Look at that red pen for a moment. Does the sight of it make you squirm? Are you having flashbacks to junior high, when a teacher handed you back the best paper you’d ever written with a hundred illegible scribbles all over it? Does the idea of red ink give you anxiety attacks?
Some writers see the word “editor” and freak out.
But if you are planning to make it as a writer, especially in the current publishing climate, I highly recommend hiring an editor. I’m not going to tell you all the great benefits of having your work edited. I’m sure you already know how typos and poor sentence structure can turn your 5-star plot into a 2-star dud on Amazon. I’m sure you understand that having someone else read your work can help you spot errors you couldn’t see, no matter how much you like correcting the grammar of others.
Today, I’m going to tell you why your writing will improve from hiring an editor before the editor ever touches your work.
Reason #1: It’s a Confidence Booster
I hired an editor in mid-June. I had been waffling about the idea for months. I knew what editor I wanted. I had been following her for some time on Google+ and knew that she worked on books similar to mine. She has a great reputation in the editing world. She’s the type of editor who sleeps next to the Chicago Manual of Style and geeks out about etymology. For many months, I knew that if I was going to hire an editor, she would be the one I wanted to work with.
For all those months I wished she was my editor, I never felt that I was good enough to be one of her clients.
One day, I saw a post by her that said she only had two open slots left for all of 2014. This was back in June, when there was still half a year left to go. I knew I wanted to get my book finished by the end of the year. Suddenly, I had a choice to make. If I was going to have her as my editor, I needed to book one of those slots, and I had to do it fast.
When I contacted her, she seemed just as excited to work with me as I was to work with her. She had been following my progress, knew I was working on a non-fiction book, and said she looked forward to working with me. Well, then. That’s nice, isn’t it?
If you have an editor in mind to work with, don’t be shy about contacting them. They might be looking forward to working with you, too.
Reason #2: You Get a Built-In Deadline
I’ve been working on this book for 18 months. I have friends who expected a copy last summer, then at Christmas, then in the spring. But all you writers know what it’s like. I’ll write a book! Sure! Then you get sucked in to the black hole of YouTube, and you haven’t written a word for weeks.
Maybe you’re more disciplined than I am. Well, good for you. I freely admit to needing some outside assistance.
Since my editor is booked through the end of this year and into the spring, I know my October 1 deadline is fixed. I know I don’t get to smudge this one. I know this is my one shot for this editor for this book. And you better believe I’ve spent every free moment working on my book since then. Well, beyond writing blog posts and dorking around on the internet for breaks, I’ve been working.
Reason #3: It’s Proof You’re a Real Writer
Up until now, you’ve told people, “I’m working on a book.” Neighbor kids think that’s the coolest thing ever (until you tell them what the book is about). Some of your friends might think it’s nice that you’re working on a book. But if you live in Southern California, like I do, and you tell people, “I’m a writer,” they say, “Oh, me too!” Everyone is a writer. It’s kind of nice, really. But at the same time, there’s this longing to be “a real writer.” Sure, I have some short stories published (doesn’t everyone?), but that’s as far as those conversations usually go.
But in this case, I have an editor for a specific project that I am completing in less than a month. And for some reason, I feel less defensive about trying to convince myself that I’m a writer now. Your threshhold for being a “real writer” might vary from mine, but being able to mention “my editor” in a conversation is just the kind of name-dropping I need to feel validated. Is that evil? Possibly.
Reason #4: You Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
I’ve been writing as a serious hobby for over five years now. I’ve written four rough drafts of novels, three screenplays, hundreds of flash fiction pieces, and a dozen short stories. Some of them have been published. But I still feel weird when I talk to anyone who says, “I’m writing a book.” See #3. Sure you are. We all are.
By hiring an editor, I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m saying, “Not only am I writing a book, but I’m finishing a book, paying someone to help me clean it up, and then publishing it.”
This is the furthest I’ve been on this journey so far. It’s a stretch. I was happy to just be writing a book for all those years before. Now, I want people to be reading the book. Hiring an editor is the next step on that journey.
Reason #5: You Have to Step Up Your Game
Before I even considered hiring an editor, I was halfway through the 4th draft of my book. It started as a mush of disconnected thoughts that became coherent over two complete rewrites. I knew this would be one of my final drafts when I came to it, and I’ve been working on it with a polished final draft in mind.
However, knowing the caliber of editor I’ve hired and the other clients she works with, I realized I needed to step it up. Good enough isn’t good enough anymore. This better be my best, right now. For me, that’s not a paralyzing feeling but an encouraging one. I know I can do better. I know that I was slacking a bit before I hired her. I also know what I’m doing now is the best I can do right now. And I’m excited to see how my editor will help my work become even better.
There you have it. Five reasons to hire an editor. I still have a month left to finish this book and get it to my editor, but my work and my confidence levels have already improved just from making the step to hire her.
If you’re nearing the point of needing an editor for your work, and you have someone in mind, I highly recommend you contact them to talk about how you can work together. And if you’re not quite there yet, I bet you will be if you keep working. Happy writing!