Every novelist and non-fiction writer needs an editor, even if the writer has published best-selling works.
The writer is always too close to the words and story to initially see its flaws. An experienced eye can help point out the weaknesses in the work. Almost no one can write publishable material the first time around. Several rounds of editing usually improve a story. Bestselling authors tell me they go through ten or more rounds of self-editing and often engage a third-party editor before submitting work to a publisher–only to have the publisher edit the work again.
You may never be able to see the story the same way a reader or editor does. Similarly, we often don’t see our own personal shortcomings.
One of the hardest things a writer must learn is to listen to editorial criticism. It doesn’t mean you must accept every suggestion for change. But if the editor is experienced and sincere, do listen. If the comments ring true to your gut then make modifications.
There are several types of editorial help:
- Line-editing or copy-editing
- Proofreading, often performed by the Line or copy editor
- Developmental editing
Line-editing or copy-editing: The two tasks often are interchangeable. In this type of service, an editor helps you fix spelling and grammatical errors, style, and flow. A line edit can be a little more intense than copy editing because it may involve actual word usage. Sometimes the line or copy editor will also do an overall proofread, though proofreading can be a separate job.
While a line or copy editor leaves the story structure intact, a developmental editor can actually help you shape or rewrite the story, adding or deleting characters or passages, fixing elements that don’t work, correcting inconsistencies. or strengthening the pacing, conflict, or overall theme. Because their work is in-depth, developmental editors can be more expensive than line editors or proofreaders.
The fourth type of editorial assistance is the critique. A professional editor reviews the work as a reader might react, and gives you an impression of how well you handle the fundamental elements of writing. A critique might point out areas that need improvements such as hook, theme, dialogue, conflict, characterization, believability, coherence, and overall concept. The critiquer usually does not actually fix the mistakes but shows you where the holes in the story might be and where the reader might be confused or disinterested.
Joining a writer’s group is a good way to get honest feedback, or use a service like that offered on Authorlink.