“Why do I need an editor? Can’t I just do it myself?”

Edit Ruthlessly

Edit Ruthlessly (Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

My recent move to freelance editing and my upcoming marriage have left me with little time for writing, I’m afraid. But nonetheless I want to comment on a trend I’ve noticed in several writing groups I participate in.

The answer is pretty simple, in all honesty. You need an editor because your writing isn’t going to be anywhere near as good without one. I am an editor, and I need an editor when I write! My writing isn’t perfect either, and because when you write something you’re so intimately tied to it there’s a fair amount of difficulty in stepping back enough from your own work to recognize the necessary changes. Grammar changes are pretty easy to notice on your own if you have a trained eye, but sometimes you miss things like word choice or plot holes that you didn’t realize you had.

Now, with all that said, you can do the majority of the work yourself by going through multiple drafts, researching the craft of writing, honing it, and then applying that new understanding to your writing. But that can take a fair amount of time to do, and some people just plain don’t want to do it. I’ve seen books cross my desk as an editor that made my fifth grade research papers look like Edgar Allen Poe. And those people wonder why these things are important.

I recently had someone ask me the question of “why is grammar important?” and my answer was pretty simple and straightforward. Having poor grammar in your writing when you go to sell it to others or market it to agents/publishers/whatever is like showing up to a job interview in your sweatpants and hoodie. It doesn’t matter how good your resume (manuscript) is no one will take you seriously, and someone else will get hired. There are no two ways about this fact. While, yes, most people don’t speak the Queen’s English and wouldn’t know a semicolon from an ampersand (well, they probably would, but still) it does make a difference. I know that I, for one, prefer books that don’t leave me itching to go for my red pen the first few sentences in. If I spend all my time editing the book in my head while I’m trying to read it I’m not enjoying the characters, story, or world. I’m just frustrated and typically won’t finish reading it.

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