My editor, Rachel Small of Faultless Finish Editing, is the best! She’s dedicated to her vocation, is accurate, listens to her clients, and not only provides a quality edit that rids manuscripts of error, but also offers brilliant suggestions on how the text and story can be improved further for the benefit of the reader. And I love her for that, because she’s taking my writing – and me as a writer – to a new level. Rachel helps me see through all my beloved words and precious darlings with clear eyes that show me exactly where my writing is weak, where I need to beef up the story, where I must indeed hack off limbs in order to save the body of the manuscript, and where I excel and actually do something right – without false praise or flattery. If it sucks, she tells me so! Tough love for this writer’s ego, but definitely necessary treatment, and I’ve learned how to accept – nay, embrace! – her critiquing, corrections, and all attempts TO HELP ME MAKE MY WRITING THE BEST IT CAN BE!!!
Ultimately, that’s what all “good” editors do – they improve your book. AND EVERY WRITER NEEDS AN EDITOR!!! Editors don’t make changes; they suggest where changes might be made. They always (or should) ask “OK?” in their notes when pointing out faults they discover and how those faults might be remedied. They don’t change writers’ precious words without first allowing writers to make the final decision. If a writer decides not to take an editor’s advice and not make those suggested changes, it’s their call, but they should realize that what the editor suggests be changed is all in an attempt TO MAKE THAT MANUSCRIPT THE BEST IT CAN BE!!!
I attended a writing conference in Edmonton with Rachel. We rented a table together in order to promote our services. One writer approached and asked what business Rachel was in. She said, “I’m an editor.” The man immediately crossed his fingers in front of his chest, as though warding off evil spirits, and said, “You’re the enemy then. I’m a writer. Editors change my words.” You should be so lucky to have your words changed, Bub! was what I wanted to say to this writer. Rachel and I just laughed (a rolling-eye kind of laugh) and tried to explain that a good editor will help him become a better writer. I’m not sure he could ever be convinced, however.
When consulting new writers, I often suggest they take an introductory course in editing – not to learn how to edit their own work (which is impossible, because as I mentioned above, EVERY WRITER NEEDS AN EDITOR!!!), but to understand exactly what an editor does, how they do it, and how AN EDITOR CAN HELP THEM BECOME A BETTER WRITER!!! I believe that working with a good editor is better than workshopping a manuscript or asking peers to critique it, but that’s just my personal preference. The editor offers a second set of eyes. Their mandate, with any text, is to make it clear, cohesive and consistent. Please note that not one of those 3 Cs is change. For their part, writers need to get over sharing their work with someone who is only there to help and not harm. In some cases though a bit of harm can help… Not every writer is as brilliant as they, or their mothers, think they are, and they must get over that illusion.
The other misconception writers have is that they shouldn’t have to PAY TOO MUCH OR AT ALL for an editor’s services. I figure it this way – you get what you pay for. A good editor is worth their weight in gold, because they will do everything they can TO MAKE YOUR MANUSCRIPT BETTER THAN IT IS!!! Yes, a publisher’s editor will likely have at it again once you’ve signed a contract to publish the book. The key here though is to make the manuscript the best it can be so that you are offered that contract to publish in the first place. And for all those who figure they’ll just self-publish, thereby skipping the “unnecessary” expense of having your manuscript professionally edited (and maintaining total control over your book)… WRONG THINKING!!! EVERY WRITER NEEDS AN EDITOR! WITHOUT EXCEPTION!
Besides, we owe it to our readers. You know, those people we’re writing for in the first place? Those who will buy the finished book and trust that you’ve written something THAT IS THE VERY BEST IT CAN BE!!! Some of your friends may forgive many problems about your book just because they’re your friends (or your mother), but readers deserve a book that is free of error, consistent in character, timeline, with accurate details, and a story that flows. Just consider yourself to be a reader for a moment. Isn’t that what you expect when you read a book? The message an edited book sends to any reader is that YOU are a professional, not just some hack-writer. AND IT’S THE EDITOR WHO HAS HELPED YOU GET TO THAT POSITION OF BEING VIEWED AS A PROFESSIONAL!!!
So find an editor you can work with (compatibility is very important as not all editors are created equal). Ask for recommendations (if in Canada, contact the Editors’ Association of Canada for referrals, similar organizations in other countries) to editors living in your area – although it is possible to work with an editor via email and never meet them at all. Or ask your writing association for advice. (You do belong to a writing association, don’t you? Best support system for any writer!) When you do find an editor, and the two of you click, hang onto that editor for the dear life of your writing. You will never have a better association with anyone else in this business – publisher, mentor, critique group, mother – NO ONE will ever help your writing more than a good editor. Believe me! But go find your own editor – Rachel is MINE!!!
(Seriously, though, I highly recommend Rachel as well as a number of other editors I have met and come to know over the years. Contact me if you’re looking for a referral.)