduled!

How to Keep Going When Motivation is Scarce

You know when the slump hits…you open eight different tabs on your laptop, then you make a new playlist, scan your WIP, add a sentence…but there’s no motivation. No forward motion. Worse, you probably jump on Twitter only to see another writer has clocked 2,000 words on their latest WIP or another author was finally picked up by an agent.

Well, guess it’s time to call it a day

But maybe not.

If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. And I promise the slumpy feeling will not last forever. In today’s post, I’m sharing some practical tips for still moving forward even if the motivating feelings aren’t following yet.

Shift Your Focus

When unmotivation threatens to overtake you, start working on something separate but related to your WIP. Research archives or related materials, listen to interviews, or watch a documentary or movie that has related themes or similar subject matter to your project. Sometimes by not staring directly at your WIP, it gives your brain a chance to unkink, and then it’s better able to move past whatever barrier is inhibiting your flow.

Identify the Roadblock

Is there a lingering task, an admin step, or something small that you just aren’t addressing that’s bothering you at the fringes of your mind? Set a timer for ten minutes and work on said task. You’ll be amazed at what can be eliminated during that time frame and then you will have more brain space freed up to work on what’s truly important.

Change Your Scenery

Go outside, take your laptop to a different room, or find some new music or white noise. I personally love the “Stockholm” white noise through the Freedom app. I also have my own playlist of downtempo and instrumental songs for writing. If you’re working on a fiction project, try finding music that inspires the setting of your main character. For instance, when I was editing a middle-grade novel set in the Wild West, I played some Western movie soundtracks and it totally got me in the mood!

Set a Timer

I mentioned this earlier, but beyond admin tasks, setting a timer when you think you can’t possibly work another minute is helpful. You can surprise yourself by how quickly ideas can feed off one another and you can add another 200, 500, maybe even 800 words even if you thought you were done for the day.

Take a Break

Yes sometimes we do need a break. Writing isn’t just a creative outlet for many of us; it’s our job. And for almost every other job, there are going to be days when you don’t feel like working. But you show up anyway. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do: show up, put your butt in the chair, and write. But sometimes you do need a break, and the break can serve to refill your creative reservoirs. But be mindful of how you take that break. If you are taking a break during the day and plan to return to your work later on, don’t immediately reach for your phone and start scrolling. Pick something that will actually refresh your brain!

  • Take a snack break outside
  • Use your Breathe app on your Apple watch
  • Listen to a brief encouraging podcast
  • Go for a walk

Not every day is going to be your best writing day, and that’s okay. Give yourself some grace and don’t compare your low output day to someone’s highest output day. Learn to embrace the ebb and flow.