This article is the first of a two-part series on the importance of using a professional editor. I’ll post the second part in late September.
Self-editing, beta readers, and critique partners or groups are all an important aspect of the writing process. Each step has its own benefits. Some writers may not use beta readers, and others don’t have a critique partner or group. I believe both provide useful feedback and it goes without saying that self-editing is a must.
However, if you want your manuscript to be the best it can be, you need the services of a professional. It’s important to know there are different types of edits—content edits, line edits, and copy edits.
Some people use the terms line editor and content editor to mean the same thing essentially. Others differentiate slightly on the two. You may also hear the term developmental edits rather than content edits.
Today, I’m going to talk about content editors. This person can take an otherwise dull manuscript and make it shine.
The content editor will go over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. Some of the things they do are:
- Inconsistencies with character behavior and/or speech
- Point of view issues, including author intrusion and deep point of view
- Redundancies or repeating the same information in different ways
- Ways to tighten dialogue or sentences
- Active vs. passive voice
- Confusing scenes or passages
- Overused words or sentences
- Suggest changes that can improve the pacing of a scene or paragraph
- Telling vs. showing
The following is an example from one of my manuscripts. A simple rewording of one sentence changed the passage from what’s known as author intrusion to deep point of view.
Stephanie felt more confident knowing her father was in the stands cheering for her.
Knowing her father was in the stands cheering for her boosted her confidence.
In the first sentence, I’m telling the reader what Stephanie felt. In the second sentence, I’m in her point of view and showing the reader how she feels.
Here’s another example from the same manuscript in which the editor eliminated unnecessary words.
Stephanie messaged back. You may call me directly. She entered her phone number and eagerly awaited the call.
Stephanie messaged back her phone number and eagerly awaited the call.
The second sentence, although shorter, is stronger and I didn’t lose the intent of the passage.
It’s important to note a good editor never changes the author’s voice. Sadly, I once had an experience with someone who was, in reality, a frustrated writer. By the time he finished editing my work, I almost didn’t recognize it.
To this day, I regret not using a pen name with that story. And even though it was published in a collection with other writers, I refuse to make references to the book on my website. (Of note, I wasn’t the only author who felt that way.)
A good editor not only points out ways in which a writer can improve his or her work, but they also leave encouraging comments when warranted.
I had this comment from on a particularly tense scene in a novel in which a character reveals something about his past:
Oh! Gut punch! As a writer, this is delicious. As a reader, so sad. Good job.
You can see how this help boost my confidence both as a writer and in the story.
If you go with a traditional publisher, they will provide someone to edit your work. It’s important to note that editing isn’t cheap, but it can make or break your book. If you self-publish, it’s well worth the money spent to hire a professional.