After years of critiquing fiction as a hobby, I feel like I've gained some skill at editing. I'm now wondering how I can try my hand at actually editing fiction.

While I've got a decent sense of how one starts out as a writer, I have no idea how one starts out as an editor. Editing seems to require a venue to edit for, and writers submitting publishable stories.

Is there a typical development path for editors? Where do I begin? And how do I gain actual, hands-on experience?

  • What sort of thing are you interested in editing? Do you only want to look at novels, short stories, fantasy or what? Jul 18, 2016 at 18:14
  • Most kinds of fiction would interest me. SF&F are closest to my heart. Short stories seem like an easier entry point than novels, but I'd love both or either.
    – Standback
    Jul 19, 2016 at 3:12

3 Answers 3


I believe that many if not all of the small literary magazines are edited by volunteers. How those volunteers are selected I am not so sure, but I would begin by scouring their websites looking for any call for volunteers. Failing that, write to them and ask.

Now I would imagine that they will have the same criteria for editing for them as they do for writing for them. They will want you to actually read some copies in advance or perhaps even subscribe. My impression is that very few writers actually do this, because it is quite expensive to do when you are scattershooting your manuscript to every lit mag in Writer's Digest. But I would guess that a prospective volunteer editor would have to actually show some familiarity with and affection for the magazine they were proposing to edit for.

The other option, of course, is to start your own. Pretty easy to do on the web these days, but building an audience is a Herculean task.

  • Starting my own seems like a huge long-shot, because as I said, until I get decent submissions, I don't see how I can do decent editing. Starting a semi-pro paying venue should be enough to attract attention, if I decided I was willing to invest that kind of money into it.
    – Standback
    Jul 18, 2016 at 17:37
  • Indeed. My impression is, though, that if you want to spend your time actually doing substantive editing rather than shoveling through the slush pile, you have to work your way up the editorial ranks. My impression is that at the beginning, they are just going to point you at haystack and tell you to come back when you have found a neede. In other words, if you want to do talent nurturing you are probably going to have to do an awful lot of talent finding first. And probably hand over the talent you find for others to nurture for a while as well.
    – user16226
    Jul 18, 2016 at 17:48
  • Yes! That's part of what... confuses me, I guess. I'm not seeing a way to get any experience with the nurturing, which seems at least as much work as the finding.
    – Standback
    Jul 19, 2016 at 3:14

There's a few sites where you can offer your services. Check out Fiverr.com and upwork.com. I've worked with several editors on Upwork before.

Also look for local writers groups. Although, that would be more for practice then for contract work. A good resource for finding local groups is meetup.com

  • 1
    Local writers' group is something I've done a fair bit of, and quite well, IMHO and by reactions. But the beta-reader relationship to the author is a rather different thing than the editor relationship to the author - and I'm not really seeing how to leverage one to other. (Maybe that'd be an interesting follow-up question...)
    – Standback
    Jul 19, 2016 at 12:18
  • Freelancer sites are an interesting thought. I'll take a look at how editing services there look.
    – Standback
    Jul 19, 2016 at 12:18

Scribophile.com is more for writers and mutual critiquing, but there are forums where you might mention that you are looking to do edits. This wouldn't work for paid gigs, I believe, because I don't think that's allowed on the site, but, if you were willing to do freebies or an exchange of work (to maybe get a feel for editing vs critiquing) it would be a reasonable place.

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