Working With An Editor
When I think of an editor, I picture an old person hunched over a desk with stacks of paper in massive organized piles. They magically know how to spell every single word, have the entire thesaurus memorized and they have all the knowledge in the universes. Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, they find every single mistake and they never sleep.
In some ways, this far-out description is true. Editors do find most mistakes and they are relentless in this effort. However, they are much more than that. They check facts, look at flow, move sections around, check logic, change descriptions, delete junk and make comments.
Authors write from their single perspective and this is the really good editors take over. For example, an author might use the word “trippy” 5 times on each page. Of course, this reads just fine to the author. The editor would see this tick and reduce this word use. The result is that the reader isn’t annoyed by word overuse. This is part of an overall effort to develop a universally appreciated document.
This example also highlights a major failing of programs like Grammarly. An author could write trippy in every sentence and as long as it’s grammatically correct, all would be fine. One of my habits is to describe something and two sentences later, I describe the same thing again. I’m not sure why I do this, I guess, it’s my logical nature. Programs like Grammarly would never catch this mistake. I have read many posts about how editors are now obsolete because of programs like Grammarly. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Editors also have to look at the structure, flow and overall tone. They might delete sentences, move them around and add comments. For example, “Expand this section. More about the motivation. This doesn’t make any sense. Unnecessary, consider deleting.” They also check facts and logic. For example, “WWII ended in 1955.” A simple mistake like that would really upset readers. Programs like Grammarly will never be able to know what to do with a sentence like that. Does this story contain an alternate reality where this is a true statement? Is this statement from a student that incorrectly answered a question? Or is it a genuine mistake? Either way, it’s essential to prevent major mistakes from reaching the reader's eyes.
There is, of course, a downside to working with an editor. First, they make me depressed that my grammar isn’t better. They also bland the overall tone. An author might write a great colloquialism, “Dis is a funky-fresh day. Yo!!” The editor changes it to, “This is a nice day.” To me, their efforts take away the edge, but the result is much more universally understandable.
To me, the worst part of working with an editor is when they confront you with the fact that something just isn’t working. You have failed as a writer and it’s a really hard pill to swallow. My only condolence is that in life, the hardest lessons are the most important.
It is essential to locate a good editor. I looked up many reviews before selecting one. Editors are people and they have quirks, strong opinions, ethics and they make mistakes. To further complicate matters, an author can work with 2 or 3 of them. One editor thinks a sentence should read one way and the other likes it another way. The author turns into a rag doll that is just trying to get a book out.
Another difficult part of working with an editor is that they are expensive. Typically $40-75 per hour. As a self-published author, this expense represents a major burden. However, to be taken seriously, good editing is essential.
There are some ways to reduce editing costs. The first is to self-edit a lot. This means going over your work at least 20 times. The second is to show your work to friends. Even if they don’t have a writing background, they can be extremely useful. You want comments like, “This section doesn’t make any sense. Why did Bob leave the house? You keep saying trippy.” These comments are gold mines. The result is a more powerful document that the editor can better apply their skills instead of mucking about with trivial stuff.
Editors are a writer’s best friend. They make the difference between a rabble of words and a polished document.
You’re the best -Bill
October 17, 2018
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