Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
In Shakespeare’s Richard III, the king famously begs for a horse so he can join in the fight to save a war by proclaiming, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.” Woe unto the king, who is about to lose his kingdom for want of a horse. Authors, too, might well cry for an integral player in a book’s (and career”s) success, “An editor, an editor, my career for an editor.”
A few weeks ago I launched into a novel I had been eager to start. But by the time I had reached page 10, I was wondering if it would be presumptuous for me to write an email to the acquisitions editor (to whom I’ve sold a number of projects) to gently mention the three glaring grammatical errors that tweaked my nose out of shape and interrupted my appreciation of the book: the word “unique” with a modifier; a dangling participle that changed the meaning of a sentence; and a misused noun.
I know not everyone would find these errors worthy of proclaiming a kingdom lost, but haven’t you read a book and wondered how the editor could have allowed the shambles of that manuscript to be typeset? I belong to a local book club, and as the only person who works in publishing, I’m often left trying to explain to the group how a disjointed text ended up being published. Uh…
That lack of editorial skill and oversight doesn’t occur just in publishing houses but also among free-lance editors. A wise writer knows his or her weaknesses, and if spelling and grammar aren’t your keenest skills, you know you can benefit from not only spell-check (which too few writers actually use) but also the eagle eye of a copy editor.(A copy editor is adept at cleaning up the details of your manuscript.)
If you know your story could use the help of a content editor (who looks at a manuscript’s larger issues such as structure, logic, characterization, etc.), then by all means seek one out.
But here’s the catch: Many individuals who have had a couple of books published have declared themselves free-lance editors. Being an author does not necessarily qualify someone to be an editor. They are two different skill sets. I can edit a novel, but I don’t think I could ever write a good one.
Buyer beware! Don’t just accept that someone is a skilled editor because he or she has been successfully published or because someone teaches English. Here are a few questions you could ask to determine how adept a person is at editing:
- What editing training have you received?
- What courses have you taken that taught you to edit?
- Who has mentored you in editing?
- What books on editing have you studied?
Before you invest in an editor, take a moment to ask questions that go beyond, “What projects have you edited?” Because some publishers no longer have in-house editors, they rely on free-lancers. That means even those with less than stellar skills can show you a list of their achievements. Keep in mind that the editor you’re talking to might have been the editor of the book I read that was laden with examples of bad editing.
Have you employed an editor? How did you find him or her? What criteria did you use to select that person?
I’m remembering these tips, thank you. I am surely a writer and not an editor. (But I do use spell check 🙂
It’s good to know what your strengths are and not try to exceed them. If only others followed in your path (including the use of spell check).
I was an excellent editor. I loved it. My Latin and French in high school helped immensely. And knowing what is a ‘nominative absolute.’ And recognizing unsupported references. And knowing the correctness of “Give the book to me who am the librarian” is correct. And here is a good one to think on: ‘We saw Joe helping a friend’ or ‘We saw Joe’s helping a friend.’ Latin grammar is more complex than English. Its genitive case is more sophisticated than our possessive. And its dative and ablative comprise our objective. But Latin is more precise … such as ablative of time when. It makes one think on a more detailed level about usage and context. I also was a reporter/writer for a newspaper, and started my own tourism paper, so writing was a help if one writes so as not to be MISunderstood. Goodness! I almost didn’t mention cognate verbs!
Amen to all the above, Janet. Everybody needs a good editor–including good editors. Even skillful writers and editors can be so close to their work that they miss the flaws others can spot.
As someone who spent five years as a textbook editor, I guarantee not all editors are created equal. Another caveat: greener proofreaders & editors may try to rewrite your work to make it sound the way THEY think. The better editors have sharpened their skills through regular, on-the-job experience with a variety of manuscripts.
Rick, you’re so right about new editors, but even more, editors who want to be writers can invade the writer’s space and take over. I’ll never forget the editor who wanted to change core characteristics of one of my client’s characters–a character who had existed through 12 books. Not every editor knows he or her boundaries.
Thank you for bringing this up before I asked.
I’ve always been concerned about editors “invading” my writing. I welcome constructive corrections, no matter how severe (better from the editor than from a reader LOL). I would even rewrite the entire novel if I have to. But, I’m not looking for a ghost writer.
I think a good editor who is selfless is a keeper! I would send him/her lots of chocolate (unless they’re allergic to it), and acknowledge his/her name in my books.
Im fyn, i dont nede any hepl.
I read a book once that was unbelievable in terms of continuity. I could not follow the last few chapters at all, the story went everywhere and then tried to fix itself. There was even a scene where the characters discussed something that wasn’t in the book and hinged the solution of the whole mystery on that scene that wasn’t there. I didn’t pick up another one of that author’s books for about 10 years.
Learning as you go is one thing,learning as you see it all there in black and white is another.
I know who I’d want to edit my MS, I just need to find the spare (hahahah!) moolah to do it.
(Moolah is Greek for ‘viable currency’)
Jennifer, wow, that book you managed to muddle your way through sounds unbelievable. I’m surprised you ever returned to read that author. My kingdom for a good editor indeed.
I haven’t hired a freelance editor, but I’ve considered it many times. Like Jennifer, I’m looking for the extra cash in our budget for the services. It comes down to this: do I go to a writing conference, or do I hire an editor? When the day comes for me to look for an editor, I would start by asking my writing friends for their suggestions and then move on from there.
Heather Day Gilbert
That’s a good plan, Gabrielle. Word of mouth is the best way to find a great editor. Though there is a Christian editor’s network, and they’re all highly qualified. But you’re right–conference or editor? Hard choice to make when you’re trying to get your foot in the door!
Gabrielle, deciding between a conference and an editor is a hard choice, and I don’t know where you are in the process of pitching/showing your work. If you’ve shown your work, and the idea interests editors but you aren’t getting a foothold beyond that, it might be time to go the editor route.
And while writer friends are a good place to start looking for an editor, don’t just go with someone because a friend make the recommendation. Ask the hard questions.
Thank you for the great pointers, Janet. I have debated over hiring an editor, but some I have seen don’t have any more credentials than I do. In fact, I’ve joked with my husband about starting my own free-lance editing business, but I’m not certain how to convince anyone I’m qualified. I’m sure there are some great free-lance editors out there. Now I have your questions to help me find them.
Meghan, I’m glad my questions can be a starting point for you as you hunt for the editor who’s a good fit with you and your genre. (Which are two aspects of finding an editor I didn’t have space to write about but are also very important.)
An acquisitions editor once told me my manuscript had promise, but could use a developmental editor’s touch. She recommended several and I’m always happy when I have the chance to sing the praises of the one I hired. Jamie Chavez (jamiechavez.com) is not only an excellent editor, she’s a teacher and an all around lovely person. She edited my first chapter (all I could afford) and gave me sound advice that I was able to apply to the whole manuscript. I wasn’t very savvy when I set out to find an editor, thank goodness I got a solid recommendation from a trusted professional!
Sarah, thankfully the acquisitions editor steered you in a great direction. Jamie Chavez is on my “favorites” list. She’s all you said and more.
I’m blushing. Thank you! 🙂
Within the last year I have started two heavily anticipated books only to be disappointed by the quality of editing. The first I was unable to complete because I could not stop wondering how it had come to be on the printed page in the form it was presented. Sometimes I forget how crucial good editing is until I run across less-than good editing. On that note…
I have been blessed to know a woman in my critique group who has not only an eagle eye for grammar and spelling (etc.) but who also has killer instincts in the department of developmental editing. I have never hired her formally, but I have played witness to her critiques transforming and strengthening many writers over the years, myself included. When it comes time to seek out professional editing, her advice will be the first place I turn.
Mindy, how fortunate your critique group is to have an editorially-oriented member. God bless her for all she contributes.
As a technical writer for an engineering company, besides writing documents I have edit more than my share of documents that I am not the author. I always have all all the bells and whistles turned on in Microsoft Word to pick up any issues. I am amazed at how many people, including other tech writers/editors, who don’t turn on the bells and whistles.
Also, I worked on one project where all they wanted me to do was to correct the formatting and the spell checks. I was not to correct anything else, which at times drove me nuts. Part of this was due to time constraints. But I was told to let stand what the engineers wrote and if was crap then it was crap. (Yes there were times, I would make corrections on the fly but not too many.)
Microsoft Word’s bells and whistles are a great help, but sometimes you have to know grammar and spelling to realize the software didn’t understand the sentence you just wrote and is directing you incorrectly.
So true. Microsoft Word does not recognize a lot of engineering terms and the grammer associated with those terms.
I was a technical writer for over ten years, and we did peer editing. Often certain writers sacrificed accuracy, good grammar, or correct spelling for getting the project out the door on time. But that kind of thing would negatively affect the professional perception of our products and documentation. One writer was even annoyed at me for pointing out inconsistencies in her manual. She felt that was the engineer’s job to catch, not the editor’s.
Scheesh. Some people just don’t appreciate what an editor brings to a project.
Well, I was also a technical writer for an engineering firm and an environmental lab. But spellcheck is quite fallible. It wouldn’t catch errors of context. For instance, braise or braze. An engineering put ‘braise’ in the title of a proposal about a metal element, when it should have been braze. Spellcheck didn’t catch it, so it was up to the editor. And, spellchecks aren’t always up to the minute in spelling,two words becoming one (nonprofit), and other niceties a technical writer has to know to save the day. Spellchecks are not for professionally competent writers.
Employing an editor seemed like such a giant leap to me, but after praying about my MS, it was the next step. I learned so much! She saw things I was too close to see, and was able to encourage and correct beautifully. Admittedly, I had to swallow hard a few times, but I’m sure my work is better for it.
Jen, thanks for bringing up the issue of the affect reading the edits can have on you. I’ve written a couple of books and hundreds of magazine articles, and I generally had to let the manuscript sit for a day or two after reading the comments. While I saw that the manuscript was better for the work done, it was hard to admit that, as a writer, I was too close to my work to see how much help it needed. A cooling off period after that first read is highly recommended!
I am a copy editor. I edited for years for a big metropolitan paper before I went overseas, and now I’m in the States again – copy editing again, this time from my own home. But it is writing, not editing, that is my passion. I find that it quite difficult to edit my own writing. I’m too close to it. I have spent too much time crafting the sentence to flavor it with the right emotional punch to be able to objectively tell you it glaringly needs a common in the middle of it. I can easily do that for someone else’s sentence, but not my own. I’m a bit better at it if I put my manuscript down for a few months and come back to it with an “editor’s eye,” but even then I find myself too often blind to the grammar blunders as I jump right in to rewrite those words to make them sing. So, when I’m finally finished with this manuscript, I will definitely be looking for another good copy editor before I submit it.
Leia, your statements coincide with my point that editing and writing are two different skill sets. Some people were never meant to be editors. They can’t think like an editor; they can only think like a writer. So, if they take on an editing job, they’ll rewrite the copy rather than edit it. That’s why authors who hang out editors’ shingles seldom have the skills to do the job well.
Leia, I hear you when you say how hard it is to edit our own work. My mind often sees what I “meant” to say, rather than what is actually there. And I agree that putting the manusript aside for awhile and coming back makes a big difference. My critique partners often comment on how “clean” my writing is, but they do find some things that I compleletly missed.
Did I just prove my point, or what? Common? Hello! COMMA
He-he. 🙂 I’ve done that many times too. 🙂
This whole conversation is dangerous, as some of us declare ourselves editors and then type glaring errors in our comments. Let’s just agree to spread gobs of grace over what we’re writing here, okay?
“Gobs of Grace”…..ahhh…I love this!!
Grace–truly a beautiful thing!
Oh, yes, I need the gobs of grace! And let me just say that Donna is completely right. I can’t edit my own stuff because my mind sees what I meant to say, not what is actually there, which is one reason why Janet’s post is so true. We all (especially me) are in need of good editors!
I’ve been wondering about this topic lately, Janet, so I’m glad you tackled it. I’ve been thinking about checking our local community college to see if they offer any classes. I don’t want to enroll full time or anything, but it would be a big help for me to keep up with this. Even one class would make up for my lack of expertise!
I like that idea, Jill. I’d love to do that sometime, too.
This is a great idea, Jill, and you’d learn plenty at such a class. I worked on my master’s in communications and took several editing classes. Because I was an experienced editor, I did well in them, but I still learned nuances. Editing is sort of like writing: you’re never through learning how to do it better. And while it might look like science, it’s definitely art as well.
I’ve always thought of art and science as being related, so this comment made me smile. 😉 I’m checking into it–thanks, Janet!
I recently read about a prolific nonfiction author who took the Chicago Manual of Style with him on vacation and read it cover to cover. Now that’s dedication! He says he learned a ton and credits the crash course in grammar and style with improving his writing, but nonetheless he still hires an editor before publishing (he self-publishes).
You gotta love a writer who reads the Chicago Manual of Style. That book is like a college course in publishing.
While there are some writers whose prose purposely plays loosely with the structure of language itself, there are those books where upon reading closely I am taken out of my suspension of disbelief due to basic mistakes.
While annoying, it is nowhere as egregious as the continuity and logic errors that some books are rife with, which is why I now get my books from a library. If the novel is not a complete insult to my intelligence I will buy it to support the author.
As was stated by someone earlier, it is hard to find a good proof-reader or editor who will not try to alter the story to suit what they would prefer it to be. Of course, should one be their own editor and discover that one has conflicting views on whether or not to re-write the story, and if so how, then I suppose that is a different problem entirely! 🙂
Do you think the concept of self-editing fits the same paradigm of not being one’s own attorney or doctor? Of course writers need to edit their work, but to do so without consulting anyone else…well, just think doctors and attorneys, right?
It’s interesting that you literally check out books at the library before purchasing them. That’s a pretty damning decision concerning the level to which editing has fallen.
Unfortunately, I do too. I give the books a first look in the library before I buy them on Amazon or someplace. That way I know I’m spending my pocket money well.
However, it’s because of the local library that I discovered Laura Frantz, Joanne Bischof, and other wonderful inspiration authors who write well, tell memorable stories, and leave lasting impressions.
My local library has a “New Books” section where they line up new inspirational releases up there side by side with top 10 NYT bestsellers. They don’t differentiate them until they get off the new shelves. I think the crossover exposure is good for business.
There, at the new shelves, I would pick up a novel, read the tag line, the back cover, and the first paragraph of the first chapter. If I like all of the above, I will most likely read the book. (So I pray I write well myself or else I won’t read my own book LOL.)
What I’ve discovered in the last 10 years is that inspirational novels have improved in almost all areas. There are fewer and fewer grammatical errors and usage abuses these days. I credit good editors and copyeditors for that, but I think inspirational authors themselves are also getting better at their craft, cranking out cracking good novels!
A writer should definitely get outside perspective on their work: even if just a proof-reader, the feed-back lets the author know whether or not the story accomplishes its goal for resonating with the reader.
A quality editor can definitely help in this regard, which is one of the perks of a traditional publishing deal, in that an author may get to know an editor or two over several books, forming a relationship where the editor has more of a “feel” to what the author wants to say.
As for as the lack of quality editors, I suppose that is one of the more important, but less discussed, problems with this changing publishing landscape. Publishers need to consolidate, and thus go the editors. Anyone can upload an e-book, so why bother hiring an editor, seems to be a prevailing attitude amongst some self-pub folks.
Not that I’m particularly against self-editing, as my philosophy is that self-editing is in partly a function of self-review. If a writer is to be able to put onto the page the stories in their soul, they must first follow the rule of “Know Thyself.” Once a writer knows what they want to say, the next step is to be willing to “listen” to the characters, to know how they’ll communicate: just as a writer might need to be willing to listen to an editor, so too must an author be willing to listen to the story itself, if they are truly interested in sharing that story in their soul and not just listening to themselves talk through avatars on the page.
And I agree, some of my favorite writers I found through the library! With so few bookstores, it’s nice to be able to wander the aisles and take a peek at a book.
E-readers may give more total books to “peek” at, which is definitely a nice perk (and doesn’t exclude books that are not carried by the local library or bookstore), yet that doesn’t preclude one from being able to enjoy not having to scroll through menus and ads for junk when all one desires is to read a good story.
If a doctor treats himself and misdiagnoses because he’s too close to himself, he might die. If a lawyer represents himself and does so poorly because he’s too close to himself, he loses the case and maybe ends up in the slammer. If a writer edits himself and does so poorly because he’s too close to himself/his work, the book doesn’t sell.
To me that seems to be a huge difference.
David Todd » Or the doctor could misdiagnose his head cold as allergies and delay taking the right meds; the attorney could end up paying more money to his soon-to-be ex-wife. Not everything is life or death even in those professions. And for the writer, his career could tank and therefore he ends up having to make a living in a different realm.
I have not hired an editor, but I plan on saving up to do just that. Their help will be invaluable in the health of my manuscript.
Do any of you have suggestions for a helpful self-editing book?
Jenni, here are a few self-editing books that I would recommend. Everyone else, feel free to offer your suggestions:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King; Revision and Self-Editing (also for fiction) by James Scott Bell (a friend and colleague of mine); Stein on Writing by Sol Stein.
Thank God for good editors. They’re worth every penny they’re paid.
I cringe at grammatical errors in published works. How did that happen?
I’m helping a friend right now with a manuscript. He paid for editing, and I’m catching far too many errors in grammar and punctuation, so your advice on how to select an editor is important.
As an author, I’m committed to keeping a humble, grateful, and teachable spirit in all phases, especially in the editing process.
Thanks for the reminder.
And, Bill, by the way, writes very clean manuscripts. But that doesn’t mean an editor can’t take the copy to the next level.
I haven’t come to a place in my writing life where I’ve been ready to hire an editor yet. I can do a pretty good job proof reading things, but as has been mentioned above, I am way too close to the story to to edit it well. I guess I’d best start saving my pennies to be able to hire one when the time comes.
I’m so glad you shared good questions to ask when I get to that day. They are so helpful! Does this site offer a list of recommended editors?
Jeanne, we don’t recommend editors, but we Books & Such agents are discussing ways we can highlight strong editors for writers. Your question encourages us to move forward with that idea.
And, Jeane, just to put some context on this concept of hiring editors, you don’t HAVE to hire an editor to get published. 9Well, some people do.) Hopefully your writing and proofreading skills are strong enough to obtain a contract, and then the publisher undertakes to pay for and team you with an editor, who either works full-time for the publisher or as a free-lancer. The trick is to know yourself well enough to determine if you need to have your manuscript edited before you submit it.
Jeanne, if I remember right, you’ve mentioned that you’ve entered your writing into a few contests. Did you self-edit or have a critique partner edit for you before you sent in your MS?
Jenni, I self-edited. And I actually get good scores on the grammatical, spelling, punctuation aspect of things. 🙂 I’ve heard in a number of places that it’s good for writers who are new in querying their work to have an editor go over it first. Janet’s comment is encouraging. Maybe, just maybe with my crit partners and some other knowledgeable eyes on my ms, I might not have to pay an editor to look it over. But I probably shouldn’t rule that out, either, eh?
As a reviewer, if I’m reviewing an expensive hardcover and it’s full of errors (the final copy, not the ARC), I mention it in the review. There’s no reason for someone to pay $45 for a biography and read that the individual “had a warn personality”. That makes me nuts.
People who don’t know the difference between a possessive and a plural just make me froth at the mouth. It’s third grade-level English — if you didn’t learn it then, get a book and learn it now!
As a writer, I honor and cherish the good editors I’ve worked with. I’ve worked with some cringe-worthy ones, too. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that some (mostly digital) houses call errors “house style”, which can get pretty annoying.
As an editor, I provide references and/or testimonials upon request. I’ve taught enough workshops, at this point, that people know how I line edit and suggest and have the writer look at options. Many of my clients come through word of mouth. 9 of my students signed book contracts last year; many more have started placing short stories in publications.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or be angry the other day when a digital publisher of whom I’d never heard contacted me with an offer to copyedit (I’d been recommended by someone). When I asked how much they paid, I was told, “We don’t have to pay copy editors. They should be honored to work for us.” Um, why? And, don’t the door hit your butt on the way out.
Editing and copyediting are specific skills, and the good ones spend time and craft honing it. They deserve fair payment.
Correction — the line should read “don’t LET the door hit your butt on the way out” — this is why I hold my editors in such high regard — can edit other people’s work, need an editor on my own!
Devon, laughing, loving, and cheering every line, including the editing addendum! Way to go, mouth-frothing and all!
Thank you, Devon, for bringing the reviewer/copy editor/writer perspective to our conversation. That digital company that thought the “honor” was sufficient for someone to copy edit for them needs (and has probably received) its fair share of door bumps on their rear.
“Honored to work for us.” That’s a good one, Devon! They obviously have no idea how many hours it takes to edit a book manuscript… or they don’t care. I hope you sprinted away from that job “opportunity.”
Indeed! Your experience with that digital publishing house reminds me of a few literary journals who pay in extra copies. Maybe the reason they can only pay in extra copies comes from not paying decent writers for decent stories to SELL all those extra copies sitting around! 🙂
I do some freelance copy editing based upon my college writing courses and what I’ve learned through The Elements of Style and The Elements of Grammar. I subscribe to the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style and have used Grammarly from time to time. I feel my strength, though, is in picking up inconsistencies. Even when I’m reading a published book, if a car color changes or the dots can’t be connected in some way, I often find it.
I sometimes get a book from someone who was unhappy with a previous editor. It’s too bad that happens, because I hate to think an author has paid good money for a less than stellar job. When it comes to self-editing, however, I’m not great, so I seek out the help of others.
Cheryl, I don’t know about Grammarly. Just in case others are in the dark as well, could you tell us about it?
It’s a grammar checking website. You can find it at http://www.grammarly.com/ It’s a paid service. You can copy and paste in text and choose whether what you’re proofreading is creative text, business, text, etc. Then submit and it will provide a list of errors it finds. I use it mostly for my own writing, as I am a horrible self-editor. But I’ve also run clients’ text that I’ve edited into it, to see if it picks up anything I’ve missed.
Cheryl Malandrinos » Thanks for the explanation, Cheryl.
I’ve hired freelance editors through freelancer.com.
I have learned a TON in this experience, and saved a considerable amount of money. While Freelance and sites like it are not for the faint of heart, it is a viable route to a successful editorial experience.
Let me give you an example: the first editor I hired gave me a kick-ass developmental letter resulting in a much better redraft.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t deliver on the line edits for the new draft, so I fired her. This was a negative experience for me, but gave me know-how to hire a proper line editor.
And holy cow did I ever find the right editor. I did the same with a proofreader: I wanted a 3rd set of eyes on the novel to catch all the things we missed. Freelancer let me find one in short order.
If a writer is willing to spend a modest amount of money and brave enough to negotiate the international world of freelancing, he or she can find editorial services as good or as better than what you would get from a traditional publisher.
Now, your mileage may vary. I formed my own imprint and am publishing this book through Lightning Source and Kindle Direct, so my editorial needs are specific to that.
Anthony, thanks for mentioning Freelancer. I’ve never used it. Can you give us a few guidelines for how you selected editors from the plethora of choices?
It’s so hard to look at your writing objectively! I have a BA in English and JD and still know I’m NOT an editor.
My editor, Anselm Audley, is awesome. He saw things I definitely couldn’t see and was able to offer some great suggestions that really tightened up my work.
Having a few degrees that not necessarily an editor make, right, Stephanie?
And thanks for giving a shout-out to Anselm Audley. I’m not familiar with him, but he sounds like a great fit for you.
Hiring a respected freelance editor is one of the best investments any writer can make to advance his or her career. Although I write and edit blog articles and marketing copy for my clients, I often hire a freelance editor to help me when I get stuck or need a fresh jolt of creativity. It’s money well spent.
I also regularly refer to my editing “bibles”: “The Chicago Manual of Style,” “The Associated Press Stylebook,” Thesaurus.com, and my old standby, “Harbrace College Handbook.”
(I would have put those book titles in italics, but the comments feature doesn’t give me that option.)
Laura, I dislike the typing limitations of the comments section, too. But we all know you KNOW those titles should be italicized.
Susi Robinson Rutz
I participated in a comprehensive copy-editing course when employed at Hartcourt Publishers in NYC. The firm hired an experienced copy editor to do the training. We reviewed lots of practice assignments and I learned so much. I find the mistakes in the writing of others, but as mentioned here, the mistakes in my own writing often eludes me. Even with training, I still need an editor.
Susi Robinson Rutz
See what I mean! That should be “elude” me. At least, I caught it.
We’re applying grace in this comments section. All errors will be overlooked!
Joni M. Fisher
I’m with you on being distracted by bloopers in a book. While Spellcheck helps, it is useless with homonyms. For example: It might well accept this sentence:
The planes flu down the stares.
So, yes, editors and proofreaders are still needed. My pet peeve is plurals marked with an apostrophe–Life in the 1980’s included…
Ew, that one gets to me too. Don’t get me started on my grammar pet peeves. I will resist the urge to add them here, I will resist the urge…
I agree that a writer cannot edit her own work, but she should do a thorough self-edit before sending it off to an editor.
I’m a freelance editor and my credentials are in line with Cheryl’s. I did minor in English in college, but realize I want a more solid editor foundation.
I’d love to take a couple of college courses on editing, but doing it online would work better for me. Can you recommend one?
Kaen, I’ve never gone in search of an online college course. Does anyone have one to recommend?
Thanks for the advice in how to pick an editor, Janet. I know there are a lot of good editors out there, but it’s not always easy to find them.
Before I buy a book on Amazon (even the free Kindle ones), I always read the reviews. I read a few of the best, and a few of the worst. Often, books with a good storyline and writing get a low rating because of gramatacial, spelling, or formatting mistakes. Some reviewers even say they would never buy from a particular author again because of these mistakes.
Donna, your last statement is chilling to an author: That a reader would never buy one of your books again due to the plethora of errors. But it can happen, which is why we love really fine editors.
The Christian Editor Network is a good place to look for a freelance editor. Kathy Ide runs the site, and she’s been a freelance editor for a number of houses. She also worked with Cindy Woodsmall on what I believe ended up being Cindy’s first sale. That book and series went on to bestseller status and was part of the Amish boom.
Kathy has personally vetted the editors on the site; we all had to pass her approval. And just so you know this isn’t a plug for me :), when you fill out a request for editors to contact, Kathy decides which ones to send your information to. And there’s no commitment to work with them if they don’t seem like a good fit.
One thing we all have to consider is that most editors working at publishing companies are not published writers. It certainly doesn’t mean they can’t edit, though. We think of Julie Klassen and Erin Healy who have become published authors themselves in recent years. But I believe they’re the minority amongst house editors.
Julie Klassen IS a multi-talented person in that she’s a gifted editor and author. We at Books & Such especially love her work because she’s one of ours. 🙂
I first met Erin Healy when she was an editor and hadn’t tiptoed into writing yet. She’s another one of those few who is capable at either end of the process.
But, Sally, these are the exception rather than the rule, aren’t they?
Yep, they are the exceptions.
I didn’t realize Julie’s a Bookie. I love her stuff.
I hired an editor (Beth Jucino) from “The Editorial Department” to go over my book before I took it to ACFW last year. She used to be an agent with Alive!Communications.
From one perspective, it was an expensive venture (an “annotated edit”). On the other hand, I signed a contract (my first) last week. I’m going to say that not only was it worth it, I’m also going to do it again with my current work-in-progress. Well worth it.
Thanks for telling us about your experience with Beth Jusino, Jay. She’s on my list of favorite editors, too.
Some wise soul once said: We don’t read a good book, a good book reads us. That’s kinda’ scary to think about – but it’s oh so true.
Now I must take literary amends with the theme of your blog posting, if I may.
While it’s possible for a diligent writer to become mired in the all consuming tasks of striving for *correct grammar, *strong sentence structure, *avoiding dangling participles, *developing a well-thought-out premise, *creating engaging characters full of depth and resonance – there is one thing that must not be forgotten . . .
the only thing the reader really cares about when all is said and done is: Engaging Content. a.k.a. “A darn good story.”
The rest is but frosting on the cake but you should know, I respect frosting and the people who use their special skills to make a great tasting frosting.Frosting a cake to make it look edible is something I could never do.
I would however, never eat a piece of cake without frosting. But then I would eat frosting without the cake so you can see, I am torn between the two. Right now I am so busy learning how to make a good cake, I am leaving it up to the professionals to put the frosting on my MS.
My dog did the copy editing on this response.
A book is a window to another world — the story with all its drama. Grammatical, spelling, or continuity errors are smudges on that window. They draw my attention to something I’m not supposed to be looking at, but looking through. Every time that happens, my bond with the story grows a little weaker, until I fling the book across the room — in Christian love — and move on.
Your point is well taken in that I’m sure we could list poorly written/edited books that got a stack of rejection letters, but somehow rose to mega best-seller status. Perhaps the story does trump all.
Time for cake with thick frosting…
I think the grammatical, spelling and continuity errors are bigger smudges for some of us than for others. And, of course, if you write a spellbinding story, most of us will suffer through peering past the smudges. And I manuscript perfect in form but not in content certainly won’t satisfy us either. I suspect we’re mostly both/and, cake-and-frosting book consumers.
Last year, I edited/re-wrote a book for a client. Once I’d finished the job she’d hired me to do, I suggested another edit – either by me or someone else. Unfortunately, she chose not to because of finances and moved forward with having the book self-published.
When I received the hard copy, I was dismayed by the errors. But even more upsetting: I’ve found several mistakes that weren’t in the manuscript I submitted. How does that happen? It doesn’t reflect the quality I aim for, though it’s certainly not terrible and she’s been getting strong feedback. But now I wonder if I should have offered to do a final edit for free.
In other news, I recently submitted a novel for consideration that I had to finish on a tight deadline. Like many here, I couldn’t afford an editor but I did find someone who was willing to do an exchange. She edited my manuscript and, when it’s ready, I’ll tackle hers.
Might be an option for other writer/editors. . . .
Sharyn, I so oppose offering to edit for free. Your idea of doing an exchange is one thing, but free generally means “not valued.” We, sadly, appreciate what we pay for more than what was free.
That’s a good point. Thank you, Janet.
Janet, thanks for starting this great discussion.
As a former newspaper editor, I think everyone needs an editor — both for the little things (typos) and the big-picture view. In my dream world, I’d never post a blog or send an e-mail that hadn’t been edited by someone else. 🙂
Each of my novels has been improved by strong editors — both macro and micro. I appreciate them so much — including the one who sent me a kind e-mail over the weekend to acknowledge receipt of my recent revisions.
I always enlist the help of an editor before I send a manuscript — and, like some others have mentioned, have throughly enjoyed and benefited from working with Jamie Chavez. I scrimp on other things if I must to afford pre-editing because it helps me so much — or I trade help from me on one of their projects.
I also must give you a shout-out for agent edits on book proposals. This, to me, is yet another reason why everyone also needs a great agent.
Judy, thanks for adding to the conversation even if you had to send your comments unedited (they were error-free, I might add).
I am a stickler for sending clean proposals to editors, but I need to offer a caveat that not every agent has that perspective. Some agents operate on the other end of the spectrum and just add their contact information to a proposal and then send it out.
But as Judy knows, I’m all about editing the minutiae as well as critically considering the overarching issues in a proposal. Judy is a dream client in that she elicits my thoughts and is eager to incorporate the suggestions.
I’m having a good day today. 🙂 Thank you, Judy!
I’m currently reading a novel that was self-published. It seems the author hired a proofreader, but what he needed was a content editor. I cringe a couple times per page. I’d stop reading, but it has a decent plot and I want to see how it ends.
So the writer had you at “hello.” Your comment goes to show that we’ll look through the “smudges” of errors, as Bill Giovannetti called them in an earlier comment if the story is REALLY compelling. I’d so much rather enjoy the story unabashedly.
Speaking of Jamie Chavez (she’s my editor, too), she’s written about the dearth of editing books out there, on her blog site:
Thank you, Michelle! How blessed I am to work with such fabulous authors!
I’m going to be working with an editor in May. She’s not an official editor, but rather a college junior who wants to be an editor. I chose to work with her because (a) we’re good friends outside of the writing world; (b) I’ve read a lot of things she’s written and am familiar with her style and work; and (c) I can’t afford a professional editor right now. I may have to look into further proofreading or copy editing services after, but I’m confident that my friend will make a good content editor for the arrangement we have set up.
Carole Lehr Johnson
Janet, thanks for the great editing points. While I do use spell check, etc., I know I need editing help. I have read numerous books on the subject, including James Scott Bell (which is great). Seven people edited my current manuscript for content, grammer, spelling, etc., but I was still nervous before I sent it off to a literary agent. No matter how many times I edit, I feel like it is never enough. Guess that’s where the professional help makes the difference–which I have not been able to afford yet. I appreciate your informative post. God bless.