Writers need an editor

need an editor
So you’ve written a novel, have you? Really?

Have you?

And there it sits: you’ve printed it out, 400 or so pages of “finished” manuscript. It’s a beautiful thing isn’t it?

You’ve poured your heart and soul into writing this latter day Dickens classic; stayed up late, consumed generous quantities of coffee and wine in equal measures; torn at your hair with increasing frustration; ignored the pain between your shoulder blades as the muse takes you into a state of near euphoria; left it to brew and rewritten; cried and laughed hysterically as you put a line through huge swathes of the epic that didn’t work.

You’re all finished now.

Everything possible has been done and that’s all that can be said. You sit on floor, staring at that mound of paper and you wonder what to do next…

Publish and be damned, you think, and out it goes, off to Smashwords and Lulu, bursting onto Kindle and iBook, flooding into every self-publishing outlet you can find. You get details up on your website, you twitter its arrival to the world. You take the plunge and sign up to Facebook.

At last, you are a writer!

Well, hey now, Dostoevsky, slow down a minute there…haven’t you forgotten something? Haven’t you missed out an important step?

Rule 1 of Write Club: You don’t talk about…no…no that’s not it.

Rule 1 of Write Club is that you are not the best judge of your final draft. First of all you’ve been over the damn manuscript a zillion times and that just isn’t a good recipe for judging it – your mind will fill in blanks that are obvious to an outsider because you have lived and breathed these characters, you’ll miss all the typos because your brain skips over the text (you’ve read it before, you see, you know how it ends!).

Rule 2 of Write Club: If you’re serious about your work, you’ll need an editor. You’ll need to find one you trust, one who believes in you and one who will help you polish your epic novel to damn near perfection. Why? Why? I refer my learned friend to the “serious” word. Okay, if you just write for fun and are not too bothered, then publish and be damned. If you take it SERIOUSLY, then you’re novel ain’t finished yet…there’s work to do…it needs to be done…take a deep, shaky breath and get on with it.

Rule 3 of Write Club: Like writers, there are a zillion editors out there, most are rubbish, some are pretty good, the select few are brilliant. Obviously your mission dear writer, if you choose to accept it, is to avoid the rubbish editors – you know the ones who will speed read in a day and tell you it’s fine but miss the big typo in the first paragraph (or the fact that your main character changes sex halfway through) and then charge you a sixty quid reading fee. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be able to afford the best of the best, so your job is to find someone who is good and who likes your work enough to put the effort in, and, of course, who won’t charge you too much.

Ideally you want someone who is going to edit for content and copy. Content editing is about how your book flows, whether it makes sense, are there any continuity errors and so on. Copy editing is about the accuracy of your written work – the grammar, the choice of words etc. Find someone who can do this well and who is willing to take you on is your final mission. If they’re good, they’ll take your novel and cut away all the rough edges. What should be left, if you’ve both done your jobs well, is something worth reading.

So now, as always, it’s your turn. Have you a good experience of an editor you want to share? Do you offer an editing service? Let The Feckless Goblin know in the comments section below.

6 thoughts on “Writers need an editor

  1. First up – I will fess up to being an editor, but I am also a writer. As a writer, I work with a small band of other writers, each of us reading, line editing and proof reading for each other. We often work on stories for the same competition or anthologies (to give some idea of the level of comardarie and professionalism)What I realised very quickly about offering up work up for editing was:1. it got a whole heap better… 2. it also get a whole heap harder to write – because I had new perspectives on it3. I couldn’t give up when it was all too hard because several people had invested in my writing and my story.I have just finished writing (what feels like) an epic 5,500 words short story… and my writing friends were there the whole way, four of them beta read and my story went from a pile of good ideas, tenuously linked together to a story which had everyone saying “OMG the ending!”Another two line edited and the narrative tightened.Another two proof reading and the manuscript went in (hopefully) clean.I teach critiquing classes and the first thing I tell my students is you HAVE to put your work out there is your are serious.Sadly most new and emerging writers don’t have the money to employ an actual editor, but the will over time develop skills and expertise which are tradeable among other writers.A good editor is on the same wave length as you, they understand you better than you understand yourself, they see talent where you just see drivel, they are coach, cheer squad, whip cracker, bestfriend, critic, confidante, fan and self development guru. Your editor/s will believe in you when you can’t/don’t/won’t. They take you and your writing to the next level and help you cleave your David from the block of marble before you.But obviously… I am just slightly biased!

  2. I found this blog post via a Retweet on #writechat on Twitter.CORPWRITINGPRORT @ZiggyKinsella: NEW BLOG: Why writers need an editor and what to do about it http://fecklessgoblin.blogspot.com/ #amwriting #writechat I definitely see the emergence of indie editors in the new e-book/self-publishing industries. Editors are necessary and not “evil.” My second Hardcover novel, Unto Zeor, Forever got a very hard, very stringent structural edit at Doubleday (delete a character, delete a chapter near the END of the thing, a chapter that a lot rested on and deletion meant deleting lots of earlier scenes, then replacing them with other scenes).Oh, it was horrible.BUT – that was my first award winner. And now it’s going back into print on paper and e-book. Meanwhile, over some years, fans of the Sime~Gen series have been able to read the EARLIER DRAFT, with all kinds of details non-fans wouldn’t want, online.OUT-TAKES are the key to relieving the stress of being edited for structural problems. Keep everything.So, I absolutely agree with all the points in this post and Jodi’s comment above! Writers need editors, and some folks are both writer and editor (but not many).Here’s a series of blog-posts I did on what publishing looks like from an editor’s point of view, and how you tell whether you are an editor at heart, or actually a writer. http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/09/what-exactly-is-editing-part-vii-how-do.htmlHere's a group of professional writers I belong to where all are published in Hardcover or Mass Market, etc, but now are re-issuing their own books as e-books. They have a website http://backlistebooks.com/ And an e-book store on amazon:http://astore.amazon.com/backlebook-20 And a discussion list on Yahoo where a number have said they’re just now trying to use smashwords or kindle to post their e-book titles, and it’s destroying their writing work-day. These are titles that have been edited, and most of them use techs to format and post their books — but even so, they’re writing less in order to become a “publisher.”I have 4 titles I re-issued myself (one of my other award winners) — and I gave up when a publisher came to me (without my asking). So the rest of my backlist is coming out from Wildside Press Borgo imprint, along with new material. There’s a lesson here for new writers. Publishing is a huge, complicated business that requires specialization. Editing is really a specialty.You may become a terrific editor for other people, not still not be able to edit your own work. The reader has no idea how many people and specialties go into delivering a good book to their hands. Jacqueline Lichtenberghttp://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

  3. Hi there,I’m also a writer and an editor (here via Twitter). Speaking from both sides of the fence, I think that having access to someone with decent editing skills is a huge plus. This doesn’t always have to be a professional editor, however. Beta readers can be great, as can critique groups. Reciprocity is important, of course. When you do want to seek out a professional editor, check whether there is a society for editors, writers and other language professionals in your area – they will often be able to supply a list of registered members so you have at least some degree of certainty that you’re dealing with someone who knows what they’re doing. Ask around among other writers too – word of mouth can be helpful. While I don’t believe that “most are rubbish”, there are definitely people to avoid (Writer Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/) is an excellent resource in this regard, by the way).Camilla

  4. “then you’re novel ain’t finished yet”Shouldn’t that be ‘your’? ;)It’s amazing how much I’ve improved as a writer, having someone else edit my work. I’m a huge believer in hiring an editor, and as mentioned above, having a group of writer friends go over my stories as beta readers and to make suggestions that tighten it up – or add to it to make some things I take for granted clearer to readers.I’ve also become a better editor, learning from mine, but you still have to have those ‘fresh eyes’ to do the final edits, no matter what.Find one with reasonable fees that ‘gets’ your style. You will totally be the better off for it, as will your titles! =)

  5. I am so in agreement. I used an editor on a short story I published and wow, what a difference. I’ve learned a lot from her, via her comments and changes, but she also directed me to a list of self-editing and other writing books, all of which I devoured. In the end, I’m paying less for her services, because I listened to her advice.

  6. I love to write, but I love helping writers polish their work even more. I am happy to offer personal service at an affordable price. I’ll even take payments in some cases. Editing should not harm the writer’s voice; it is your story after all! My job as an editor is to carry your voice throughout the story while correcting all those annoying little things that happened while you were in the throes of creation.

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