10 Things your tech editor wants you to know

If you write quilt patterns, you've probably heard of a tech editor, if not worked with one yourself. A tech editor is nothing more than an experienced person who reviews your pattern to find any issues before you publish it (read more about what a tech editor does here). As a tech editor, I see a lot of patterns at a lot of different levels of polish. Some need a lot of work and some are pretty much ready to go when I get a hold of them. Here are 10 general things your tech editor wants you to know especially if you're new to the pattern writing world:

  1. Your tech editor wants to be your friend - our goal is to help you improve your pattern so that it is the best it can be, not to tell you all the things you've done wrong (although it can feel like that sometimes). We take pride in helping you make an awesome pattern and want to see you be really successful. This relationship works best when the process is a dialogue rather than a transaction. If you have specific concerns about a particular portion of your pattern, feel free to let us know ahead of time so we can make sure to address those concerns. Likewise, if you have questions as you're writing the pattern (about the best way to show a diagram or how to organize the pattern), we're happy to answer those questions too. You should never be afraid to ask anything.

  2. Your pattern isn't the worst we've ever seen - Trust me, we've seen a lot. There are also plenty of "bad" patterns on store shelves and and in books across the world. The fact that a pattern is published and being bought doesn't automatically make it good. And no matter where your pattern is, you NEVER need to be embarrassed or apologize for it. If it was perfect already, you wouldn't need a tech editor.

  3. Your tech editor is happy to help you draw tricky diagrams, templates, or figure out the quilt math - While this is dipping a toe into the ghostwriting realm, most tech editors are happy to draft a diagram or calculate some or all of the fabric requirements for you if that's not your strong suit. If this is something you're interested in, just ask. This relationship can really be whatever you need it to be. We're here to support YOU (see point #1).

  4. Your first pattern is going to take the longest and cost the most to have tech edited - This is purely because you don't have a lot of experience writing patterns yet. But, it's also more important to have a tech editor review your first couple of patterns than it is your later ones. They will help you develop good writing practices as you start out and, over time, you will get better at it until your patterns come back with just a few minor comments.

  5. You should include a difficulty rating on every pattern - That your customer knows what they're getting themself into when they purchase your pattern. This prevents a lot of frustration (for you and for your customer) when a customer attempts a pattern that is beyond their skill level. If you're not sure what difficulty your pattern is, your tech editor can help you decide.

  6. No one is reading the text - At best, people skim quilt patterns. They mainly just look at the diagrams and the fabric requirements/cutting instructions as they're working through the pattern, and only skim through the text if they can't understand what to do from looking at the diagram. So . . . keep your text minimal, don't worry if you can't figure out the perfect way to explain something (your tech editor is going to help with that anyways), and make sure your diagrams are on point. Think of a quilt pattern as a picture book because that's how most people are reading them.

  7. Always use tables for fabric requirements, cutting instructions, and piece counts - This is especially true if you have multiple sizes in your pattern. Tables are always better than just lists.

  8. Always use outlines around your diagrams - If you have light colors in your diagram, it's easy for those to blend in with the page unless you put a black outline around them. Outlines are also easier for the eye to follow, so always make sure you have outlines around each shape in your diagrams

  9. Make sure you have a "DRAFT" watermark on your pattern before sending it to testers - While we'd like to think all testers are good, honest people, the reality is that there are some bad apples. A watermark (nothing more than text in the background of your document) prevents a dishonest tester from rebranding and selling your pattern as their own since it will interfere with most PDF editing software and copy/paste functions.

  10. Make sure your text is big enough (including the text in your diagrams) - it's really easy to justify making the text smaller when you're trying to squish things onto a page. Resist! Remember that quilter demographics skew towards the more mature generations with reduced eyesight capacity. When in doubt, go bigger. Your customers will thank you!