Editing and Rewriting: The role of an editor.

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!


8 thoughts on “Editing and Rewriting: The role of an editor.

  1. Katie says:

    Hi Ruth.
    Very interesting blog post, And well done on getting you novel done. You should be super proud of yourself. I think both is important self editing is important for your own practice and learning to destroy some parts that don’t work even if you love them at first. And getting an editor helps to polish all the things you will have missed on your own and give you get advice I’m sure. So I think both ways go hand in hand. 🙂

    Take care..

    1. electrasmoped says:

      Thanks, Katie for your comments. Yes self-editing and using an editor do go hand in hand. An editor is the person who can pick up all other problems we can ‘t always see in our own work, and is vital in getting our books out there! Thanks again!

  2. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    Ruth, I agree, objective editorial input can be invaluable. We don’t need to agree with our editor/s but that critical feedback can help us see our work from a different perspective which can be invaluable. Great post!

  3. louisajd says:

    Great post! Where should beta readers come into it, do you think? Toward the end of the process or when you have an early draft? I am always anxious about sharing my work, due to some critical reviewers in the past! But I need to remember, as you say, that you don have to take all advice given.

    1. R.F.Hunt says:

      I would say when you are nearing the end, so you can take forward comments for your final draft. Earlier than that, why not road test ideas and short snippets with writing groups. Make sure you are getting honest opinion, so perhaps try out the same material on writing friends. I will also be willing to Beta read, you only have to ask, and I won’t nick your ideas, I promise!

  4. R.F.Hunt says:

    I think Beta Readers come in useful not when you have your final draft but perhaps a draft or two earlier. It is hard receiving views on your work. I had one Beta reader who was very critical, but after a lot of thought what they said made a lot of sense, and yes, that meant yet more rewriting, but it was worth it.

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