Using a Professional Editor

Hi, SE Readers. Joan here today to talk about the importance of using an editor.

Self-editing, beta readers, and critique partners or groups are all an important aspect of the writing process. Each step has its benefits. Some writers may not use beta readers, and others don’t have a critique partner or group. I believe both provide useful feedback. It goes without saying that self-editing is necessary.

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 the manuscript of my first novel, Unseen Motives. A simple rewording of one sentence changed the passage from what’s known as author intrusion to deep point of view.

Before:

Stephanie felt more confident knowing her father was in the stands cheering for her.

After:

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 how she feels.

Here’s another example from the same manuscript in which the editor eliminated unnecessary words.

Before:

Stephanie messaged back. You may call me directly. She entered her phone number and eagerly awaited the call.

After:

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 know that a good editor never changes the author’s voice. Sadly, I once had an experience with someone who was 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:

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.

44 thoughts on “Using a Professional Editor

  1. Great post, Joan! I was lucky to have found a professional editor who was doing pro bono work via a beta reader site. She helped me with all five of my novels. I also used other betas as well as English teachers who are wicked with a red pen. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  3. This is such a needed blog, Joan! Any writer who attempts to publish without proper editing is not only harming themselves, but every other author out there vying for readers. You are right – professional editing is not cheap, but necessary. Great examples! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Joan. There are big differences between critique partners, beta readers, editors, and self-revision. Some people think the differences are subtle; others see no difference at all. But each serves a different purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good post, Joan. I would not think of publishing without the fine work of an editor. I had an unfortunate experience with an editor with a traditional publisher on my first book. I’m so glad I had it re-edited by a person I trust and who does great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I thoroughly agree about professional edits, Joan. Too many books are rushed to publication before they’re ready. I’ve even seen authors release a book, revise it and re-release it because they didn’t hire an editor the first time around and the reviews showed it. Of course by then, the damage has already been done.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful timing on this post Joan. I’ve just been through draft, edit, beta read, and currently revising, but I was debating about a final edit, more for punctuation and grammar at this stage. I’m just totally unsure how to find a GOOD editor. Any tips? Especially in light of your ‘bad editor’ story above!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m fortunate to have an editor with my publishing company, but there are many good ones out there. When searching, I would definitely check references and ask if other writers were pleased with the editor’s work.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Joan- this is a great blog. Thanks for sharing. Im an avid reader and I love a book that’s string, I have many friends who are authors and they have told me how important it is to have someone who is honest and not afraid to help make their book the best it can be. I’ve been a beta reader for several authors and this helps me understand different perspectives to look at while I read their books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tony, using beta readers is a wonderful idea. I used them with my first book, but by the time I got to my second, I had a critique group. With the third, I had critique partners who are other published writers. But still, using an editor is IMO necessary. Thanks for leaving your thoughts.

      Like

  9. Great post, Joan. I had one bad experience where the editor promised he could work to British English Standards, and when he returned my MS, it was full of Americanisms. Took me forever to put it right again. Needless to say, I didn’t use him again. Any good editor will offer a sample edit for you (from a page to a chapter, depending on its length) if you haven’t worked with them before. After that experience, I would ask for that sample. I have to agree that any author should get their book edited before it’s published. Reblogged this on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/using-a-professional-editor/

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s a great point, Robbie. We can learn from editors. Good ones, I might add. The only thing I learned from my first bad experience is don’t be so eager to become published that you have someone destroy your work.

      Liked by 1 person

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