I’ve seen a number writing articles popping up recently that say you absolutely must have an editor. It is, according to them, impossible for a writer to edit their own work effectively. They are too close to the work and only a professional editor can see the problems and help fix them. Of course these articles are written generally by people who are professional editors and want work but that isn’t what is upsetting about the articles.
The frustrating part of the article is that, in many ways they are right. No one, no matter how good they are, is going to be perfect at editing their own book. Just on the grammar side of things, if you made the mistake in the first place it’s likely it’s a mistake that’s easy for you to make. I myself will miss commas or use the wrong form of to from time to time. It’s not so much that I don’t know the difference, I really do understand most basic grammar rules. It that when I’m writing I type fast and try not to edit. And when I edit I’m reading something that I wrote I am generally focused on improving the writing not the grammar. An editor is going to have different weaknesses so catch silly mistakes far easier and they are going to have an easier time focusing.
So, if they’re right, why is that frustrating. Because it doesn’t matter. A good editor is going to cost a lot. For a novel I’d expect hundreds if not thousands of dollars depending on what an editor does and how popular they are. Saying it’s worth the price is great, but so is getting my car fixed, buying medication and eating. It’s not that I don’t take my writing serious or want to make it better. I have spent thousands of hours trying to make my writing better. It’s that I work part time and live cheep so that I can spend my time writing. So that 750 dollars that it would cost to hire the editor to improve my book is just not possible.
A nonprofessional editor would be ideal. Perhaps some people have friends who would be willing to help. I’m not that lucky. Everyone I know is so busy that getting them to just read a novel is almost impossible and living in a small town the local writing group meets rarely and is made up of people who have no real interest or understanding of the genre I write in, so while I am certain they would be helpful I’m writing for a specific audience and most of them aren’t it. On-line writing groups are a bit better for that aspect, but you don’t know the people and as often as not I have gotten very little value from their suggestions. But even when they are helpful they aren’t really editors. They are critiquing. Useful but not the same.
The truth is that for the independent author, or at least for this independent author, the only real option is to learn to edit yourself. It takes a lot of time and it’s not perfect. You’ll have some errors, you’ll miss something important here or there, but you can improve your book and sure I fret about my books. I hate it when I find errors, but I have to have faith that most people are willing to overlook a little bit if you tell a good story and so I focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t.