One of the most important things an editor does is look at writing objectively, with a fresh eye. A good editor can notice subtexts in your writing that you didn’t pick up on, and by cluing you in to how your reader will see your work allow you to better understand it. To mimic this effect during your own edits and revisions, many editors suggest picturing an invisible reader watching over your shoulder.
For some, the invisible reader might be your ideal reader, someone waiting to be impressed, astonished, or touched by your writing. For others the invisible reader takes on the persona of a strict Sunday school teacher, keeping your writing within strict bounds and ensuring that you don’t alienate certain audiences. One writer even pictures their impatient four-year-old tapping his foot and asking again and again, “When do you get to the point?” Whether you take this idea literally or not, it’s a good idea to ask yourself certain questions at all stages of your writing process. Not only will having your ideas straight help you to write more clearly, it’ll make it easier for you to promote your work to an editor and agent, and ultimately, if it’s your goal, become a published author.
Some questions you might want to think about:
- Who is going to read this manuscript?
- Why would someone read it? (To be entertained, to learn something, to critique)
- What will they be expecting?
- How do you want them to react?
- Will they necessarily know all the background info you know?
- Is this a work they will read quickly or process slowly?
- Will they want their friends/family/coworkers to read this text? How would they suggest it?
- If you hadn’t written it, how would you recommend it to friends and family?