Why should you get your piece of writing edited by someone who knows what they're doing? Better yet why should you pay for editing? What makes it so special?
Editing is always a tricky thing. It's so subjective, but why do you really need editing? Why not just outsource it to a friend who will give you feedback for nothing versus forking out money to get an editor to look at it? Why bother to pay for editing?
Look at it this way: would you self diagnose your child with a heart problem just by their outward behavior? Would you trust your partner/husband/boyfriend to fix the oven when it was clearly broken and needs a repair? Would you trust your car in the hands of your inexperienced brother? If you answered no then why are you willing to let that friend look at your piece of writing for free and not pay a professional to take care of your words and help shape it just right so people will not be able to turn away from it?
I get it. You look at the editing prices and gawk. How could something like that cost so much? Editors don't do much, do they?
But a lot of people take for granted the work most editor's do. You know those beautifully bound books that you buy from a book store or from that online bookstore (psst Book Depository is a money sinkhole... seriously) they have gone through many different edits before it even gets into your hot little hands. There are special editors that are paid to edit and make things beautiful in a way that only they can see.
Editors are one of the most important people in the publishing industry and people take what they do for granted and frankly, it makes me angry, so angry that I even gawked at a family member who wanted to use my services for free because they needed a writer/editor. I'm okay with offering my services for free, but there is no way that I will expect someone to just think that I will hand my services for free. I refuse to be a starving artist, there is no need for that (thanks Liz Gilbert).
So, what do editors do? I'm sure you're thinking that, as many of others out there do as well. You're probably imaging them with a red pen just crossing out words here and there. It's like the ocean or a well done balayage hairstyle, where the levels are hidden, you can't see them unless you know about them because editors wear different kinds of editing hats. There are general edits, proof edits, line edits, copy edits, just to name a few and they work so hard, they push writers to be better, they see that spark of potential in them and really dig them in.
They are the backbone of every published novel and piece out there. Without their eye for detail we would get mistake laden filled prose that would make us cringe and not want to read. But in case you want to know there are different kinds of editing (and something I cover in my editing services).
The first is what I call general editing but it's sometimes called developmental, content, substantial or structural edits. This stage looks at the story itself, the characters; are they being contradictive? Are they realistic? Does the dialogue flow? Does the story work? I think it's one of the best edits for stories and how to better improve them.
Next is line editing, which focuses on the prose itself. Does the sentence flow? Is it easy to read? Does this paragraph sound clunky? For me this is peppered through most of my editing, because I look at these naturally!
Just as important is copy editing. This one is read with a completely different brain (or at least that's how I justify it!) it's the part that involves just looking at the work on a whole and finding inconsistencies that can be smoothed out and brought out to attention.
Lastly proof reading is the last stage of editing and that actually is just a look at making sure that there are no lingering mistakes that have been missed or reworked into the piece (because they do find their way back in!).
So, the real question here is: how do you find a good editor? And one that fits with your piece of writing?
- Check that your work is ready. Before you even start looking for editors, have you really taken the piece as far as you can? Remember that having it be in the best shape it can possibly be for yourself will make it easier for an editor to work on. Secondly decide on the kind of editing that you actually need. Scroll up to see what you need the most.
- Research your editors. Don't limit yourself to just one. Ask questions, talk to friends, use your communities on Facebook. Check out their testimonials. Don't be afraid to find out the good and bad about the editor you want to work with.
- Converse with them. Your editor is going to be dishing out some hard real talk. They're going to be telling you what's wrong with your manuscript so you need to be able to ask them about their experience and what really lights them up. You'll get an insight into their lives and can start to piece together whether or not they'll be the right fit for you. We love questions and we're more than happy to answer any and all that you have regarding our services.
- Check their rates. Are they per word or do they offer a lump sum? Most editors charge per word and most of it hovers around the 0.10-0.20 cents per word (so if it's a big project it'll cost heaps!) so try and see how much and then work out who to go with. Don't hesitate to ask questions about their rates either!
- If they have sample edits, take advantage of this. It'll give you a feel for how they edit and whether or not they mesh with your writing style. And it's free!
Your editor needs to help you find and strengthen your voice, not hinder it in any way, they also need to be able to approach is in a way that isn't damaging what you've done or breaking your ego.
As editors we break people, but we build you back up in the best of ways and make your writing better!
They are the silent assassins of the writing world, so take the time, go and give your editor a virtual hug or even a real one. Thank them for the awesome jobs they're doing, because it's why we can read amazing books that are (mostly) free of mistakes and make sense. And editors are still people, so they do still make the mistakes.
But why would you want to trust your hard earned words with someone for free? Why would you really trust them to have the same eye as an editor who could pick up on much more than you could ever have thought to dream of?
Don't sell yourself or your piece of work short. Invest that money into yourself and your hard work.
Previously posted on Dreaming Fully Awake where you can find a handy printable checklist to help you find your perfect editor.
About the Author:
Mandi is a writer, writing practice coach, editor, copywriter and dreamer at Dreaming Fully Awake who is empowering the writerly insides of those who choose to step into the spotlight.
She is breaking internal editors, sabotages and procrastinators to bring writing into the lives of every day women and men to help them feel at home insides their haven created by a writing practice that empowers and motivates them to get more out of life.