Before You Hire an Editor, Do These 3 Things
Updated: Jun 5, 2021
So, you’ve written a book, you know what kind of editing you want, and you’re ready to book that editing spot. Or are you?
There’s a lot to consider before you’re ready for editing that might surprise you. Is this your first draft of your very first novel? If so, you are NOT ready.
Wait, what? I thought editing was YOUR job.
Whether you’re self-publishing or querying agents and editor, learning to self-edit is an important skill that every writer needs to learn. Very rarely can an author write a first draft without any errors that they can fix themselves. This includes anything from simple grammar mistakes to glaringly obvious plot holes. So before hiring an editor to fix the obvious issues, take your time and consider these three things:
1. Catch your breath
Writing an entire novel is not an easy thing to do. If you’ve just typed The End on your first draft, congratulations! Now it’s time to put your manuscript away.
Give yourself some distance from your story. You need time to catch your breath from the long, grueling endeavor so you can forget your story, at least a little bit. The length of time away from the story depends. For some, a week or two is plenty of time reorient themselves and get into editing mode. Some might take longer (I’ve heard some writers advise six months to a year to let the manuscript rest. Personally, I think it’s a little overboard, especially if you’re self-publishing genre fiction).
After some time away, you’ll notice all the little (or big) mistakes that are completely within your power to fix. When you fix these issues on your own, your editor will be able to focus on the finer details of the story and help you take it from good to great.
2. Get critiqued
And I don’t just mean from your mom, your best friend, or your significant other. Get your story into the hands of another writer, preferably one who is at the same level as you, or even a little more experienced than you are. If you’re not involved with a writing group, see if you can find some readers who are well-read in your particular genre to get some feedback.
What you’re looking for here is what they think of your story overall (no need to worry about misplaced commas just yet). Are there any parts of the story they think is too boring or confusing? Are the character’s motivations clear? What are the parts that they love?
It's amazing how much another set of eyes can change your perspective on your story. A good critique partner or beta reader might point out plot holes that you might not have ever thought about!
It can be difficult to put your story into the hands of others for critique, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to improve your writing. As a writer, it's really important to get used to taking criticism because it's something that you'll have to face a lot of in this business. If you’re not used to getting critiqued by your peers, an editor’s notes can be a harsh awakening for some writers, not to mention readers in the form of reviews.
3. Go back for round two. Or three. Or four.
It might take you some time to digest the critiques you were given, and that’s okay. If you need time to think about their notes, take all the time you need. But remember to take their critiques with a very large grain of salt. If their notes would truly make your story better, go ahead and incorporate the changes. But, if their notes are not jiving with your artistic vision, it’s totally okay to ignore them. Stay true to your writer gut.
You might do a few rounds of revision yourself, one for "big picture" changes and another for simple spelling or grammar. Or you might revision a few times until you get your story just right. There's no right answer when it comes to how many drafts you need to do before you're done. Just make sure that your story is the best you can do.
When you learn to self-edit and do a few drafts before hiring an editor, the editing process will go much smoother, take less time, and might even save you money! When bigger issues are already fixed, the editor can really dig deep and help you polish that manuscript to a shine.