Between the writing sprees and the publishing hustle comes one step no writer can escape: editing. Some writers love editing. They watch in excitement as their books transform from rambling rough drafts into projects worthy of publication. Other writers dread the editing stage, and many self-published writers especially try to weasel their way out of the hassle entirely so that they can hop straight into publishing.
This is a mistake.
Trying to bypass editing simply because you believe your writing is good enough could sabotage your success. Editing is a necessary step for producing a quality book, an unavoidable step, and even if you're a skilled writer (or have done professional editing work yourself) you cannot catch every mistake in your own manuscripts.
One phenomenon that has been taking over the writing world by storm is the digital editor. Editing software like ProWritingAid and AutoCrit can cut to the chase and give you an instant overview of your novel’s weak spots and trouble points. It's a time-saver, for sure. But is it a free pass out of hiring an editor?
The advance of editing software availability is a modern-day miracle for writers, but the services can't replace a human eye. A professional editor can read your story like a reader, understand the context, humor and insinuations in a way that a machine can’t. Human editors will also know that Ben Johnson in chapter three and Ben Jonson in chapter twelve onward are supposed to be the same person, and can navigate the emotional journey of your book much better than a machine.
Editors remain a critical part of the writing industry, and because of that, there’s a broad diversity of expectations you can have when you start working with one. How much will you benefit from a professional editor? How much will your book change? How many hours will you have to pour in to fixing your work? That all depends.
There are many different kinds of editors.
Editors range from the developmental, focusing on the structure and the pacing of your story at large, all the way down to the proofreading--see Ben Johnson/Jonson above. In addition to that, most professional editors have personal specialties and expertise in genre or writing style. When you’re choosing an editor, take a look at other projects he or she has worked on and see if your book makes a good fit.
While friends or family can be a limited help, an editor who loves your genre can raise your book to the next bar. Besides that, it can be fun to partner up with someone who enjoys the same things you do and can navigate the same landscape with ease.
But just because an editor might be cool or friendly in person doesn’t mean that he or she will be nice when reading your manuscript.
When working with a professional editor, prepare for pain.
You might not find yourself crying into your pillow late at night, denouncing yourself as a failure of the written word. All the same, an editor won’t be a doting fan of your work. Editors exist to find problems, and you’ll only have a good book when you address those problems and fix them.
The pain of working with an editor (or even a good editing software) is one factor that drives a lot of writers away from seeking higher-level editing applications. When working with an editor, you have to admit that your work is flawed and that you are far from sending your manuscript off to be printed. This is hard when you love your book and are obsessed with the idea of publishing as soon or frequently as possible.
There’s another kind of pain that comes with choosing a good editor: the price tag. Hey, editors need to eat, and there’s a lot of time and effort that goes into thoroughly reading and effectively critiquing whole books. While that proofreader on Fiverr might be able to go through your book at $10 per 2000 words, it still adds up.
Is it worth it?
Spending wisely on professional editors yields good results.
I don’t believe that reaching for your wallet to pay thousands for the first editor you see is a wise idea, and I don’t believe that you should pay five different editors for five different styles of editing. However, you should do your research. What kind of editing do you need, and who’s the best editor to help you reach your goals?
Editing is one of the best financial investments you can make for your book, and it’s worth taking some time to browse through a selection until you find someone who will be a good fit. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work, and get ready for a significantly improved story at the end of your efforts!
What’s your advice on finding a good editor? How have editors helped your writing in the past? Please comment your thoughts below or join my Facebook group for further discussion.