Yeah, I can hear you groan already. Not another plug to have your work edited. You’re telling yourself, I’m a good writer and I don’t need anybody fixing my typos, thank you. Those blood-sucking worms out there are just out to get my money. That can be true, but it doesn’t remove the need to have your work professionally edited before you rush it into print, no matter how good an editing job you feel you can do yourself.
To set the record straight, I have written twelve novels and have been an editor for more years than I care to remember, and I still haven’t learned all the tricks. Every author needs to have his work edited by a pro. The answer, of course, is simple. You are too close to your own work!
It’s inevitable, really. I spent months writing the damned thing, editing as I go, then going over the thing again and again until I was sick of looking at it. When the book was finally done, I edited it again. With what I learned about editing, I thought the manuscript was totally clean. Wrong! Although I am never satisfied the book is perfect, there is a point when I must say, it’s done! Time to move on to another project. Unfortunately, you cannot say that with editing. The manuscript is either right or it has errors: grammar, typos, spelling, punctuation, whatever. No matter how many times I went over the thing, I always found something new. I was glad I had the manuscript edited. The process cost me some money, but cleaning up residual errors made it a better work.
Remember my answer? It has to do with psychology and how the brain perceives things, but basically, your mind is automatically correcting things you read. That is why there are different editing techniques: reading aloud, reading the manuscript in printed form, and of course, having someone else read it. A fresh pair of eyes, unencumbered by the mental baggage of my book, can see things I missed. That’s not to say an external editor will capture everything, but you invariably run into a wall of diminishing returns. You have to stop the process sometimes and publish the damned thing, warts and all.
As an editor and book reviewer, I have seen some awful submissions and badly written books, mostly published by writers who did not attack their writing professionally. Good enough is really not good enough, and not all publishers will care to have a manuscript edited by an in-house editor. These days, submissions must be perfect. The situation is worse with self-published books. An author simply cannot rely on having written a good story. It must also be technically as perfect as the author can make it. We owe it to our readers. Those who don’t believe in this maxim will fade into obscurity, believing they are writers, while adding to the prevailing impression that a lot of self-published stuff is rubbish.
Okay, back to harsh reality. Having your manuscript professionally edited will go a long way to enhancing your reputation as a good author, but you can also help your cause by becoming a good editor yourself. It is all part of your toolkit as a writer. One reason why some writers are poor editors? It’s damn hard work! If you care about being the best you can, you simply need to suck it up and learn to do it.
There is lots of material on the Internet about self-editing, and words every writer should avoid using. I will not go into them here. What I will mention is, how do you find a good editor? Like with everything out there these days, it is buyer beware. You need to do your research and check out the pedigree of anyone calling himself an editor. Ask for references. If the person refuses on the grounds of supposed confidentiality, dump him. A good editor will be proud of his work, and will not mind having a client comment on it – good or bad. Then, of course, there is the price – always a tricky thing. Haggle, that’s all I can say.
Do have that manuscript edited before publishing it!
~~~~~~~~Stefan Vucak is an award-winning author of the sci-fi Shadow Gods series of books. His contemporary political thriller Cry of Eagles has won the coveted 2011 Readers Favorite silver medal award. His All the Evils was the 2013 prestigious Eric Hoffer contest finalist.