Who knew all you writers out there were so shy? No one wanted to ask a question this week. So, here’s the number one biggest question I get in person when someone asks what I do.
“Why should I pay a professional editor for something my spouse/friend/next door neighbor/pastor/librarian can do for free?” (Or I hear “Everyone tells me I’m a great writer. I don’t need an editor.”)
First, let me tell you that anyone who undertakes the task of editing a manuscript, or even a long article, at no charge has no sense of the amount of time and effort they’re about to donate to your cause. Yes, they (and you) may look upon it as a labor of love. But to edit properly takes many hours of attention and years of specific experience.
And second, that there’s not a writer on the best-seller list that didn’t go through the editing process more than once. Any guesses why they made it into that illustrious group?
Let’s look at only four of the multiple ways a professional editor can improve your manuscript.
Identifying Misused Words
Goes without saying. No editor will let your character run bear through the town square unless said character is getting his paranormal shape-shifting “thing” on.
And she certainly won’t allow your heroine to bare her hardships stoically unless she’s riding a palomino pony through the streets—and wearing a long wig for the sake of the children in your audience.
A skilled editor understands how nationality affects the use of language. For example, in the differences between British and American spellings of a word. Or in words that have different meanings to various groups and nations.
Your American mechanic won’t be picking up a spanner, but if he’s working on an Austin Healy Sprite the car’s beautiful owner will tell him the spare is in the boot.
Patching Story Inconsistencies
A good editor won’t allow your villain to climb in the second story window of a one-story building.
She’ll call the author’s attention to the fact that a character sits at a table with a white cloth and crystal glasses inside a formal restaurant at the beginning of the scene but stands up from a bare sidewalk table outside a café when the scene ends.
And she’ll question why the hero or heroine (or even the villain) act outside their stated values in a pivotal scene. Sometimes, you as the author, intend your characters to abandon their morals and beliefs to make a point or to throw a twist into the plot. But the editor will have you affirm your choice to introduce this dilemma into the story.
Extensive Fact Checking
Your professional editor won’t permit the hero to aim a 41-inch assault weapon through the windshield of his vehicle unless he’s sitting in the back seat.
Nor will he miss the fact that your character makes a hundred-foot climb up a rocky cliff in four minutes flat while wearing slick-soled dress shoes.
If your heroine is shopping on Fifth Avenue, she’d better be in a store located on that street or the editor will vigorously apply his (virtual) blue pen.
Cutting the Undergrowth
Editing’s not just about catching misused words. It’s about being able to hear and feel the flow of the story and find the holes that weaken it. It’s recognizing the writer’s pet words, the phrases that repeatedly appear, clichés, and other individual habits that detract from the narrative and suggesting ways to rewrite for clarity and power.
Maybe your writing is perfect—elegant, flowing, and heaven to the eyes. But most of us can’t claim that. We all need the help and support of a strong team to publish our words successfully. A professional editor is one of the most vital members of that team. Have you begun building your support system? Now’s the time.
If you’d like to work with me this year, I have a few spots open from mid-April through the end of the year. Email me at Suzanne@TransformationalEditor.com and let’s start a conversation about how I may help you attain your writing dreams.