Many writers eventually ask themselves that big question: do I really need an editor? Freelance editors, especially the good ones, are not cheap. I know this because I’m a freelance editor myself, and even my own fees can be considered to be on the scary side. But the question is not whether or not an editor is needed, but rather is the money worth it?
One-word answer: yes. Now of course I’m going to say that. I’m an editor myself, but let me shift this into my own experience as a writer.
I started writing my epic fantasy opus back in 2008. It was a way to quiet my mind so I could actually sleep after spending all day with technical material. In December 2013, I decided to devote myself full-time to writing. For a solid year, I did nothing but edit and rewrite my first novel. But there came a point when I needed someone else to look at it and give me feedback.
As writers, we are too close to our stories that we can’t see the forest for the trees. Everything is playing out in our heads exactly as they should, and we sometimes don’t understand why others don’t see the story the way we do. It’s not until someone actually asks the question “Where did Billy come from?” that we realise we forgot to actually introduce Billy.
Critiquing partners will help any writer find these glaring plot holes, but good critiquing partners are extremely difficult to find. I should know… I’ve been trying to find one for over two years with little success. The real issue with critiquing partnerships is time. You and your partner will have different priorities and feedback can be a long time forthcoming. This was the biggest issue I had. In some cases, I found myself waiting for five months for comments, sometimes more. Frustrating was an understatement.
When I made the decision to hire an editor myself for a developmental edit… Well, it was the best decision I could have made. Within a few short weeks, I had feedback on the entire manuscript. I suddenly knew exactly where my story was falling over, and had a plan in place on how to rework my manuscript to make it stronger and more saleable.
This is where an editor is worth the money. They train to see where a passage is not working, and how to modify it to make it work and work well.
Now, I’ve had fellow writers try to convince me that because I’m determined to go down the traditional publishing road, a freelance editor is pointless. “A traditional publisher will have their own editor look at the manuscript.” Well, yes, that’s true, but a traditional publisher is unlikely take on a manuscript that hasn’t already been edited to a reasonable standard — prior to coming across their desk. This means that you need to ensure that most, if not all, of the plot holes have already been filled in, that the grammar and punctuation have been corrected, that the prose says exactly what you mean to say. Submission to an agent/publisher is a polished complete manuscript. This means critiqued. This means edited. This means rewritten and reworked. Again, you need another pair of eyes to look at your manuscript to do this properly. This brings me back to the original reasons why I hired an editor for my own writing projects.
If you’re self-publishing, you will definitely need to hire an editor, and most likely multiple times. Not only will you need a developmental edit, but you will also need a copy-edit and/or a proofread. You don’t want to release something filled with simple errors when they can be corrected prior to the publication date.
A good editor is worth their weight in gold. If you’re serious about publishing, invest the money where it counts.
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016