It’s a fact: Editors are not your friends. You pay us to be more.
So many times, I’ve received a manuscript to edit where the author has informed me that it has been read several times, “and my family and friends love it,” so it should need very little editing. They send the manuscript to me just to check off the Edit box before launching it for publication.
Inevitably, I have to tell the author that the manuscript needs so much more than a pat and a kiss before being sent into the world. This isn’t mean-spiritedness on my part; it’s what I am paid to do. I am both cheerleader and trail guide.
It is my job to look at all aspects of the book, separate from who wrote it, which is something that friends cannot do. I can tell the author that the characters aren’t fully developed, or that they are a bit stereotypical. Or I can point out flaws in the plot, or gaps in motivation. Again, I’m not being unkind. I am showing the author how to improve the story.
That’s not to say that I won’t be positive and encouraging. I am always happy to cheer, as well, emphasizing what is right and strong in the book. My task is to help an author achieve that power throughout the book.
By all means, let your friends read your drafts, and listen to what they have to say. But before you rush to publish, here are a few reasons why you should send your manuscript to an editor:
- Editors take the broad view. While family and friends might find it difficult to unlink the author from the story, an editor takes the broader view, allowing the story to stand on its own merits, separate from any feelings about the author. This allows honesty without circumspection.
- Editors ensure a solid foundation. Editors do more than just read the story; they take it apart to its basic elements and verify that all elements are where they should be, and that nothing is missing. This strengthens the structure of the story. After all, you can build a glorious tower, but if it isn’t on a solid foundation, it will quickly flounder and crumple to the ground. Editors ensure that foundation.
- Editors question your characters. Too often, authors create characters who do exactly what they are told, exactly what they need to do for their role in the story. But a good editor will question your characters, ask why they are who they are and why they do what they do. This helps to make your characters come alive on the page, rather than existing as cut-outs for the story line.
- Editors test your story line and plot. It is the editor’s task to test your story line and to challenge your plots, all in the name of strengthening your book. The editor will look for gaps in the story, lack of continuity, and errors in reasoning or motivation for the plot to develop. This is hard for the author to do alone, being close to the story and so very aware of where the story needs to go.
- Editors give your manuscript the chance to thrive. Editors understand the effort you have made to create your story. We know the love and pain that has gone into the writing. Our only goal is to give your manuscript the chance to succeed in the vastness of the world.
It is a major, and costly, decision to hire an editor once you have finished your book. Absolutely. But it is a necessary step for achieving what you dreamed about when you started your story. Take the step.