You’re nearing the end of the first draft of your first or 50th book, and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. You should! Writing a book is no small feat, and the words you choose will change lives and perspectives. But do not let this moment’s elation keep you from doing the absolute best thing you can for your book and yourself: get an editor.
I can hear you forming your rebuttal now. “You’re an editor, Cynthia. Of course, you think I should get an editor.”
Yes, that’s true, but I’m also a writer, a reader, a marketer, a doodler and a host of other labels. And none of those things hold a bearing on what’s important for you: that your book is the truest reflection of your story, your message today… and forever.
Don’t you want your legacy to withstand the test of time?
When Cynthia edited two of my YA manuscripts recently, I expected only feedback on a proofreading level, but she went above and beyond in providing suggestions for greatly improving both stories. … Cynthia gave me critical feedback for how to grow as a storyteller, but perhaps just as importantly, she told me what worked in both stories as well. She definitely knows what she’s doing!
– Yesenia Vargas, Young Adult Fiction Author
Aren’t editors expensive?
They can be, but they don’t have to be break-the-bank pricey to polish your manuscript to its fullest potential.
Listen, I know that you’re not exactly rolling in dough. And I get that, too. We all have to do what we do to make a living. But we also have to honor our work with the knowledge, expertise and perspective of an editor in order to elevate our books to that gleaming tome of perfection we set out to write. All the bestselling authors have editors. Every. Single. One of them.
The question you really want to be asking is…
What’s the cost of not getting an editor?
Because, here’s the thing with books: they have an awfully long shelf-life (regardless of whether it’s digital or physical). It’s out there.
Personally, for me, the greatest cost of not getting a professional to read through your work is having to live with that niggling error long after your book is in print. Your main character managed to travel from California to New York in five story-minutes (even if it was spread over three book chapters), your black Lab in scene one saves the day as a German Shepherd near the end. Your opening scenes are too lengthy. You use the word “very” too much and too often. Your readers write to you, asking you if you intended to make that mistake–and (cough) who was your editor?
As a book-writing virgin, I had no idea what to expect, much less ask, from an editor. I was very fortunate to have had Cynthia offer to review my copy precisely when I needed experienced guidance. … Her edits were next-level thoughtful and appropriately directive…
– Montine Blank, Paint Awake.
Should you get an editor?
It is my humble opinion as a marketer and a writer that not getting an editor is much like deciding to administer your own tattoo while drunk at a party. Sound extreme? Well, it’s not–not really.
Even tattoo artists get another tattoo artist to bedeck their bodies in art. If for no other reason than the other tattoo artist approaches his canvas (your body) with a different perspective, a fresh set of eyes; he can draw on those hard to reach body parts, and he can gently ask you to reconsider the artistic decisions you’re making while under the influence.
Imagine how you would feel, if you stumbled out of your bedraggled sheets with an upside-down unicorn branded on your lower torso. Once the tequila wears off, the realization will set in that My Little Horny Pony is not quite what you were going for.
The same goes for your books.
You put a lot of time and energy into your book. Honor that with the aid of someone who can make sure your final product meets the vision you had in your mind for it.
Cynthia is extremely attentive and astute. She picks up on both the nuances of language and how that impacts flow and style, as well as being able to look at the bigger picture of the overall book and how your chapters fit together. She pays great attention to detail, picking up on crutch words and phrases…
– Sacha Black
Even editors get editors.
So what does editing entail? We’ve already established that you’ll likely need to pay someone to help you polish your prose. But the most important part of the editing process is (drumroll, please) your involvement and also your non-involvement.
No matter what type of editing assistance you get here are a few rules of thumb to go by once you’ve handed over your draft.
- Don’t touch your manuscript. Change gears, start a new book, work on your marketing strategy, take a vacation. Spend time with your loved ones. Anything. Put your draft in a drawer and forget about it till your editor comes back to you with her suggestions.
- Give yourself time, when you do get your edits back. Go through all the revisions and correct those that are easy (no-brainers) and highlight those other suggestions that might need more brainpower (see point 4, below).
- Make sure you schedule some face time with your editor. Personally, I never hire someone with whom I can’t spend some Skype time. Line up your questions, send them to your editor in an email, and go through them one-by-one with your editor in a talk or in email. This is an opportunity to get a better understanding of the changes you’re up against.
- Roll up your sleeves. It’s time to get jiggy with your work. Points 2, 3, and 4 are overlapping. I always go through the editor’s lowest hanging fruit first. Then, I start to focus on the bigger stuff: sections that need to be re-worked, moved or cut. These are the things I tend to talk to my editor about during a Skype call. The faster you can work through your edits, I think the better your product will be. If you let too much time lag between your feedback the implementing of changes, I believe your end product suffers.
- Be ready to look at your work from a wide lens. This is probably the most intangible yet most valuable part of working with an editor. Whether she’s reading your work to suss out typos and grammatical errors, or she’s following the development of your story, she will be looking at your work in a completely new way. Unlike a friend or family member who might read your work with preconceived assumptions about who you are, an editor approaches your draft much like a first-time reader—but with more constructive feedback than, “I liked it.”