“I’m so mad at my editor I could…” The sentence ended in a growl. “All the advice says to hire the best editor you can afford, so I spent my budget on an editor who came highly recommended.”
“So what happened?” I could see tears gathering in her eyes as she moved from anger to helpless frustration.
“All he did for me was fix typos and grammar mistakes. The author who recommended him said he did wonders for her novel.”
This was time for sympathy and comfort. Over a cup of coffee and big slice of strawberry cheesecake, the author poured out her story:
She had just finished her first novel and was super excited. Her mother and sister agreed it was really good. She couldn’t believe her luck when the editor replied to her email saying he had a cancellation and could take her manuscript immediately.
My heart sank. It was a common beginner mistake. I’d made it myself. Getting a novel from a story idea to a finished product is a process. Just like building a house, things need to be done in the right order. You can’t move in before the roof is done. Typing THE END is only the beginning. It was great that she had her mother and sister in her corner giving support through the long writing process. But this type of support team already loves you and will admire anything you write.
First: Let the manuscript sit for at least a week or two. This is hard when you are so anxious to get your book out into the world, but you need to distance yourself from it to see it as a reader.
Second: Read it through as though you had never seen it. Try to see it as a new reader. Play the internal video and see how it flows. Watch for jumps, disconnects, or inconsistencies.
Third: Find some resources that can guide you through the self-edit process. This will be a little different for each writer, but having a guide is a great help. The Short & Helpful Online Writer Workshop for June is a great resource, but there are many others.
Fourth: Find beta readers that you trust to give you an unbiased opinion. Your mother and your sister are being truthful, but they don’t always see your flaws. Has a mother ever criticized a handmade Mother’s Day card from her youngster? It is beautiful, and every scrawl is precious. The novel may be more mature, but the sentiment is similar.
After you have polished your manuscript to be as near perfect as you can make it, you are ready to send it to a professional editor. If an editor receives a manuscript with typos, grammar mistakes, poor punctuation, and inconsistencies, he or she has to smooth those out before getting a feel for the story. Equally important, the editor’s opinion is that the writer needs a lesson in the basics before advanced plot structure, scene setting, character building, etc.
It does no good to furnish the house if the roof isn’t finished. Unless you have more dollars than time, don’t use your editing dollars on things you already know how to correct. Take advantage of the editor’s expertise by hammering down those shingles yourself.