When I tell people I’m a writer, 80% of the time, they tell me about their literary masterpiece that’s languishing in a drawer and would benefit from my professional editing expertise. I graciously refuse, 100% of the time.
Writing and editing are separate and different skill sets. The editor’s job is to turn the writer’s dross into a vaguely coherent piece. They are editorial trouble-shooters, flagging up and dealing with structural and grammatical gaps in the writer’s work. They look at the writer’s work with an objective and expert eye, and proceed to tell the writer how to fix it. It goes without saying that writers cannot objectively edit their own work because they are too close to it. And beware the friend who tells you they love reading, which makes them the perfect person to review your work. They mean well, but if I were you, I would give them a wide berth.
Good editors are hard, but not impossible to find. If you’re looking for one, start by going through the Society for Editors & Proofreaders (Sfep) directory. Each entry is detailed with the editor’s area of expertise and Sfep’s membership level, so you can be sure that your ‘masterpiece’ will be in safe hands.
How do you know your book is ready for editing?
In the first place, don’t email your first draft to an editor. When you finish writing your book, take time off (a week or two, however long you need), then go through the manuscript, slowly. You’ll find yourself doing some rewriting as you go along. This is completely natural, as you’re looking at your work with fresh eyes. If you don’t already, you may want to use an online proofreader such as Grammarly, to help you with your self-edit.
Leave the manuscript again for a few days, before going through it (again) and making further amendments. Leave (again) and do a final read through. Then, it’s ready to be ready to be sent to the editor.
Also published on Medium.