Edit Yourself

One of the most stressful aspects for any writer can be the editing process. How can you possibly be expected to take the pages and pages of material you have poured your heart into and trim it down to the average 20,000-word manuscript? It’s like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. Thankfully, the answer is surprisingly simply: Hire a good editor.

Now you might be worried that an editor is going to completely change your creation and leave you with barely a resemblance of what you originally penned. And who can blame you. Thanks to the movies, most of us think of editors as Meryl Streep’s deliciously wicked Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. And while the literary world certainly has its share of these editorial villains, most editors you come into contact with will be less venomous. Here are some of the qualities you should look for when hiring an editor:

  • Someone with a background in English or journalism. People proficient in either of these disciplines pretty much have an internal editor built in them, so they understand the value of choosing the right words and arranging them in the most succinct way.
  • Ask for references and samples. Any editor worth their salt will be able to give you examples to back up their experience. If they don’t, proceed with caution.
  • They are accessible. If at all possible, meet with your potential editor in person. This gives you an opportunity to get a better handle on their personality. Remember, you’ll be working closely with this person. If you don’t think you’ll be able to collaborate with them effectively, keep looking!

Once you’ve found an editor you feel you can work with, sit down and have an in-depth conversation with him or her. Be very clear with what you want edited. If you just want to make sure your grammar and punctuation are in place, say so. Or if you need the editor to also suggest page and chapter breaks, along with ways to help your copy flow better, tell him or her. Never assume. And be patient. Editing is an art, but so often it gets treated (much like writing) as if it is something that anyone can do. Set realistic expectations and deadlines. Communication is crucial, but avoid the constant pestering of, “Are you done yet?” My motto when I’m editing is, “If I don’t find time to do it right, how will I find time to do it over?”

Yes, hiring an editor is an added expense when you’re self-publishing, but if you want to be seen as a credible author, it’s an expense you can’t really afford to shortchange — especially in the age of digital publishing. Because whether you publish via the web or in print, hiring an editor will give you more confidence about your finished product because you’ll know that you took the time to do it right.

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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