Sunday, February 16, 2014

Don't Overlook the Importance of a Good Editor

Do you remember that moment when you wrote the very last word to your first novel/story?  And you were thrilled beyond measure?  All the hard work, the hours spent sitting at a desk pecking away on your keyboard - it had all been for that moment! But the elation is short lived because now the story had to be edited.  

If we were wise, we had consulted our trusty writers' handbook.  Punctuation and grammatical errors were at a minimum.  But, editing is more than finding technical errors and this is why we need editors.  Editors serve as a sort of devil's advocate. They ask the tough questions and offer solutions:

Is the plot solid?  If not, what needs to be addressed?

Are the characters well rounded?  Do they react in a manner that is true to the qualities assigned to them?  

Are the scenes within the story fully developed?  Is the reader able to "see" what the writer intended?

Does the story flow?

These questions are important.  As writers, we tend to have tunnel vision. We may think we've done our job in terms of describing a situation, etc.  In regards to a particular scene in my novel, my editor asked me to explain a certain character's comment.  I did (thinking that's pretty obvious) only to have my editor respond that just because I knew the reason inside my head didn't mean that my readers were privy to my thoughts.

Recently, I purchased an e-book.  The book was self published and I will admit that overall, I liked the writer's style.  But there were problems - mistakes that should have been caught before publishing. Not only were there issues with misspelled words, there were problems with the plot.  By the time, I had reached the last chapters, I had lost the emotional connection to the story.  Had the writer hired an editor, I think the editor would have said - "You're beating a dead horse!"  What had been intended to elicit an emotional connection had instead become redundant and unnecessary. I honestly felt as though the writer had run out of ideas but was short on total word count.   

So many of us (self published writers) tend to forgo hiring an editor, thinking that we can do it ourselves.  Editors can be very expensive and may not fit our budget. If you find this is the case, there are alternatives:  

Contact someone in your local community college's English department.  You may find a professor who will be willing to read/edit your manuscript.

Share your book with readers/writers prior to publishing.  Ask for feedback regarding the plot, the characters, etc.  Then listen.  We are all protective of our work but in order to improve, we have to be open to constructive criticism.  

So - when it comes to editors, what do you think?  Do you use them?  If not, what alternatives do you suggest?   If so, do you feel as though it is money well spent?