I like to think I’m pretty good with words. Whilst, I wouldn’t hold myself out to be an expert in grammar, syntax and spelling, I know enough not to embarrass myself. The finer points don’t come naturally to me, however. I have to work at them. I own several books on grammar. Some of them I have even read. Would it occur to me to put my work out into the wider world, beyond friends, family and beta readers, without an expert editor’s eye cast upon it? No.
A good editor can’t turn a bad book into a good one but a good editor can turn a good book into a better one. A good editor can also make a good writer a better one, if the writer is prepared to learn from the mistakes, foibles and bad habits an editor will, invariably, point out.
We are all blind to our own mistakes. We can read a paragraph through a hundred times and only see what we expect to see rather than what is actually there. We might even have spell checked it on the computer but a spell checker can only do so much particularly when confronted with the vagaries and complexities of the English language. It’s perfectly possible that you have used the wrong word, whether through tiredness or sloppiness or just because you were thinking three sentences ahead and if you spelt it correctly, the spell checker will not pick it up. Bear instead of bare, anyone?
If only to avoid such howlers, hire an editor. A good one will comment not only on the mechanics but also the flow of the words. They might suggest to you that changing that piece of information to speech might help readability. They will comment on a set of strangled sentences and suggest a way of making them more readable. They will spot a discrepancy or an area of possible confusion or repetition and suggest you change or clarify it. Suggest is the key word here. They are not going to hit you over the head with a virtual grammatically correct mallet if you don’t take up every single change they put forward. But, if you don’t accept around 90% of their suggestions you are probably not doing yourself any favours.
There will be writers who use relatives or friends as their editors. That’s fine if that relative or friend also happens to be a professional editor but a well-read person, however well intentioned, is not going to have the depth of knowledge and breadth of experience that an editor will bring to the party.
For me, it was a no brainer. I have loved working with my professional editors. Their comments have made me laugh, cringe, hit my head on the desk at my own stupidity and really think about what I am trying to say and how I want to say it.
It comes at a cost financially. Professional people who know their stuff usually do. Will your book be better for it? Yes. Will you learn lots? Yes. Will it be worth it? Yes.
For those who will say I can’t afford to pay a professional editor, I would say think very carefully about what you are hoping to achieve with your writing. If you want to be treated as a professional you have to have a professional approach. So, when you ask yourself the question ‘Can I afford a professional editor?’ the answer every time should be ‘Can I afford not to?’
Today’s blog is the latest in my Flower Seller Thursday collection of writing related blogs leading up to publication day of my debut novel The Flower Seller on Thursday 2nd June 2016 #FlowerSellerThursday
The Flower Seller Kindle edition is now available to pre-order from Amazon via my website http://goo.gl/0Gv8Jg