What's It Like To Use An Editor?
Guest post by J. E. Flint
As an author of three books, look, they count even if they are a bit more adult-oriented. I realized that I will be one of those authors who will always require an editor. My first novel True Blue Alien: Digital Memories, was peer-reviewed, and that's it. It shows because it's an absolute piece of trash.
So my first task was to figure out what kind of editor I wanted. This was before I knew my current editor and scoured the interwebs for a suitable person. I was shocked to find that a professional editor would cost me upwards of 45 dollars an hour. And if you weren't careful, you would only hit things you paid them for. So for, instance, if you were after someone to read and comment and provide ideas and clarity of thought is an entirely different type of editor than, say, a grammatical editor, which is one of my major stumbling blocks as a writer. Now I have Grammarly to help with that, but at the time, I was a slub who couldn't learn when or where to put a comma.
I found my first editor through a program/website called Thumbtack. I was extremely fortunate that the individual I reached out to was a retired school teacher looking to supplement her income outside of dog walking. I told her how much I'd seen editor cost online, and she quoted me at half the standard rate for editing. It was done old school where she would go through printed pages marking items with red ink and making suggestions. We would meet at Starbucks or Panera once she'd finished a chapter. And let me tell you, we giggled like school girls when we would take turns reading a treatment of a paragraph or what have you since it was dealing with a woman who'd been cursed with a male attachment. Yeah, many hush-whispers and giggles as we read them in public and reworked scenes.
All in all, it was a great and fun experience. And while I enjoyed this editor, I did not go with her for my 3rd novel. My 3rd novel was a labor of love that took ten long years to get right. It started as a short story that only lost because the judges couldn't wrap their minds around urban fantasy. I got 4th in the contest. And I always felt it could do better. So I started to expand it. And let me tell you, the new editor I found, a friend on the site I posted the story, had his work cut out for him. His prices were very similar to the first editor, but he worked in Google Docs, unlike her. He was in another part of the country and often worked a different schedule than me.
We found in this experience that Google Docs allowed comments, and he could strike through whole sentences and paragraphs and submit a better version. I found this to work better for me. And luckily, in this case, he was both looking at grammar as well as the story. And since this story dealt with Reality Alteration, it was something that would have cost any sane editor a good deal more for their time.
In both cases, the editor was easy to work with, but there would be times I had trepidation of what they were suggesting. I've always hated bad writing, so I would take a look at their suggestions and play it through my mind. Did it have the same impact that I was trying for? Did it make sense? Was it better? Things like this were always at the forefront of my mind. But I knew enough from watching and reading other authors talk about how sometimes the biggest enemy of the writing process is the writer. Where you get so stuck on something that you have to see it in the novel or screenplay, and it just doesn't work.
An Editor is there to be a pair of unobjective eyes. Looking at your piece and saying what does work, doesn't, or can be changed to make it work. If you're serious about wanting to be a better author, then you'll get yourself an editor. It's not against your best interests to have another pair of eyes to look at your work. It is, however, against your ego and reputation to have forgone one. Do you think King or Grisham don't still use an editor? Proofreading can only get you so long.
In the Stand Corrected Editing post, the guest-blogger talked about the negative stigma of editors. I think, coming from the viewpoint of a content creator, that many fear criticism and don't want to see harsh words about their babies. I, however, look at it like this: I've paid someone to look at something. I want them to be brutally honest, I'm looking at this as my craft, and I need to improve. If you don't want to improve or you fear the objective criticism that you're paying for, then perhaps that's why the editors have a negative view. Some are blunt and forward, but that's is more of a personality trait. I've found if you are kind, joke with and ask sincere questions, and are honest, your experience with your editor will be good.
So like any relationship, the work you put into it is what you get out of it. [Note: I'd like to emphasise Flint's words here: it's the work you put into your side of the editing process that will make it a successful venture - not just the money you pay your editor. I have seen authors who write a draft and then try to divorce themselves from the process by throwing money at their editor and hoping that that'll prevent them from having to hear criticism of their work. If you're interested in learning your craft, you will need to learn how to accept criticism. Negative feedback isn't that bad, we promise! ~Hayley] And I hope you put in the work to make it a successful relationship for yourself and your audience.
J. E. Flint
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“One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.” - Thomas Sowell
"Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry." - John Wesley
Wording by J. E. Flint.
Title image by Inadesign-Stock and used with their kind permission.