The Single Feather has taken me well over a year to write. However, if I hadn’t had the input of an editor over that period, my novel may not be finished or at the point it is today.
I got in touch with an editor when I thought I was about halfway through my book. The advice she gave me at first seemed harsh. My chapters needed to be shorter and my narrator’s voice needed to be clearer. After a week of feeling rubbish and ready to throw my work away, I decided to follow her advice. It meant cutting out a great deal of what I’d written and thinking more deeply about the plot and what I was trying to achieve.
When my first draft was complete, I again sent it back to my editor who provided me with invaluable advice. It was like receiving an advanced creative writing/grammar and novel-writing lesson. She pointed out areas I could improve as well as providing me with the reassurance the novel was coming together well. I then spent a further four to six month period rewriting and self editing before sending it back to her for the final edit/proof read.
Having an editor means having an objective pair of eyes, guiding and supporting you throughout your writing journey. As writers we often look at our work with a sense of pride. After all, if you’ve spent over a year on a piece of work, why not feel proud?
Sometimes, this pride can block out our own ability to spot areas that need improving in our work.
This is where an editor can help.
So what about self editing – surely this is a cheaper option?
Some writers self edit as they work, and some edit once they’ve finished. There are plenty of useful books to help with self editing. Three favourites of mine are:-
The Elements of Style by William Strunk JR and E.B. White
Revision and Self Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell
The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel by Robert J. Ray
Magazines such as The Writing Magazine often have articles about editing. In the September edition 2013, Margaret James has written a useful article with some sensible guidance.
Although self editing can help improve your novel, if you plan to send it out to agents or publishers or want to self-publish, you should really think hard about employing an editor. We all know getting published is becoming harder and harder. Don’t lessen your chances by a poorly edited novel. Yes, the publisher may require you to make further edits when they’re interested, but if your novel has holes in it, it may not get to this stage.
Likewise, if you are self publishing, readers will be more likely to read further books by you, if they’ve enjoyed your first novel. A novel, that needed further work, will turn them off. Some self published books go on to become traditionally published, so give your novel a fighting chance!
Editors do cost money and it’s important to find someone you can work well with. Someone who ‘gets’ your book and is up front about all the costs and what they’ll provide for the money. My editor is an author herself and also edits as well as teaches. Spend time researching what the different editors offer.
Do you use an editor or self edit? Let me know what you think about the process, it will be great hearing from you!