Four Reasons Everyone Needs an Editor

Writers need editors. Editors need writers, too, because that’s who pays them for their work. But many writers —and even some indie published authors—don’t believe editors are necessary. There are four (and more) reasons why every writer should hire an editor.


Impartiality

Let’s face it. Many writers believe what they wrote is either:

  • The best thing to ever be written
  • The worst thing ever written that no one should read.

The truth likely lies between these two poles. But writers can’t see it. Their pride or self-doubt trumps reason and they aren’t a good judge of what they’ve written.
That’s where an editor comes in.

Once a writer has taken their story as far as they can and believe it’s as good as they can make it, they hire a professional to tell them differently. Or not.

I hired a developmental editor on two separate occasions because I wrote in a new genre and I wasn’t sure I’d met reader expectations. Both times I prepared myself for the worst.
In both cases, the editors told me I’d written something great but that there were weak areas that needed work.

Guess what? That’s what I paid them to tell me.

Not what I wanted to hear, mind you, but the truth about my story.

It’s not likely you’ll hear that from your mom or your Aunt Betty or your best friend. Most of them are viewing your work through rose-colored glasses. They’re amazed someone they know and love is writing, and isn’t it wonderful?

An editor doesn’t have that preconception. They’re a professional who knows what makes a story solid

Expertise

If I’ve got a toothache, I don’t head over to my father-in-law’s house and ask him to jerk the annoying thing out with his pliers. Believe me, he would do it. He’s done it to himself.

No thanks. I’ll go to the dentist. He’ll find the “root” cause for the pain, and suggest treatment options. In most cases, it doesn’t involve a pain-filled extraction.
Of course, it’s likely to cost more than I can afford. And certainly more than I want to pay.

But, in the end, it’s worth it because the pain will be gone. I’ll be able to eat my favorite foods again, and best of all, I didn’t suffer trauma and blood-loss from a self-inflicted wound.

This metaphor plays perfectly into the writer-editor relationship.

Writers are experts at writing. Editors are experts and finding weaknesses in writing and fixing them.

Some writers aren’t that great at grammar and spelling. If an editor isn’t a know-it-all about these things, they’re in the wrong profession.

Every writer can write better. I’ve yet to meet a professional author, no matter if they have five or fifty published books, way they aren’t continuing to learn and improve their writing craft.

Editors have the expertise authors need to learn about many aspects of writing craft. Most importantly, these writers can discover their weaknesses and work toward eliminating them under the tutelage of an expert editor.

Even a solid story can benefit from the pen of an experienced editor.

Distance

Let’s face it, writers are too close to their story. They think they wrote everything on the page. Even when they read it, they “see” what they expect to see because they’re certain they wrote it.

This is one of the best reasons to let a manuscript sit for a month or more between first draft and beginning revisions. With enough distance, you can “forget” what you thought was on the page and see what is actually there.

Editors automatically have this distance. They weren’t there when you conceived the story. All those birthing pains mean nothing to them. All they know is the words on the page.

Never underestimate the value of getting input on your story from someone who knows what makes a great story and who has not connection to the one you’ve written.
However, sometimes, intimate knowledge of your story is preferred. This is why many publishing houses assign a single editor to work with authors through the three stages of editing: development, line, and proofing.

Many editors offer discounts if you utilize them for all three steps. They’re hoping that working with them through two rounds of editing means there won’t be much to correct in the proofreading stage.

Two Sets of Eyes

Maybe you’re an excellent grammarian with an eagle eye. Don’t think that means you can put your work into the world without a final proofread.

Many writers have someone who’s good at this sort of thing read their manuscript before they send it out to agents and publishers. That’s a great practice.

One time, I paid $150 for a “professional” proofreader to comb over my 40,000-word manuscript before I sent it off to the formatter (it’s self-published here). She made about fifty changes and about twenty of them weren’t correct. They were things she misunderstood from the context or outdated comma rules.

I was less than impressed.

Yes, I write clean copy. After all, I edit as my “day job” so I’m able to apply that knowledge to my own writing. But I still know typos will slip past me because I’m too close to the work. I’ve been through the manuscript a dozen times by that point.

Still, I’m unwilling to publish something riddled with errors that a second set of experienced and knowledgeable eyes would catch.

Do you want to send something less than your best work out into the world? I hope not. That’s the most important reason you need an editor.

What other reasons do writers need editors? What experiences have you had with editors?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.

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