Tuesday, March 25, 2014 | By: Lynn

Don't Shoot Your Book in the Foot

When authors write a book, they pour their heart into the creation process. Some refer to their books as their babies because they mean so much to the author. The creative process is very much an immersion project, as writers puts themselves into the process wholeheartedly. It behooves writers to use all their skills to create a work that is engaging, well-structured, and readable. But writing and using imagination does not automatically mean the end result is any of those three things. When an author sends a “flawless” manuscript to an agent or publisher or formatter without the services of an editor, they may shoot their book in the foot instead of present their best work. Odds are it’s not flawless. Authors need editors.
As a romance author and a freelance editor, I’ve been on both sides of the table.

Stepping into the editing phase of my book, I felt a little nervous. I was afraid the editor would do things to my book that I didn’t like or make me do things I didn’t want to do or couldn’t do. I learned quickly that the editor’s suggestions were negotiable. But despite my fear, I also quickly learned that the editor had great thoughts that improved my book. And as an editor, I find authors reflect some of my writer feelings. They are taken aback at my edits and lean toward defending what they’ve done with the book. Ultimately, the process works best and results are positive when the author can understand that the editor knows things and can be trusted.

It’s understandable that writers may feel they don’t need an editor, though I think most appreciate the value of a good editor. Authors know words, they know sentence structure, and how to create characters and build a good plot. So why hire the services of a professional editor? It costs money, and many authors operate on a shoe-string budget. It slows down submission, because giving a manuscript to an editor is an extra step in the process. Then you have to wait. Horrors. And when the manuscript comes back to you, there is more work to do. It’s tempting to send it or format it without that step and move closer to publication sooner.

Let me take that gun for a second. Before you make a decision that has a strong possibility of endangering the life of your book, let me give you reasons to seek the services of a good editor.

1. Not in your head – An editor is not in your head and that’s a good thing. He or she doesn’t know the backstory other than what you put on the pages. She can’t fill in the plot hole you inadvertently left because she’s not in your head, filling it in with thoughts.

2. Not in a hurry – You’ve spent months, maybe longer, writing your book and now you’re more than ready to take the next steps that lead to publishing. You may have niggling concerns about the quality, but you’re overriding them in favor of moving forward. An editor won’t rush through the editing process. She’ll take the time needed to give you valuable input and direction. That’s what you’re paying for and it’s what your book most likely needs.

3. Not invested – As I said, authors invest so much time and energy and angst in a project and they want to enjoy the project’s success. But every word and every character is an author’s invention. We authors love our characters. We love our beautiful words and amazing descriptions. We hate cutting. An editor is invested in your project but in a different way. An editor is invested in a well-written product.

4. New eyes – How many times have you read your story? It’s a well-known fact that our amazing brains fill in absent words and read words the way we expect to see them presented. An editor reads your manuscript with fresh eyes that are skilled at seeing grammar mistakes, typos, inappropriate shifts in POV, etc.

5. Knows more – Authors are extremely intelligent and skilled at their profession. But as an editor, I can’t tell you how many times – because it’s so many – that an author knows nothing about styles. And that’s okay, because that is the kind of thing an editor brings to a project. Typos, poor grammar, POV accuracy, and inconsistent style stand out to a good editor.

6. On your side – It seems pretty common for an author to feel an editor is the enemy, one who is destroying her book with her suggestions. It can feel like some stranger, who calls herself an expert, has missed your vision and doesn’t understand your voice. All those red marks and comments translate as someone who is against you. But a good editor is actually on your side, acting in your best interest, and wants your book to succeed.

Skilled writing makes a book good. But good editing is a strong component of a book’s success. As I’ve written on my website, Lynn Crandall Editing Services, skilled and insightful editing helps strengthen the structure and readability of writing. Good editing is invisible, but it enhances the reading experience for readers.

Working with a good editor is the best way not to shoot your book in the foot.




RT Wolfe said...

So true! Great post. :)
-R.T. Wolfe

Margaret Fieland said...

So true. I have three sci fi novels published, and the publisher provided the editors. I also have a book of poems I wrote to go with the first of them and I self-published (basically because I waffled too long to get it done any other way), and I got an editor for them. Poetry is not prose, but even so, she pointed out several things that I would not have noticed.

Lynn said...

Thanks, RT!

Lynn said...

Thanks for your comment, Margaret! Editors are our friends!