As an editor, I’ve heard a lot of reasons why people don’t need editing. Some even sound totally plausible. Typically, my automatic response is, “Send in a thousand words for editing, and we’ll see.” I’ve signed a lot of clients that way. There are, however, underlying issues at work that make authors hesitant to send in their project - chiefly, either a belief that their work doesn’t need editing, or a fear that their manuscript will be stolen. I'll say this unequivocally: any reasons that exist to bypass editing are faulty. An author needs an editor. Below is a common list of common justifications for not hiring an editor, and my responses to them.
One of my early blog posts was about How To Self-Edit. Contrary to popular belief, editors LOVE it when you self-edit. It allows the editor to move past obvious errors and move onto the more important aspects of editing a manuscript, but it is not a reason to deny yourself professional help.
Self-Editing Is Painful
It’s one thing to go over your manuscript looking for glaring errors, but doing a serious edit on your own manuscript is an incredibly painful experience. I know. I did it on my first novel. Somehow, I managed to write every day for six months - but when it came time to edit it, I fell into a bout of depression. It was the most painful experience I ever had writing. Save yourself the agony.
It's Hard To See Your Work For What It Is
Have you ever carefully scoured a school paper looking for errors, only to discover later that you omitted or misspelled obvious words? If you’re like most people, you probably have. When we read our own writing, we often read them the way we meant to write them, NOT the way we wrote them.
I'm Afraid Of Sharing My Work With Someone Else
If you have no aspirations in the realm of book sales, this is a perfectly valid excuse - but if you want to become a bestselling author, this excuse is just silly. The people who buy your book will read it, so why not have it as error-free as possible before they do?
I Could Have My Work Stolen
I know of an author who had a screenplay stolen. She wound up submitting it to dozens of producers, agents and directors, and one of them took the script, re-wrote it, and turned it into a movie. Later, the author wound up recognizing her script at her local movie theatre. She sued the studio, provided proof that they had access to her copyrighted script, and showed that there were too many similarities to allow for simple coincidence. She won, and wound up forcing the studio to pay her royalties, got a highly coveted writing credit and, in the vast publicity from the court case, wound up gathering enough of a following to get several more of her screenplays turned into movies… I’m not saying this is how it ends up for everyone - but there are two morals to this story. Firstly, having a screenplay stolen isn’t always the death blow writers often believe it is. Secondly, the fear of having your work stolen is a perfectly rational fear - but it is far more likely, if your manuscript is poorly edited, that nothing will ever happen to it in the first place.
I Feel Like I'm Giving Up Control
Maybe you are. That really depends on the editor. Whenever possible, try to find an editor who doesn’t ask for any kind of credit whatsoever. Also be sure to find someone who doesn’t make changes directly to your manuscript (this can feel very intrusive, and it makes it hard to see the original way it was written). Having an editor that places their changes in red allows you to easily choose which suggestions you want to follow, and which ones you don’t.
Most importantly, look for an editor who keeps their line of communication open. Too many of the editing services I see online are a one shot deal: you send in your work, and you get it back edited. In my opinion, the field of editing is far too personal for that kind of cold capitalistic approach. A good editor will always be happy to talk with you about the reasoning behind any change they make. Whoever you choose, and whatever their methods, always remember that you have the final say. Ultimately, you are not obligated to change a single word of your manuscript.
Send the first 1000 words of your novel in for editing. If I don’t find anything wrong, I will personally transfer you $100. I am one hundred percent serious.