If you are serious about being a writer, then you absolutely need to have someone review your work, no matter how experienced you are with writing. I recently spoke on this topic—and about finding my voice as I was, ironically, raspy from allergies. No one writes alone. All professionals have someone review their work or work with a group before presenting to the public.
It is especially important for writers who are self-publishing. The rest of the independent writing community wants to be taken seriously, and writers whose work is riddled with errors make all of us look like amateurs. At the absolute minimum, you should have someone review your work for grammar, punctuation, and missing words, known as a “copy edit.” Preferably, you should ask for a developmental edit from a seasoned expert to make recommendations for flow, moving text, tightening verbiage, etc. (all my favorite things to do to a manuscript!).
And you have to pay them.
I was on a thread on Facebook recently where a handful of editors were practically selling their souls for the ability to edit one freelancer’s manuscript. “I have the lowest rates around.” “I can do $200 for 50k words.” “I love to edit, so I’ll do it for $500.” No one even asked what kind of edit the writer needed before they pitched prices. It really made me sad. I wonder if hair stylists or mechanics or mowing businesses would conduct themselves the same way.
We are always looking for bargains, especially when we are funding our way to that dream publication. However, bargain editing may not be the answer. Ever had a bargain haircut? Would you risk it again? Look at your writing the same way. You are presenting it to the public, and though you may have a good story, errors in grammar, punctuation, usage, flow, repetition, etc. may be just as distracting as your crooked bangs.
(I will add that you may find a real gem of an editor for cheap! I got a haircut once at a beauty school for $4, but the girl who cut my hair was excellent. She was recommended by a friend, though. I don’t know that I would have gambled my appearance if I didn’t know ahead of time that she knew what she was doing!)
Let me break it down for you. (I’m sorry, but I have to use math.) Let’s say that you let someone copy edit your 50,000 word manuscript for $200. I did a Google search and discovered that the average person reads about 200–300 words per minute. It would take this person 2.8–4.2 hours to read the manuscript once, which means they are making $48–$71 for their effort. Sounds like great, easy money for them and not a big budget-buster for you, right? But if someone is reading that fast, are they really catching all the errors?
When I edit something, I read slower than when I’m reading for enjoyment. For a developmental edit, I’m lucky to get through 5 pages in one hour. Even a copy edit goes slowly because I want to make sure my brain isn’t supplying missing words or glossing over incorrect punctuation or spelling. Also, I always read everything at least twice. If I’m editing a press release, I may read it through three or four times to make sure it’s clean. If I’m editing a novel, I start at the beginning and read to the end twice. This helps ensure that I pick up as many errors as possible, and it keeps me from getting distracted by your compelling story.
When you are looking for an editor, be cautious. Find out their experience. Word of mouth is the best way to find quality work.
And keep in mind that you are paying for their education and experience. You are paying for their undivided, serious attention to your manuscript. Editors are experts who can help you polish your prose, not just another way to sucker money out of poor, unsuspecting writers. We are here to help!
If you find this topic interesting but are looking for a bit of dry wit, some adventurous editing, and a main character who takes her online dating with a red pen and a martini, then please check out my book Confessions of the Editor Brigand, either in paperback or eReader version.
And if you have ideas for writing topics you would like me to cover, please let me know!