When to Hire an Editor

Some time ago I posted the advantages of Autocrit software, and the wisdom found in Writing the Breakout Novel. Autocrit enabled me to catch repetitive words, and I ferreted out problems in my novel when I applied techniques from Writing the Breakout Novel. However, the devil is in the details, and a small press editor once told me that no writer sees their own mistakes. So I kept going through my work again and again.

The time is coming for me to step up to the plate: either submit my next novel or publish it through Night to Dawn. A lot more authors are turning to independent publishing, but I’m hearing complaints about the spotty editing found in self-published books. The books on the table are Steel Rose, the novel following Dark Side of the Moon, and Dead Folks Stalking, a short story collection. The child in me insists that since I edit Night to Dawn material, I should be able to edit these books myself, right?

The adult in me hollers, “Wrong!”

After looking at comments workshop leaders made about so-called “ready” material, I decided to send Steel Rose off to an editor. This will include content editing. Editing any book is a big job, and takes time, so I proceeded with work on a sequel and the short stories.

I went through the short stories that had seen publication in small press magazines. There’s a lot to be said for putting one’s work aside and then reviewing it weeks later. When I looked at the tales with a fresh pair of eyes, I saw areas that needed rewriting. Perhaps a paragraph had too much tell and not enough show. So I did some rewriting and sent these off to an editor for polishing.

Good thing I did. The content in these stories was addressed by the editors who published them, but there were quite a few typos. Had I sent these tales to press, the errors would make them look less than professional. Mind you, typos make it to print in a lot of books. Two or three errors in a book may not harm sales, but two or three typos on a page will. “Sunset Kill,” a tale featuring dead nursing home residents who resurrect and feed on their caregivers, had that many on some of the pages. Not any more.

So why couldn’t I see my own mistakes? I think because I consider my stories like family members, and I’m too close to them to edit them effectively. At most hospitals, policy dictates that health care workers not treat family members because they’re too close to their situation. Perhaps the same policy should apply to writers and editors with their own stories.

Barbara Custer is the publisher of dark fantasy and science fiction.

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