What Can an Editor Do For You?

Yes, this is first Saturday Evening Writing Post I’ve done in a few weeks. I’ve been working very hard polishing up my book, and this has been taking a lot of time.
I’ve been thinking a lot a great deal about editors and their services lately (oops, I just used the word “lot” in the last paragraph, and so I shouldn’t be using it in this one so close to that one). One of the biggest criticisms of indie authors and self-published works is that the editing of these books can be poor or even non-existent. Therefore, there will be are a lot of people in the indie/self-publishing world that will harp on this issue, and demand strongly urge would-be authors to get professional editing services on their manuscripts before they even think about uploading to Amazon or Smashwords. The “great fear” is that the reputation of self-published works will become so poor that no one will think about buying one. Of course, if one brings up the fact that many traditionally published books are often not error free, one will hear deafening argument silence. If one dares go further and argues that many self-published authors do hire professional freelance editors and still get told that the editing is poor anyway, well, actually, I don’t know how often anyone has dared to make that argument.
So… how does an author know that an editor is needed? (Psst, that was a BAD sentence on account of the passive voice!)
You know can tell you need an editor when:
1) You notice that when you turn on the grammar correction feature on Word or Scrivener you see a lot of squiggly blue or green underlines.
2) You can’t tell when to use it’s or its.
3) You can’t tell when to use their, there,or they’re.
4) You don’t know when to use a semicolon instead of a comma, or where commas ought to be placed.
(These are all issues that could be fixed by an editor who performs a “light” or “low” edit.)
5) Your character started out with one name and ended up with a different one, and the change wasn’t caught everywhere.
6) There are holes in your plot that you can’t seem to see or patch.
7) You don’t have the time to do four or five versions of the manuscript to fix every boo-boo and no-no.
8) You have multiple POVs in the same scene without any means of alerting the reader that the POV has indeed changed (the infamous “head-hopping” problem).
9) You really are not sure where chapters should start or end, nor are you certain where the book should start or end (especially with installments in a series).
I probably needed an editor to go through this post, LOL. Actually, there are many reasons one should consider getting an editor to go over a manuscript. The list I made up here only scratches the surface.
Is it even possible to self-edit?
Many would argue that it is impossible.
I say, it depends. Are you a detail oriented OCD person? Do you have the ability to really look at your manuscript and treat it like it is work from another person, and make some painful uncomfortable decisions without feeling the pain? Oh, by the way, I don’t mean merely “killing the darlings.” I mean make brutal decisions that might affect the outcome of the story or devastate your characters.

Turn it up to eleven (yes, I did just put a clip from This is Spinal Tap in a blog post about obtaining an editor)! Yes, you could “just make ten louder,” but that’s sometimes just not brutal enough!
Ahem, where was I? Oh, yeah! Can one self-edit? I think believe it is possible. But you need to be a ninja shinobi to do it, I think.
But I want to warn you about something. There’s a reason that many of these self-published indie authors have such trouble with reviewers slamming their book’s editing even when they “do the right thing” and hire one. The value of an edit, I’ve discovered, is somewhat subjective. Two different editors can have completely different opinions about what will make your prose really sparkle.
For instance, one editor I know of has a thing against this:
Example 1: What a bloody fool! Marcus watched and shook his head.
Or even worse:
Example 2: What a bloody fool! Marcus thought as he watched and shook his head.
He would rather see this:
Example 3: Marcus thought he was a bloody fool. He watched and shook his head.
Whereas another editor I know of far preferred Example 1 over the other two (this is a bad sentence too). His opinion was that the use of italics helps you see things through the character’s mind. The first editor I was talking about was of the opposite opinion, that the italicized thoughts make the reader’s view into the mind of the character less intimate, not more. Just one tiny example of where listening to one editor’s advice can fly directly in the face of another’s advice.
FYI, I listened to the advice of the first editor. All thinking in my book is written like Example 3 and not using italics, even though in my rough draft I had them.
If this post seems a little sarcastic, it’s (yes, I can use it’s because it is the contraction of…it is!) only because I’ve been seeing and reading a lot of angry spew back and forth about this topic. Some people view editorial services as a waste of money in today’s Write a Book a Month environment, and others think they wouldn’t be able to Write a Book a Month if they didn’t have an editor on hand at all times to shoot their manuscripts to while they work on their next book. Then again, I’ve also noticed lately that my Kindle has been telling me that updates are available for books I’d downloaded, the reason being “significant editorial changes.”
Frankly, I think a lot of people use the world’s lousiest formatting for their ebooks! Another topic for another day!
What do you think? Have you attempted the self-editing route? Were you successful? Would you be too afraid to try it yourself?


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