I love a good fairy tale, don’t you? A fantastic story that stretches the imagination, teaches life lessons and contains a happy ending is something that can be enjoyed by anyone at any age, any time. But some things are just too good to be true.
I believe that editing your own book falls into this category.
So your mother was a grammarian and your father a professor of modern world lit, so what? I don’t care if your modifiers are never misplaced and your use of affect vs. effect is perfect. If you won gold medals for having the most descriptive writing and never repeat an adjective—bully for you. It still doesn’t mean you should tackle your own editing.
I hear the rally cries of all you indies out there. I’m not knocking your work, really I’m not. It takes a wheelbarrow load of moxie to produce a novel from beginning to end, cover art, isbn and all. I appreciate the talent and the thick skin; but, as a writer and a book reviewer I can tell you the mistakes are plentiful and obvious. I have never claimed to be an editor of even the lowest level. If I can spot the errors so can the general reading public. Furthermore, since not all readers are writers (hard to believe, I know) they are far less forgiving in their judgment.
Let’s move past the grammar issue. Let’s talk quality of work (I’m making friends left and right here, I can just feel it). A good editor has the skill set to trim your story, fleshing out the meat from the bone. With the precision of a highly trained surgeon they will remove all extraneous material, turning your brilliant, albeit rough ideas into a highly polished gem worthy of hanging in Elizabeth Taylor’s (God rest her soul) cleavage . They can spot even the tiniest head hop. They will call bullsh*t if your character does something…well out of character. They will teach you how to show instead of tell.
They are an invaluable tool. I argue an absolute must on your first run.
I’m not advocating that you shell out big bucks to have your book edited. If you’re independently wealthy, go for it. The rest of us can join a writers group or find an English teacher looking for a project. Community colleges are overflowing with students in journalism/creative writing/English majors that would relish the opportunity to have their name listed inside the cover of a published book. Don’t forget the huge boom in small publishing. The good ones will give you a complete package with a thoroughly professional product at no charge. If they want money…run. Never, ever, pay a publisher to put out your work.
There is no guarantee that your book will turn out perfect. A contract with Double Day doesn’t make you immune to a misplaced comma. Even the big dogs make mistakes. I’m just saying, your book is your baby. Give it everything it deserves, including a good editor.
Food for thought-
Elsie Love lives in the western suburbs, a mere stone’s throw from the great city of Chicago. She resides in her garden cottage with her husband, children, and numerous animals that require constant care.
Confessions of a PTA Mafia Mom is her third novel. Her fourth book, Sixty Pounds of Sh*t & Counting, is a work in progress and should be ready by next spring.
In her spare time, Elsie lunches with the ladies, vacuums, and dreams of running away to paradise to live as a woman of luxury and extravagant means.