Neither of my previous books has been subjected to independent, professional editing.
Everything I’ve ever read about how to succeed as a writer tells me this is a mistake.
My aversion to the use of a professional editing service is more than just a reluctance to spend money when there is no certainty of recovering the investment via increased sales. I hate the thought that, once the work has been “interfered with” by a third party it is no longer truly mine. This is almost certainly irrational because the final decision as to whether or not to include the changes suggested by an editor is mine and mine alone. Still, there remains the lingering doubt that, once I accept that a suggested change represents an improvement, that aspect of the work cannot be regarded as uniquely mine.
In recent times I have read traditionally published books, supposedly subjected to professional editing, that nevertheless contain glaring errors. Another reason for my reluctance to subject my work to the scrutiny of an independent editor is my belief in my own ability to spot clumsy constructions, cliches and duplicated words as well as poor grammar. I contend this is not conceit on my part – I am a slow reader; I constantly sub-vocalise, a practice that, like reading aloud, makes errors stand out. Most of my own work is read aloud at the writers’ group to which I belong and this provides a further opportunity to weed out unwanted adverbs and sentences that do not flow well.
Despite this natural aversion to employing a professional editor, I recently decided that, in order to ensure my latest work is the best it can be, I would invest in such a service.
The next problem was choosing an editor. As I’ve indicated, I regard the idea as something between an investment and a gamble. Whoever one chooses from the many offering such services, what guarantee is there that you will be able to establish a relationship with that person? One in which he or she treats your work with the care and understanding you know it deserves?
One way of approaching that dilemma is to avail of a free sample edit. This helps both sides: the author can see the sort of treatment his or her work will receive, the editor can assess the amount of work that will be required in order to improve the reader-friendliness of the whole work. His or her tendered price will reflect this: rather than being a standardised charge, the editor’s price should relate to the anticipated volume of work he or she estimates (s)he will need to undertake.
In my case, that stage is past and I am now sitting here dreading the outcome. It’s a bit like awaiting the results of an exam. The sample chapter elicited, from the chosen editor, such compliments as: “Nice writing. The dialogue reads authentic … Lovely rhythm in your dialogue.”
Of course, such compliments could be part of the sales pitch. And editing of a single chapter is no indication of the editor’s reaction to such important elements as structure or character development.
For me, waiting to receive Eamon‘s verdict is a form of torture. It is due around 5th June. Watch this space for my report on his findings.