Subtitle: Why Editors Rock
Your story is wonderful, suspenseful, sexy, smart, unique, honest...or whatever adjective your story really is to you, your family, friends, and your potential readers. But your book, if unedited, is redundant. It's unnecessary. It's repetitive. Okay, I'll stop. It was the obvious joke to make.
How dare you! I spent hours, months, years (insert amount of time spent) on my manuscript! It's as near perfection as humanly possible! First, no need to yell. Second, I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone else, so please relax. Third, I realize that no one is actually yelling, but I like to give the impression of riotous upheaval as it creates a false sense importance. I.E. It makes me feel like people are actually reading my blog when I make up nay saying voices. Fourth, no it's not. Your manuscript needs an editor. And here is why:
Ooops! How'd that shot at 5o Shades get into my post about editing? Oh, that's right, because it's ON POINT, ya'll. Here's the thing, you can't live in a digital world, use the same word 300 to 700 times in one book and not have someone point it out. And they should. Lazy workmanship reflects poorly on us as authors, journalists, poets, etc. The example above reminds me, sadly enough, of myself. I've been through hell, readers, and I have my editor to thank for this (don't feel bad, C.R., it's all my fault). Rather, I have my love of redundancy to thank for it.
You see, I'm editing a manuscript for publication with Booktrope and I'm in the beginning stages of it all. My very intelligent and lovely editor (hey, it never hurts to suck up to your editor, folks) made the suggestion that I run a search on my manuscript for the following words: "look," "turn," "had," "would," "sigh," "smile," "that" and a few others. Before you run off to check your manuscript, keep reading. You'll need to laugh if your search goes anything like mine. The words "look," "turn," "would," and "had" were highlighted over 400 times, with "had" taking the cup at 569 uses. Every time I run one of these words searches (and I'm so obsessive that I go through one word search fix at a time, until I am under 90 uses) I cringe. I have read and re-read, edited, tweaked and drastically altered my manuscript countless times (a labor of three years) and I missed all of the above instances of redundancy.
WHY? Because I was the only one editing the book. And here is something you want to remember, so write it down, make it your cute mantra you paste as an instant footer to all your emails, or just file it in the ol' memory box:
You will never catch your own mistakes because your manuscript reads exactly as you intended when you read it to yourself. Because you're caught up in your own story. Because you're proud of what you've accomplished in getting a book together, and you damn well should be. I teach writing courses, I have an M.A. and B.A. in English Literature, but I still made the mistake of assuming I could do without an editor for a long time. And....ick this is the part I hate....I was wrong.
I'm constantly finding the awkward sentences, the over-used phrases and the misspellings of my students, but I could not, even over a three year span, catch the small mistakes I repeatedly made in my own writing. Editors are necessary because we need another set of eyes to catch what we will inevitably miss in our work.
Even now, I cringe before hitting the "post submit" button because I know how flawed this blog is. But at least, thanks to my magnanimous editor, I am aware. Look, we all want what we write to be a positive representation. And we write because we have a story that aches to be heard, felt and read. An editor is not an enemy censor (okay, some might be but most aren't); he/she is a helping pair of trained eyes. So before you ask yourself "Is it really worth the money to pay an editor?" do a word search. After wading through the "woulds" of self-imperfection, I think you'll agree that an edit is a not a bad call.
H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.