How I Found the Right Editor

It was more than luck. Creating a book takes a team. I spoke about how I chose my cover artist. How I found the right editor for My Soul to Keep was to search for the right one several months before I needed one. It took some work, some due diligence, and some patience. But it paid off.

Image of a manuscript page with lots of edits handwritten with a red pen an illustration for how I found the right editor.

Which Type?

The first step in my journey to find the right editor was to research the different types of editors. It can get confusing. When you search the internet there are folks who say there are four types, five types, nine types, and more! But for most freelancers, it boils down to four general types.

  1. Developmental editors who work with you on the structure and arc of the story.
  2. Copy editors examine your finished story for consistency, grammar, and flow.
  3. Line editors address the writing style, language, and content on a sentence level.
  4. Proofreaders are the nit-pickers who look for typos and misplaced words or punctuation.

Each writer’s needs, every novel’s needs, are different. I had a mentor who had helped me with developing the story. But my weaknesses were grammar and consistency. So I needed a copy editor. But there are hundreds of thousands of editors out there.

Where Do You Find Editors

I went to trusted sources. Friends who write and publish in the same genre gave me names. Writing websites I follow had lists of editors. Even professional author groups I belong to had lists. I learned that there’s a professional association, Editorial Freelancers Association. I wrote down a list of more than twenty names. Did I refuse to write down names of people who didn’t belong to the Association? No. I did my due diligence. But members of the EFA ranked a little higher than editors who did not belong to a professional association.

First, every name had to have a website associated with it. If there wasn’t a website where I could learn about the editor, the name got scratched off my list. I paid attention to bios, testimonials, what they said they could do, turn around times, and fees. Did the editor have any experience, an understanding of my genre? Did I like the personality that came across on the website? What did his or her clients say about working with that editor? Were there examples? Did I have a personal relationship with any of their clients? Did I know their clients by reputation? If I knew none of their clients, I looked for them on Amazon and other booksellers.

Narrowing down the list

I removed the least expensive person and the most expensive person. That left ten editors on my list.

I sent an email to each of the editors. In my email, I introduced myself and gave a short blurb of My Soul to Keep, it’s length and genre. I asked if I could send them some pages and get a sample edit. For me, the sample edit was crucial. I wanted to see their work in action.

After I sent the email, I waited. Anyone who refused to do sample edits got marked off the list. If I got no reply after two weeks, I sent a follow-up email assuming that my original request ended up in the spam folder. One reply was rude enough that that person got crossed off the list and got an earful via email.

Reviewing the Sample Edits

I sent the pages immediately with a request for an approximate turn around time. All editors who accepted sample pages were prompt and respectful. From the twenty-page sample, I was able to tell a lot. Editors who did not get my story were evident by the changes they suggested. At least one editor missed deliberate “mistakes” I put in the sample. That one got marked off. And there were editors whose personality came across as a little too critical or snarky. They got crossed off the list, too. Now my list contained two strong editors. I would have done well choosing either of them.

The Right Editor

My final choice came down to who I thought would work best for this novel. Not only do I have no regrets, I am very happy with my choice. She respected my writing style and voice. She thought of things I hadn’t considered. Consistency and grammar errors were corrected. She made my story stronger.

How I found the right editor for my novel, My Soul to Keep

Creating a book isn’t a one-person job. Artist, writer, editors, and printers each have a role. Every book needs at least one of each. Second only to the writer, is the editor. Choosing an editor is both a professional and personal decision. Taking the time to make a professional search was how I found the right editor for my book.

One Way to Learn to Write

When I decided to get serious about writing, I took a correspondence course. It was my first step in one way to learn to write. As I mentioned in my earlier post, “Writing is Easy…Until It’s Not,” this course was by mail. It doesn’t matter much which course it was, what matters is how I chose which course to take. This is one way to learn to write. It’s not the only way.

I loved re-reading old childhood favorites and science fiction. So I figured I should learn one of those two genres. I thought writing for children would be the easier of the two genres. (Writing for children is not easy!)

I looked for some one-on-one mentorship and studied each class syllabus. The structure of the class and what it covered had to make sense to me. I also weighed the course instructors. Criteria for instructors included: were they authors, what had they published when had they published, and did I like their work. Then I mailed in my sample writing and fees and waited for the first lesson.

The lessons were not difficult for me, though by this time I was a new mom and had a hard time prioritizing my writing. My instructor was encouraging. In fact, she thought one of the short stories I wrote, “Friends,” was publishable. So I sent it to regional and national children’s magazines. The story garnered standard rejection slips. I finished the class by starting a novel.

The next level of instruction I sought was a writer’s workshop hosted by a local community college. She taught a wide variety of things during the several weeks she ran the workshop. There I learned about how-to-write books, about writers groups, and about critiquing. She liked the writing I submitted to her. In fact, she thought I should submit “Friends” to one of the same magazines that had rejected it! I told her they’d rejected it and she suggested that I change an accusation one child hurled at another in a fit of anger. She allowed me to include in my query letter that I had resubmitted the story after changes and at her recommendation. And you know what? It worked! Wee Wisdom: A Children’s Magazine from Unity published my story!

I celebrated by going out to dinner and spending more than I made. But, before I cashed that check I had a color photocopy made of it. The framed photocopy is hanging on the wall of my office to this day.

One of the things, my second writing instructor recommended was that I join a local writer’s group and go to its meetings as often as I could. I had no idea where to find a writer’s group. She recommended the local communiversity. The Communiveristy, sponsored by the state university, offered free education for the community. Of course, I signed up.

One way to learn to write tells of how Lynette M. Burrows went about learning to write and publish her novel, My Soul to Keep.
Rob Chilson and I at the Worldcon in Baltimore

That was the first of several writer’s groups I would attend. In each group, I would learn and grow. Sometimes the group dissolved the way groups can do. One of the groups I grew out of. I had continued learning, reading how-to books, and writing. Some groups prefer not to learn. So I moved on. I attended area science fiction conventions and listened to every panel on writing that I could. I joined the local science fiction club and talked to the writers who were part of that group. One day, one of those writers invited me to attend a writers’ meeting. The first ones were chat and chews, later Rob Chilson, my co-author, invited me to attend. I still go to that writer’s group when I can.

I wrote three novellas with Rob Chilson. And that was also an invaluable set of writing lessons from a published author. Two of those novellas sold. One did not. And I had written several novels that weren’t selling or getting anything more than a standard rejection letter. So, I began searching for instruction on how to edit my novel. I found Holly Lisle’s “How to Revise Your Novel” course.

Holly’s course didn’t work perfectly for me, but it opened up new ways of thinking about revision. And while I tried, the novel I really wanted to succeed, still wasn’t working. It was about then a dear friend, William F Wu, came back to town for a visit. Bill had been Rob Chilson’s roommate. Together they hosted the first science fiction writers’ critique group that I had attended. He had moved to the west coast some years earlier. Our brief meeting at a coffee shop showed that the time and distance hadn’t affected our friendship one bit.

One way to learn to write is one in a series of blog posts on how Lynette M. Burrows learned to write and publish her debut novel, My Soul to Keep.
William F. Wu (Bill) and I at ConQuest Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention

Shortly after he went back to the west coast we began a casual email correspondence. In some of my emails, I confessed that I’d about given up on my novel. Bill offered to help me work through it. He’s written many books, you can see them on his page on Amazon. I am fortunate in that he’s also a very good professor of writing. His mentorship has been invaluable.

With Bill’s mentorship and my writer friends’ critiques, My Soul to Keep became a novel I am proud to have written.

My next step, in my journey to write and publish the best book I could, was another research project. I spent a lot of time researching traditional publishing and self-publishing. More on that next time. Please feel free to ask questions or share your journey in the comments below.

These steps I took to write and revise my novel are one way to learn how to write fiction. Each writer follows his or her own path. I’ve heard many writers say never ever discuss your work-in-progress with anyone. That didn’t work for me. What has worked for me is being open to new ways of approaching my work. I strongly recommend that if you wish to learn to write compelling fiction study. Study craft, share your work with trusted peers and continue to work on improving your skills(my list of recommended How-to books). The methodology you use to learn how to write will either speed your process of learning or slow it. Going it alone, not studying or talking to peers will, in my opinion, slow your development of the skill you need.

The Development of a Puppy and a Novelist Are the Same

As readers of this blog know, I have a puppy. His name is Neo. He’s almost 9 months old now. He’s still a baby. Neo entertains me, delights me, and sometimes frustrates me. And being a puppy he grows through developmental stages. But I’ve also realized that the growth and development of the puppy are the same as the novelist. Now you’re looking at me like I’m stupid. Bear with me, I’ll explain.

Neonate (Week 0-2)


The puppy is blind and deaf and toothless. He can touch and taste but cannot regulate his body temperature. Growing fast, he needs to eat every two hours. He interacts with mother and her siblings and starts learning simple social skills.

The neo-novelist can read and write. She is hungry and consumes copious amounts of how-to-write books, blog posts, paper, and office supplies. She stays close to home and may interact with a mentor and fellow writers. Simple writing skills develop.

The Transition Period (Week 2-4)

The puppy’s eyes open. He starts to respond to sounds, and lights, and movement. He usually crawls but he can stand and stumble around. His baby teeth begin to come in. He also begins to realize when he is passing waste.

The new writer’s eyes are open when she realizes that she’s written dozens of story beginnings that go nowhere. The awful beginnings are a pile of—are shoved in the drawer. She can string sentences together into paragraphs and pages. Her sense of story is beginning to develop. She understands that writing is a skill. She reads tons and experiments with different kinds of writing. A wobbly first draft is written. The draft morphs into something that has little walking power. She learns that there are layers of writing and when done well her words bark.

The First Socialization Period (Week 4-7)

It’s time to introduce the pup noises, people, and other pets in your home. Good experiences will shape how the pup interacts with these things later in life. Mother teaches the puppy not to bite all the time and she begins to wean the pup. At about 5 weeks of age, the puppy begins to enjoy playtime.

The young writer learns to play with words, with ideas, with concepts. She practices her skills. She interacts with other writers, with readers, and people in general. Positive reinforcement is critical to her continued growth. She gets guidance from reading, from critique groups, and/or from mentors.

The Second Stage of Socialization & The Fear Period (about Week 8-12)

The pup may go through a fear stage. Everything frightens him, even things he has known and tolerated in the past. He learns simple commands. He sleeps better through the night and has better control of his bladder and bowels.

The young writer fears she’s too isolated and that her creativity will shrivel up. She’s afraid she’s an imposter. Fears send many pages to File 13. Interactions with other people help her recognize character traits and goals. She learns to control her writing and to command the story, though sometimes the story commands her.

The Juvenile Stage (3-4 months)

At this stage, the pup is more independent and may ignore commands. He starts to test authority. He needs gentle reminders that allow him to learn who he is, but remind him of how to interact with others.

The writer starts to write what she wants because she wants to. The story grows on the page. She may go through a stage where she ignores the tried and true writing guidelines. Gentle critiques will help her grow, help her learn when to ignore the guidelines and when to follow them.

The Ranking Stage (3-6 months)

The pup is somewhat bratty, willful, and independent. He’s understanding ranking and testing where he fits in the pack. He is also teething.

The writer looks around and compares herself to others. She knows she is a better writer than some and fears she’ll never measure up to others. She chews on her writing with greater and greater complexity.

Adolescent Stage (6-18 months)


The puppy may look full grown, but he’s still learning. He is full of energy and exuberance. He may go through another fear period. But he still needs training and guidance.

The journeyman writer writes what she knows. Her writing has matured. She writes with energy and exuberance. She may hit the fear of being an imposter during this time. Her support group offers her reassurances, training, and guidance. Her writing continues to mature.

Adulthood (18 months and older)

The pup matures into a loyal companion who works hard, plays hard, and loves with his whole body.

The journeyman writer writes on a professional level. She works hard at something she loves with her whole being. And she continues to learn and grow. Now she’s aware that her next spurt of development will take her skills to a higher level. The journeyman writer recognizes that this is how she grows in her craft and leans into the process.

How Long Does It Take?

Puppies don’t become adults until they’re 1 to 2 years of age. Remember we claim that dog ages are the equal of seven years of adult human life. Does that mean 7 to 14 years must pass for us to become mature in our creativity? For some, it may be shorter and others it may be longer. How can you speed the process? Stay open to learning new things, read and read and read, and write and write and write.

Now you know how the growth and development of the puppy are the same as the novelist. You can be a puppy novelist, too. Work hard, play hard, and love the process. I know I do.

Consistently Inconsistent OR Striving for Consistency

I am nothing if not consistently inconsistent. At least, that was my excuse. I used it all the time.  The ‘I have a family and a job’ excuse was helpful. So was the excuse, ‘I’m a slow writer.’ After I used those excuses, I beat myself up. I was a failure for not being consistent, for not making my writing goals. I went through this a circular reasoning day after day after year. Until I decided to change.

I am nothing if not consistently inconsistent. At least, that was my excuse. Until I decided to change.

I’ve tried to change many, many times. And I’ve failed many, many times. This time I was determined to make it work. So I did some research—of course! The internet is full of well-meaning but useless advice.  I turned to some trusted experts: Marie Forleo, James Clear, Stephan James, Dean Anderson, and Henrik Edberg. From their insights, I’ve compiled a list of things essential for developing consistency.

Know Your Why

—Marie Forleo

Marie Forleo lists this as her number one key to being consistent. Being consistent over the long haul is hard work. She encourages you to have a clear compelling vision for what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Knowing what and why makes it easier to stay focused on your goals.

Being Consistent

Isn’t The Same Thing As

Being Perfect.

—James Clear

Oh, boy howdy, did this one resonate with me! Some say I am obsessed with perfect. If you, too, are obsessed with perfect, it’s time to change your mindset.

No one is 100% consistent. Life happens. Surprise and change interrupt every intention. I used to think I must function at 100% or I’m not successful. So when something knocked me off course, I was a failure. I’d curl up in a metaphorical, if not physical, ball and quit trying because I was a failure. How did I overcome this?

Aim for mostly consistent. Choose an achievable percentage that means winning to you—80%, 85%, 90%, 95%. There will be days or weeks when you are 99% consistent, but there will also be times when you’re 80% or less. Keep your eye on the average.

Don’t Hurt Yourself

—Henrik Edberg

How many times have you thought that you aren’t motivated enough to do this thing? Stop listening to that! Telling yourself you’re not motivated is giving away your power of choice. Lack of motivation is a way to say you had no choice. It is a choice, you know. But you have to choose to work on your goal every day.

So, when you have a “I don’t wanna—“ day, don’t listen. Train your brain to ignore that voice. Get up and do it anyway. Pay attention to how you feel at the end of the day. And those days when you choose not to be consistent, to do the thing. Pay attention to how you feel on those days, too. Learn from that.

Focus on the process. Love the process. Acknowledge the process is work, but don’t associate the work with negative thoughts. Negative thoughts will beget negative progress. After all, if you do something that causes you pain, why would you choose to keep doing it? I don’t know how many times I have heard a writer say, “I hate to write” or “I can’t write when X happens.” Change your mindset. Associate the process with positive feelings and you’ll want to repeat the process.

Have a Plan

Without a plan, you won’t succeed. Steven Covey said, “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but schedule your priorities.” How you schedule is up to you. I have an allergy to rigid schedules, so I don’t schedule by the hour. I schedule by day of the week.

Dean Anderson recommends building momentum slowly. For example, if you want to exercise more, plan for a ten-minute session once a week. Do that for a while (at least three weeks), then increase it to two days a week. After you’ve worked that into your schedule, increase it to include another day or more time each day. The key is to move forward step-by-step.

Many experts recommend that you take 5-10 minutes each evening and make a plan for the next day. It’s a flexible way to schedule your priorities. I know that my days are much more successful when I choose to take that evening time and plan for the next day.

If you have trouble scheduling your priorities, ask yourself Edberg’s three questions. What is the most important thing I can do right now? Is doing this bringing me closer to my goal? Am I keeping things extremely simple right now?


I am nothing if not consistently inconsistent. At least, that was my excuse.

Plan B is for those days when life surprises you. This has been my downfall over and over. People who are not consistent usually fail to have a Plan B. Plan B would have saved me angst during our power outage last week. Yup, this is a habit I’ve not had as successful with, but I’m working on it. (Confession: My first thought was that I failed at this habit. I’m working on changing my mindset!)

Life is a work-in-progress. So is being consistent.

Tell me, about yourself. Do you struggle with consistency? What steps do you take to be consistent?

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this blog. And thanks, in advance, for sharing your thoughts.

Credits: When something goes wrong quote and image courtesy of (TinEye attributes first use of this on August 6, 2013, to however, I found this one dated July 3, 2013, on zerotalking.)
Public Domain image “Success Golden Key “by Animated Heaven courtesy Flickr

The Road to Success

curvy road ahead sign They say make resolutions. But others say most resolutions fail so don’t make resolutions, make goals. Make long term goals. No, make short term goals. Not only that, they tell you how you must make goals. And each person has their own rules. You could get whiplash from adjusting your plan. Arg! So which way is the road to success?

Clarity First

I’m not telling you to make or not make resolutions. Heck, if not setting goals works for you, go for it! But if you set goals or resolutions last year and you did not get the results you wanted, stop. Do not make another goal or resolution. At least not until after you get some clarity. Clarity about those two things takes precedence over setting goals.

Make a Plan

But, you can know who you are and where you want to go, and still get lost on the trip. If you didn’t meet last year’s goals or resolutions, examine why. It’s imperative that you know why those things didn’t work before you make your list for next year. If you had a long trip to make to a specific location, would you take off and hope you’d get to your destination? No, you’d at least look at a map. You’d choose a route, plan how long it would take, prepare the car, etc. So, think of your resolutions or goals as a road trip. Look at what you had planned for last year. What detours or rest stops did you take and why?

Actions You Can Control

Were your goals dependent upon others? For example, a goal of going to the gym with my husband or best friend is a goal that hinges on someone else’s cooperation. If my goal had been to have a Big Six Publisher publish my book by the end of the year, that’s a goal I cannot control. I can’t make my best friend, nor even my husband, be ready to go to the gym with me. Nor can I make a Big Six Publisher publish my book.

A better goal would have been that I would go to the gym three days a week. Or that I would send my manuscript to one of the big 6 publishers for consideration every three months. Or even I will research each publisher and check if they would be a good match for me.

road to success in 2011

Plan for Roadblocks

Perhaps you were more like Dean Wesley Smith in that a life change created a temporary roadblock. Then in your evaluation of how you did last year, you take that life change under consideration. For example, one year we were in the middle of remodeling my kitchen and disaster struck. A 90-foot tall tree landed on my house. Then, my husband had a 5-way cardiac by-pass followed by a stroke. My goals did not get accomplished. The kitchen remodeling stopped cold, and I got zero, nada, zip writing done in the last 6 months of that year. That meant I had to reevaluate what the road to success was under my new circumstances and adjust. In Dean’s posts, Goals and Dreams 2012 Series, he encourages you to plan how and when to start back writing. Based on my experience, that’s a fantastic idea. Small, specific, achievable goals would have helped me negotiate that roadblock.

Things to Remember

Sometimes, you can’t ever seem to get to the finish line. Did you get stuck in a ‘must be perfect loop’ never finishing your project? Or were you too tired or not in the mood and so accomplished less than you had planned? If perfectionism or moods get in your way, read Kristin Lamb’s take on 2012 and Planning for Success in the New Year.


Perhaps on your road to success, you had goals that were ‘too big.’ For example, your resolution to lose 50 pounds in three months is not only huge; it may not be safe to accomplish in that time period. Or if your goal had been to write the first draft of two novels and revise another novel AND you work a full-time job outside of writing, you have a family or moved, had a new baby, etc., those goals may have been demanding too much of yourself. That’s like trying to drive from Key West, Florida to Point Barrow, Alaska (approximately 5,500 miles or 8,800 km) without a pit stop. Look at this marathon runner’s post on the danger of setting big goals and learn about his motto: Think Big, Act Small, Start Today.


Perhaps last year’s goals or resolutions had an indefinite future. In this case, your roadmap may have taken you on multiple detours. See Coleen Patrick’s post about indefinite future goals.

Specific, Actionable Goals

Vague goals like: I’ll start blogging, I’ll lose weight, I’ll control my diabetes, or I’ll take a trip to Australia can set you up for roadblocks. These goals have the potential to be great goals, but you need to have a plan that is specific. Specific like, I will read three books on blogging and follow 4 blogs for three months. That will help me plan how to fit blogging into my life. Or for your diet, you could say that for the next three months you will eat a salad at lunch and dinner 4 out of 7 days a week. Or I’ll save X number of dollars per week for X weeks and take my trip to Australia in a specific month of a specific year. See more about how to make SMART goals in the post Five Golden Rules of Goal Setting.

Baby Steps

If you need more help to set goals that are baby steps. Read about ROW80. This kind of goal setting allows for future needs. It allows for unplanned life events or learning something new or changing your mind. With short-term goals, you can easily adjust your goals.

My Road to Success

I don’t know about you, but after reading all these wonderful posts, I will spend January looking at the goals I want for next year. Specific goals that will carry me forward. I will take the long-term goals and break them down into 80-90 day increments. This way I can reevaluate my goals throughout the year and make adjustments as needed.

Remember, the road to Success is NOT straight.

curvy road ahead sign

Did last year go the way you planned? What road to success will you be following for next year?