Many readers notice character and plot development in every story. However, editing ranks as an equally important aspect of the writing process worth mentioning. Some of you may be rolling your eyes. Why harp on about editing?
Because it matters.
Over the past few years, I’ve read quite a few self-published books. Most of the books have been wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Yet some have been painful to read. Others have been good, but could have been great with the assistance of an experienced editor. Too many self-published authors don’t think readers can tell if their novel hasn’t been professionally edited. Trust me, most of us can. As for authors who skip utilizing beta readers and critique partners, that shows as well.
I’m not just talking about typos. Many readers will forgive one or two, and these errors do happen in books that are traditionally published. Editors do so much more than proofreading. Developmental editors assist with the story and its execution. This process may involve a massive rewrite, but from my experience, it’s well worth it. My developmental editor has suggested some major changes, including reworking the ending of my first novel. I followed her advice after pouting for a day and you know what? She was right. It’s a much better story now.
Another type is substantive editing, which involves the larger aspects of the novel such as character development, plot holes, unresolved threads, pacing, etc. Yet another form of editing involves copyediting which makes sure you don’t change your character’s name or hair color. Copyeditors also fix grammar and punctuation, as well as assist in fact-checking and identifying potential legal issues. There are even more kinds of editors and some overlap occurs. For a decent rundown, please visit this page.
Please be wary of editors who say they can offer several different types of editing with one reading. You really will get what you pay for. I’m not saying you have to hire five different editors, but make sure you check your editor’s credentials. Who have they worked with? Do they offer a sample? Most will do this for free. What type of editing experience do they have? Do your research to save yourself from losing money. Also, take the time to recognize the parts of the writing process you need the most help with. Here’s a link for more about how to choose an editor.
When I first approached editors, I didn’t know about all the different types of editing which resulted in a crash course. To be honest, I was terrified to contact editors and put myself out there. Then I realized it would be a worse mistake publishing my novel without going through this rigorous process. I want my readers to focus on the story, not the editing or lack thereof.
My editor is amazing. She’s not afraid to tell what works and what doesn’t. It’s great to hear positive feedback. Don’t all of us want to hear that? However, the suggestions of how to improve the story from my developmental editor are far more beneficial to me.
I know hiring an editor is an expense. I don’t recommend this, but for those who can’t hire an editor, please utilize beta readers and critique partners, which is free. My readers have caught mistakes for me on numerous occasions, such as “free feel” instead of “feel free”.
Even if you plan on hiring an editor, I still recommend using beta readers. The more polished your draft is before you send it to an editor helps immensely and the extra effort can save you money.
Each time I’ve been through the editing process (a total of three times as of this writing) I feel more confident. Now I’m able to spot glaring plot holes, insufficient character development, and how to apply subtext before I send a draft to my editor. I’m not saying I’m at a point where I can skip working with an editor. I’ll never be at that point. Every writer no matter how experienced can learn and can improve.
When I hear of self-published authors who admit they didn’t work with a professional editor I cringe. Not only is the author publishing something that isn’t the best that it can be, but the person is denying themselves the opportunity to learn and grow as a writer.
If you want to improve your writing, work with experienced editors. It’ll change how you think about editing and it will make you appreciate all that they have to offer.
Your readers will thank you for it.