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Writing Myth — Editing is Optional

Who is this stupid? Yes, I said stupid. That just was directed at way too many authors and even publishers. Editing is never optional. It is required. A great number think it is optional. Wrong!

Writing a book is a long and rough process. You don’t get it right the first time nor the second nor the third. It isn’t written in a month and is ready for publication then. The piece needs to be edited. Perfection doesn’t exist in any author. They need the added teamwork of an editor to get there.

What is Editing

Editing is the detailed review of your manuscript with suggestions on how to improve it. As a writer, you are too close to your book to see the errors. No matter how many times you read over a section, you might not see how it is missing something or is too wordy or is worded all wrong. Plus the story came from your head. So you tend to read things into the story that really aren’t there. You know what it should said, but that doesn’t mean that it actually says that. This can confuse a reader. You think it is clear, but it clear as mud to the one trying to make sense of it.

An editor examines your story and helps you reshape into something worth publishing. Let’s start with the fact that you need to get over yourself. Your words are not perfect. They need polishing. Editing is the process that corrects your mistakes and tightens up your work.

The Process of Editing

The editing process is not quick. It can take as long or longer than it did to write some books. A lot of how fast it goes depends on the author.

Before you turn it into the editor, an author should go over their own work and edit it themselves at least three times. I mean editing needs to be done in detail. Go through and reword your sentences. Fix spelling mistakes and punctuation issues. Pretend you’re the editor and work on it. Tear it about and put it back together with a different structure.

When your editor gets it, expect at least a couple of weeks if not months of work on it. They will address content issues as well as sentence structure. They will point out repetitive issues you need to address. Don’t be surprised if they barely do anything but direct you to perform manuscript wide changes. I read where one author was given by his work with not a single mark. His only instruction was to cut a hundred pages from it. Then the editing commenced.

You receive the comments and work on the changes. Give it back and the process is repeated again with each round being more focused on the words. This can go on for several rounds.

What Editing Produces

Editing helps the author produce a well-polished book for publication. Writers are too involved in their work to see issues. The story is part of them which means they read things into their writing that might not be there. They know the scene should go a particular way because it does in their heads as they read it. That doesn’t mean the reader will follow.

The editor helps you write clearly for the reader to receive what you had in your mind all along. They clear the communication channel. The editor is outside the original creative process. They can see the story as the reader will. They are the bridge between you, as the writer, and the reader who will be critical in your success.

Where to Find an Editor

I have to admit that it is really hard to find a quality editor today. So many claim to be one, and they have no idea what a semicolon is and how to use it. They have no idea what a passive verb is. They only point out “issues” that are just preferences for them. Some don’t know anything about writing. These are not the editors you want.

You need to research and be very picky. Get opinions from other authors. Make sure the authors understand what makes a good editor too. I’ve had some recommend people and discovered that neither one knew anything about good writing.

Let’s discuss the aspects of hiring an editor in more detail.

Good Editor

So what makes a good editor? That can vary based on your own needs. Each editor has strengths and weaknesses. Some are great content editors and suck at grammar and punctuation. Others are better with commas and verb tense then how the story flows. The ideal editor is a balance of all of these. Editors help you shape your story.

A great idea is to get a sample for the editor. Have them edit a page of your work to see how they edit. Does it fit with your style? Do they actually produce quality editing work? Most editors will sample edit a chapter to help you make a decision. If they refuse, look further before committing.

Ask around and see who other authors recommend. Ask detailed questions. You also want a trustworthy one. I’ve seen those who didn’t do anything and stole money. Be careful.

The Cost

How much do they charge? I will tell you that cheap editors are not the good ones. But who can afford several thousand dollars? Not many authors can do that.

One editor bragged about only charging $75. I looked at the works she referenced as having edited. No way would I have had her edit a greeting card. Hideous! A waste of money. Yes, it sounds like a good deal, but there is no quality behind it. This is a case of you get what you pay for.

When I’ve looked for editors, I’ve discovered that most that come with good reputations are over $2000 for a full novel. I can’t afford that. I’ve tried friends. They typically do not have the experience I need. My current editor charges me less than $500 for a full manuscript and she does a good job. I think that is very reasonable with the work that passes between us.

I gave a sample piece to an editing company. They would not share costs until I sent it. Well, they said I didn’t need any detailed editing, just proofreading. They then proposed charging me $275. Sorry, proofreading shouldn’t cost that much for a 150 page book.

If you don’t think you should spend on editing, you are sadly mistaken. You’ll find yourself with higher quality work if you get it edited. Just don’t mortgage your house for it.

Finding The Editor For You

Where can you get one? You can go online and look. That’s where you’ll find many that charge thousands of dollars. Go onto social media and you’ll find ones that charge very little and aren’t worth even that. The best bet is to go to authors who have well-edited books and ask them who their editors are.

Find reliable ones. Give them small projects and test them out. You’ll find it worth your time. Google book editors and read reviews and check out their prices. If you have doubts, move on.

Written by

Writer for ten years, lover of education, and degrees in business, history, and English. Striving to become a Renassiance woman. www.writerrebeccagraf.com

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