As a writer, you’ve heard it a thousand times, from multiple directions: “Editing is important.” But WHY is it vital? After all, if you’re naturally good with grammar and punctuation or you at least know all the rules and have checked your work several times, that’s enough, right?
It doesn’t matter how much of a grammar Nazi or story critic you are or how well you can edit other people’s work, you’re going to miss flaws and errors in your own work. Even the best of you. Having your book edited means someone else will catch those and help you improve the work.
A well edited book shows that you care enough about the story to make sure it’s the best version of itself. It also tells readers that you care about them and the time they’re going to spend reading your book.
An unedited or badly edited book can signify that you don’t care enough about the work to make sure it’s good, you have no patience, and/or you don’t really care about your readers.
I’m not here to tell you that you have to sell your soul to be able hire a professional editor. There are affordable editors if you’re willing to spend the time looking for them. Or, if you know someone who is very good at editing and you can work out a satisfactory trade with them, that’s great! If you have family members who are actually GOOD at it, and who are willing to help you with it, you’re a fortunate person.
NOTE: if you ARE good enough to edit all by yourself, rejoice! You’re in a very small minority, but it’s a great minority.
There are a few things to consider when choosing an editor.
They are doing you a service.
Obviously, this is why professionals are paid for what they do. Friends will often accept a service trade of some kind. Clear communication about the services expected and the payment rendered will mean people are less likely to be frustrated.
There is a difference between editing and proofreading.
Proofreading is looking for typographical errors, missing punctuation, incorrectly used homonyms or homophones. Editing is much more, including analyzing story structure and style, and helping you refine the story. Know what you need before you approach an editor, or if you’re not sure what you need, explain that to them and see if they’re willing to glance over a sample and give you an opinion.
Don’t settle for the first editor you see. This feels like an obvious thing but not everyone remembers it in the tension of preparing a book to go to press. Make a list of options. See if they will edit a small sample for free so you can decide who best fits your style. Ask other writing friends for what editors they’ve used and liked.
NOTE: In an ideal world, every editor would be stellar but this isn’t Utopia, so if you do have a bad experience with an editor, don’t let it sour you on all editors period. Keep looking.
Good editors are willing to work with authors to preserve the soul of their work while they challenge the author to make it better.
Merry writing… and editing and may your books always improve!