Happy spring, everyone! Where I live in south Texas, the bluebonnets are out, the frigid chill has disappeared from the humidity, and I’m finally able to go barefoot without endangering my toes! I hope your corner of the world is equally as beautiful, whatever your preferences.
For the past year and a bit, my Writer’s Life posts have been an extended answer to the question I’m asked most often: What do I do with the story idea I have? If you are new to this series, you can find the previous articles listed below, with all of the necessary links. If you’ve been following along, settle in with your favorite beverage as we discuss the step everybody loves to hate: paying someone else to edit your work.
To many, paying to have your finished manuscript edited seems like an unnecessary expense and, as a reviewer for a book review website, it is something that I find authors skipping much too often. It breaks my heart to have to flag a story because of errors, but I cannot endorse a project riddled with mistakes. Even if you are a grammar genius, everyone is guilty of oversights. My first published novel was scoured by alpha and beta readers, my agent, an amazing copy editor, and a proofreader, yet the first print run contained a character’s name that was misspelled twice. Thankfully, those were the only errors that made it to print, and they have since been corrected. I mention the incident here, however, to emphasize the need to have your work looked over by either a copy editor or a proofreader, preferably both.
Even though the term “editor” is loosely applied to anyone who reviews and/or edits a story for publication, there are actually different types of editors. Two of them, copy editors and proofreaders, are essential for every author, whether traditionally or independently published. Their definitions are pretty straight-forward, so I’m simply going to quote them. According to Grammarly.com, a copy editor is one who checks “written material for grammar, spelling, style, and punctuation issues before it’s prepared for proofreading. A copy editor may also do a rewrite, if necessary, to fix any problems with transitions, wordiness, jargon, and to ensure the style of the piece fits with the publication. This work is known as revision.” A proofreader, on the other hand, is one who “works with a facsimile of a finished product, or a proof (hence the term proofreading). Proofreaders don’t suggest major changes to the text; rather, they look for minor text and formatting errors and confirm the material is ready for publication.”
If you are independently published, you want to take the time (and, yes, the expense) to hire both. If you are traditionally published, this is usually taken care of, however, depending on the size of your publishing house, you may still need to take responsibility for these edits on your own. If you are seeking traditional publication, both a copy editor and a proofreader are a must. Don’t assume a prospective publisher will look beyond frequent errors to see the quality of your story. The number of errors your submission has is almost always considered a fair indication of the overall quality of the work. (I’m sorry if this is a painful truth; it’s better that you hear it now, before you’re deeply invested.)
All of that being said, you must be careful when you are searching for a copy editor and/or a proofreader to work with. If you know any published authors or belong to any writer’s groups, I recommend asking for recommendations. This way, you already know the copy editor/proofreader is reliable and produces quality work. Alternatively, you can go to the Editorial Freelancer’s Association website.
As always, this topic is too complex and deep for me to fully address in the length of this post. What I’ve written here is only a toe into the pool. If you want to dive deeper, I recommend you start with this article by Wendy LauraBelcher, which gives a great deal more detail, as will a general search on your favorite search engine.
Thank you for joining us today. I would love to hear from you. If you’re writing, what are you working on and how is it going? If you’re reading, what is your current book about?
As promised above, here's the complete list of what to do with your story idea:
1. Write down everything you know about the story idea. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything to add. (Read more here.)
2. When you’re not writing, work on your social media platform. Develop your on-line presence authentically, in a way that is genuine. (Read more here.)
3. Go back to your idea. Organize everything you wrote in step one into something with structure and shape. Turn that collection of ideas into a plan and begin your first draft. (Read more here.)
4. Start a website. A blog is good because it gives readers a taste of your writing, but if you feel that you can’t commit to a blog, then you need to have a website at the very least. (Read more here.)
5. Edit your first draft. Complete this step as often as necessary. (Read more here.)
6. Start an e-mail list. (Read more here.)
7. Enlist alpha readers who will give you story feedback. (Read more here.)
8. Once your book is as polished as you can get it, enlist someone else to edit it.
9. Decide how you want to publish (indie or traditional) and study the process. Learning the necessary details will save you a lot of time and, potentially, a lot of money in the long run.
10. Start the next story!