I finished the rough draft of my 7th novel. After telling everyone on social media it was done I emailed my editor that it would be ready in a few weeks. Her first available slot was three months away! Even though it sucks to wait, I asked her to add me to her calendar, and I’m going to tell you why.
Welcome back to Believe in Your Story where I share some of the writing challenges I’ve faced and how I’ve dealt with them. Today we’re going to talk about editors.
When I finished writing my first book, Angst, I begged for help cleaning it up. The book went through two rounds of critiques and editing by several writers. I published it and moved on to book 2, Buried in Angst. I hired an editor for Buried and she made the pages bleed. I eventually asked her to go back and line edit book one for consistency and she found a lot of errors.
Unless you’re intimately familiar and romantically involved with the Chicago Book of Style you'll get bad reviews for bad grammar. Bad grammar is the bane of indie books. It hovers over authors who actually hire editors. With or without an editor, you’re going to get bad reviews. There will always be readers who won’t connect with your book.
You may not even get the chance to connect with them when poor grammar pulls them out of your story. If you think you’re good enough to do it without an editor, ask George R.R. Martin or Stephen King if they use an editor, and then reconsider.
What Kind Of Editor Do I Need?
Do a search for the different types of editors out there and you’ll quickly find that the definitions don’t match up. This should give you a place to start.
Developmental editors look at the big picture and provide you feedback on the overall story arc, theme, and characters.
A line editor zooms in to review word choice, word repetition, and making sure everything is clear.
A copy editor cleans up the spelling, grammar and punctuation in your manuscript, typically based on the Chicago Manual of Style.
Proofreaders give your novel a final once-over before publication to check for typos or spelling errors.
Some people are going to completely disagree with this list, but the definitions aren’t important. I want you to think about the various options out there and what will help make your novel better.
My editor, Danielle Fine, really covers the first three. Line editing is most important because that cleans up your bad habits. It goes beyond there, they’re and their. If you don’t know how to properly use an em-dash it doesn’t matter - they do.
I’ll argue that developmental editing is equally important. When your significant other, a close friend, or your mom reads your story, they’re going to blanket accept certain things because they know you. Even worse, they may gloss over things that don’t make sense because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. A developmental editor won’t be so kind. (Neither would your readers.)
I hired a copy editor for Entriss Online because when I’m done with all of those developmental edits I tend to muddy the waters.
Finding An Editor
I found mine through other authors I admire. Danielle Fine has been my editor for almost a decade. Not only does she make my writing better, I think she has made me a better writer by learning from her edits.
What To Expect
Before I started working with Dani, I emailed to see if she was available and interested. She asked for a chapter and sent it back in pieces. Her edits were solid, her recommendations were fair, and when I was done crying, I hired her.
When it comes to developmental edits, we don’t always agree. 9 times out of 10 she’s right. A great example is Julie in Entriss Online. She wasn’t a fan and explained why, so I reworked the character. Apparently not enough for some who hated her.
My editor doesn’t always know what I’m planning so I don’t blanket accept her advice. That’s the great freedom of being indie. We do what we want, but we also have to learn hard from our mistakes.
Go Hire An Editor
Danielle Fine is brilliant, and if you’re interested in working with her, check out her awesome site at daniellefine.com. (But stay away when I need her. She’s my editor and I was here first.) She also does amazing cover art.
If you’re an editor, we need you. Drop your link below in the comments. If you’re a writer, go write, and Believe In Your Story!