How working with an editor bolstered my confidence
Many new and indie authors struggle with the question of whether or not to use an editor. I grappled with this dilemma for years and decided not to seek professional editing on my first novel, but to do so with my second book. Here’s how an editor has changed my writing career.
Why we drag our feet
There are many excuses we writers come up with for not reaching out to an editor for help. Believe me, I’ve used most of them myself:
- I’m a good writer and don’t need help.
- There aren’t any mistakes in my manuscript, my friends/family and I have checked it many times.
- I don’t have the money.
- I don’t want someone else tinkering with my book.
- It will take too long and I want to get my book out there.
- It’s ‘cheating’ and won’t be my work after someone else edits it.
While the editing process did take extra time and money, it was months and dollars well spent. I was lucky enough to find an editor with a similar writing style and who was easy to work with. I wish I had enlisted her help earlier.
Let me say it now — you don’t know what you don’t know
I considered myself a proficient writer and while I knew the basics of character development, plot structure and writing no-no’s (including head hopping, adverbs and passive voice) I simply didn’t know how to craft perfect sentences. The subtle difference between she smiled and she lifted the corners of her mouth into a grin or between she walked across the grass and she walked across the dewy grass, her feet collecting moisture with each step had escaped me before I worked with an editor.
Her gentle suggestions and sometimes not-so-subtle direction helped me identify where each word could be stronger and every sentence improved. The writers’ group I work with began to see a difference in the writing style of my current WIP manuscript and a fellow author even asked me to be his editor.
Beyond the writing itself, my editor gave me ideas for character development when she saw a protagonist stagnating or acting in an unintended, unlikeable fashion. She questioned conflicts that added nothing to the story and suggested areas where relationships could be strengthened, encouraging deeper reader involvement with the novel.
It’s nice to not be alone
The belief is that if you are an author, you do what you love when you want, where you want. You’re in control of your career. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, when I get out of bed in the morning, I don’t have to fight rush hour traffic to commute to an office and instead can choose to write in my home office or at a coffeehouse. In fact, I can decide to stay in bed all day if I wish. But the ever-present strain of having to reach a word count deadline or personal goal takes its toll. There is no one to talk to over the coffee machine, no office gossip to take my mind off a scene that won’t work, and no team of colleagues to help me brainstorm a new plot idea. An author is utterly alone.
That all changes when a writer invokes the help of a good editor — one who is open, honest and invested in helping them succeed. A partner you can bounce ideas around with:
- Do I need a prologue? A glossary?
- What needs to be added to help the book reach more genres?
- Is my heroine likable and strong?
Now there is someone to fire emails off to in the dead of night: “What if I changed the scene so that…? Does that bridge the gap in the plot?"
And when you get the edited pages back, you have the feeling that someone’s got your back. A professional has helped you weed out the errors that readers and agents will notice and which mark your novel as sub-par.
You may cringe at the self-published book released too early or first versions of your manuscript that you wish you hadn’t sent to agents but moving forward, you have the expertise to correct these newbie mistakes and transition into the role of a professional author.
In one word – confidence
Writing is a tough profession. An author is like a surfer, clinging to a board, buffeted by tsunami-sized waves in an ocean too large to see the shore while Jaws lurks beneath the surface. An editor, while offering advice and constructive criticism and helping to fine-tune the mechanics, tames the sea, turning it into a conquerable lake, on a calm summer day, with a lifeguard nearby.
In one word, an editor bolsters confidence. Suddenly, it's easier to send query letters, you believe in your synopsis and place more conviction behind your writing. In the end, you won't give the trade-off in terms of money and time a second thought. If you do, perhaps you have not found the right editor for you. Keep looking. There are many different personalities and profession editing styles out there, and finding the perfect match can make all the difference to how you approach your writing. I know it did for me.