In my early days of writing I went through a phase where I believed that I could write and edit my own work. Being an author, I knew which scenes were working, what sections could be rewritten, and, naturally, I could find my own typos. So I believed for some time anyway!
Much to my horror, readers were soon offering all kinds of rough feedback about my writing. As it turns out, I wasn’t the complete all-rounder that I thought I was.
Thankfully that time is behind me now. I made the decision that if I wanted my work to be taken seriously then I would have to start taking it seriously. For me, that involves hiring a professional editor for each of my manuscripts.
Being both costly and time consuming, some writers are naturally put off by the notion. They’ve come so far using their own blood, sweat and tears, so why ask for help near the end of the journey?
Well, the truth is that finishing your first draft (or any draft that you have declared for your eyes only) really is the beginning of the journey. Now you need a fresh and professional set of eyes to get to grips with your story.
Some writers would rather have a distant friend or acquaintance look over their work. After all, that person does have a Degree in Creative Writing. Surely they’ll be able to proof the writer’s work for errors. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case. Often the key to getting a professional edit is … hiring a professional.
That’s not to say that your friend may not be able to do the job accurately. However, I usually suggest hiring a complete stranger. They won’t be biased, and they won’t pretend to like your work when they secretly believe you’ll never be the next George R.R. Martin. A stranger will give you the cold hard facts.
How do I find the right Editor for me?
As with anything worthwhile it’s going to take a little time and patience to get it right. Many editors discourage their prospective clients from sending first drafts of their work. It makes sense; a writer should bring their manuscript to the highest level it can possibly be, using their own natural editing abilities, before seeking out assistance.
Once you are ready to go, search out editors online and see what genres they love to read. For example, some editors prefer to work only with fantasy or romance. Next, read testimonials. Any professional editor with years of valuable experience will have testimonials. Read what their former clients are saying. What has been achieved?
Decide on the type of edit that you need. The first thing I recommend doing is getting a line edit, which will closely examine the structure of your novel. This type of edit is looking to address character point of view, weak dialogue, missing motivation, pacing, plus plot and character development. Only when you have revised your manuscript based on the feedback received, should you jump in for a copy edit. This type of edit will look purely at grammar, sentence structure, spelling and punctuation.
The reason I advise to hold out on a copy edit is because once your structure is dissected and transplanted during the line edit (and your subsequent revision), you will likely have entirely new content that needs proofreading for grammatical errors.
How do I deal with feedback?
If you sign up for an edit, prepare for things that you don’t want to hear. However, you really do want to hear them! Many years ago, I got over the hump of people criticizing my work. It finally dawned on me that every criticism was an opportunity to discover and learn. I have one thousand typos in my manuscript? Maybe I shouldn’t be writing. Or maybe I can take this as a learning experience, because I know I’m not going to make the same mistake again.
My POVs are all over the place? I’ll never get the hang of writing! Or maybe I’ll spend the next few months reading and revising, and come back even stronger.
The bottom line is … don’t take things personally. Take advantage of what you paid the editor to do, and learn! If you are not being challenged then you are not evolving.
What’s the cost?
It’s not cheap. While a professional copy edit can be found for around $1 per page (double-spaced lines), a line edit is more expensive, ranging from $2-5 depending on the editor, and their level of experience, and/or popularity.
You have to think of it as an investment. The better your book is, the more likely you are to return a profit.
My friend is a really good editor though …
In my personal experience, I’ve found that working with people that are too close to you will not produce the best results for your book. Having said that, there are always exceptions. Maybe you’ve found an editor just starting out, without any testimonials, but you’ve talked with them, and they’ve edited some sample pages for you, and you’re really digging their work. Great! The pros started somewhere too, so you just may be on to another blossoming editor.
Maybe you have the type of friend who will be brutally honest with you. Maybe you do have that kind of honest relationship. If that works for you, then great.
As I said, in my experience they will likely be exceptions to the rule. For everyone else, choosing a professional editor will help take your manuscript to new heights. And if we’re serious about our writing, that’s exactly what we’re looking for.
Have you had a great experience with an editor? Do you swear by them, or do you prefer being a lone wolf? Please share your thoughts below.