I’m a habitual editor. I admit this. Like I should probably seek help. “Hello. My name is Shanan, and I am an editor.”
I pick every nit off every word. I examine each up close and determine if it’s going to sprout a louse or a lion. My editing microscope reaches far and deep. I’m ridiculously critical of the structure of every sentence in every paragraph upon each page.
And guess what?
No matter how much I edit my own copy, issues still creep through the cracks.
I’m going to state this… and somewhere out there, someone is going to say, “No!” and they’re going to gnash their teeth and stomp their feet and plug their ears and jump up and down. But whatever… it’s their book…
My point is…
You. Can. Not. EVER. Adequately. Edit. Your. Own. Work.
Period(s). End of story. Fine. Done.
Now, that’s not to say self-editing should be tossed out with the bath water. Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, edit your work to the very best of your ability!
Just don’t expect to publish it until you have someone else finish what you started.
Why do I make such a bold claim?
Simple: You are too close to your work to fully edit. Even if you set it down for a month, a year, or more… You run the risk of seeing what you meant to say, and not what’s actually there. Then, when others read what you write, they don’t really get what you were trying to convey. Maybe what you wrote was too wordy. Maybe you used the wrong word. Maybe there are gaps that your all-knowing brain fills in while you’re reading, and no one else would ever be privy to that information.
Of course you get it. You wrote it!
That doesn’t mean everyone gets it.
How can I make sure my novel is the best it can be?
The best process for sharing your work to ensure its quality is to share in stages. First, find a local or online critique group that you enjoy working with, and whose members you trust. Bring excerpts from your work and share them. Allow other writers to give you advice. Take what you like, and leave the rest. Also, be sure to reciprocate. Reading with a critical eye will help you become a better writer.
Second, enlist beta readers to read your finished draft. Have friends, family, colleagues and associates read it. Hell, give a copy to the guy on the corner… just ask that he show up a week from Tuesday, willing to give you advice on how it could improve your story.
And finally, hire a professional editor prior to publication. Depending on how confident you are in your draft, you can find editors who can help with everything from simple copyediting to substantive, developmental story editing.
When should I hire a developmental editor?
Your beta reader or critique group feedback is a valuable indicator of your need for developmental editing. Seek a professional developmental editor if your readers:
- Are confused about certain plot points
- Mention character or voice inconsistencies
- Don’t feel satisfied with your climax or ending
- State that parts of your novel drag, or that parts feel rushed
- Don’t connect with main characters on a deep, emotional level
When you hire a developmental editor, that person on the other end of the red pen is looking for more than split infinitives and passive voice. She’s going to tell you where the chasms exist in your plot and characterizations, and she’ll provide guidance so that you can either fill them in or at least build a bridge without losing your unique voice.
Why should I hire a copy editor?
When you’re through with the writing and beta process, a final copy edit will ensure that you have a tight, error-free manuscript for publication. Your readers won’t get jarred out of your book because you misspelled a word and never caught it. Your retailers won’t look at the back jacket and pick out that one grammar error you missed. And most importantly, your fans won’t write an Amazon review that says, “It was a decent story, but man… it could use a good edit….”
So before you publish, hire an editor (or two). Pick her brain. Suck out every last grimy detail you can from your editor. Listen to her advice.
Then go rewrite… and keep going… until both you and your editor say, “This is it!”
Then publish that bad boy, and be proud of the work that you share with the world.