A couple of days ago, I wrote the following article which was published on Medium as well. I am dedicating it here to my courageous Mom. She was my best friend, my housemate, my cheerleader, my heart. I miss her terribly but I know she would be glad I'm back in the game.
Every writer should have at least one editor on speed dial.
Don’t believe the hype, folks. Self-publishing may be the best thing since laser printing, but self-editing is definitely not. By the time an author is ready to submit a manuscript, she’s probably read it at least four times. What does this mean? It means that our author can recite the bulk of it in her sleep and may miss the little things on the next reading.
You know those tests on Facebook — the ones where you have to count how many three-legged horses are in a picture? How about my favorite, which has numbers listed and you have to find the mistake, except the error isn’t in the numbers. It’s in the “Find the the mistake…” Did you catch it?
It’s all basically the same idea. If you look at something long enough or often enough, you won’t see what you’re missing.
I’ve been a freelance editor for many years, and I am always shocked at how many writers claim to edit their own work. That’s OK if you’re writing a shopping list, but how often do you forget bread or ice cream? Well, maybe not ice cream.
What are you writing? Whether it’s a book, a thesis or dissertation, an academic journal article, or even a post on Medium, chances are you would benefit from a fresh pair of eyes. In fact, although I edit for a living, I’ll ask someone to look this over before I publish it. Having our work reviewed should be an automatic process, especially with so many writers around.
A good editor can help your work stand out in the crowd. A great editor will make sure your words come across as strongly as you need them to.
Different editors do different things. I am a copy editor, which means I focus on grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, and consistency. I work on the mechanics of writing. I find things that no one ever looks for, such as a split infinitive or missing Oxford comma. I don’t do a lot of rewriting —I believe in using the author’s voice. But I will point out if the hero’s eyes started out green and change to blue by Chapter 14!
A developmental or structural editor looks at the big picture. Does the work flow easily? Is the plot line easy for the reader to follow? Does the author address the audience appropriately?
Most best-selling authors use at least two editors in the course of writing a book. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t errors. I even found misplaced quotation marks in one of George R. R. Martin’s books! But a good editor will do everything possible to make your writing as good as it can be.
If you are writing something that is important to you, do you want your readers to be distracted by things that don’t need to be there? It changes the whole feeling of a manuscript when a sentence (or more) isn’t as close to perfect as you want it to be. Keep that in mind as you go along. It may change your opinion of the value of a good editor.
One last note… A great editor will always make time to do a sample of your work, often at no charge. Editors are not cheap, which is why you need to find one who will communicate with you from beginning to end. Get your money’s worth! Make friends with your editor and ask a lot of questions. We want your work to stand out. It’s a great feeling to know that a manuscript is ready for publication.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that self-editing is all you need. Definitely don’t assume that because your best friend loves your book that the general public will. Ask a professional. Work with an editor.
Originally published on Medium.com 7/4/2017