Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why You Need An Editor

Do I need an editor?

That's a question asked by a lot of Indie writers. I come down firmly on the "yes" side of the debate. Every writer must have an editor...but not for the reasons you think.

Sure, you need someone to check your spelling, grammar, and all that technical stuff. But, there are software programs to help with that. You don't need a grammarian; you need an editor.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons Every Writer Needs an Editor

1) Characters

As writers, we love 'em and hate 'em. Because we build such an attachment to these people we've created, we don't always see them clearly. A fresh pair of eyes (editor's) looking at your manuscript can uncover character development problems. An editor can also help you find hidden opportunities.

Example: My editor, while reviewing Undead Bar Association Book 3 (Binding Deceit, available April 22), developed a deep-seated hatred for a secondary character. This character is simply a part of the tapestry that makes up the main character's background. I did not design the character to be loved or hated, and never thought about the character in those emotional terms.

After learning my editor's feelings for the character, I stepped back and re-examined my design and execution. I decided two things: First, I needed to make the character a little more sympathetic. Second, well...let's just say, I'm scheming. My editor's reaction gave me an idea that's impacted the rest of the series outline. And, an idea of that magnitude is something you can't come up with alone. I don't care how great a writer you are or how great you think you are - two heads are better than one.

2) The Horror of Auto-Correct

Sometimes, you need an editor to save you from bad the grammar / spelling software did, when the software thought it was doing good.

Editor: Why is there a cockpit?

Me: What? Where?

Editor (pointing to page): Nick just pulled a cockpit out of his pocket.

Me: Oh. That should be lock-pick. A lock-picking kit.

Editor: That is definitely not what this says.

Error caught and fixed. Also, new joke added to a growing list of humor items gleaned from the editing process. Is that a cockpit in your pocket, or...

You can guess the rest.

3) When Your Cup Runneth Over

Every published series writer hits a point where there is just too much happening inside their head. Your mind is a vessel, it's full to the brim, and something must spill out. This is the moment when the writer must share their ideas with someone. It's MTT - Must Talk Time.

Problem is, if you force your MTT on family and friends, there's a good chance you'll alienate them. The people closest to you don't live in your fictional world like you do. Some of them don't even want to visit. They want to interact with you, the person, not you, the person inventing people and events. And, this is a good thing. Personal relationships keep you real, and that keeps your writing real. You need to hold onto your family and friends, and you do that by not drowning them in your writing overflow.

An editor, on the other hand, wants and needs to know more about your characters and worlds. This is especially important if you're writing a series. Your editor needs to know where your thoughts are going, so they can help your writing arrive at the planned destination.

Bring those MTTs to your editor. Family and friends will be grateful. And, you'll get the pleasure of sharing your ideas with someone who actually wants to hear them.

4) Style? Really?

Every writer, if they stick with the craft, develops their own distinct voice...their style. But, it's tricky. If you focus on developing style, trying to force it to happen, you'll blow it. At best, you'll end up a shadowy imitation of writers you want to emulate. You'll never find yourself.

How do you develop your own style? You keep writing, and one day, your editor tells you it's happened. Not in so many words; really, you have to read between the lines. But, it is your editor who lets you know.

Editor: I highlighted those two lines because they're not your style. They're hackneyed.

Me: Really? Thank you!

Editor: Did you just thank me for telling you to re-write something?

Me: No. You just told me I have style! And, you said I'm not a hack! Thank you.

Editor: Right. So, don't write like a hack. Write like you.

If you asked me to describe my writing style, I'm not sure I could do it. My editor could. Even better, she tells me when I'm not being true to it.

5. Accountability, and Scarcity's Joy.

You need an editor to keep you on schedule. Yes, it's annoying to have someone say, "The draft is due in a month. How's it coming? It's due in a week. It's due tomorrow. It's due today...and that means within normal business hours, not by midnight."

But, this is an annoyance every writer needs.

It's not just about sticking to a publishing schedule. Setting a deadline and sticking to it can make you a better writer, because it makes a key resource - time - into a scarce resource. When something's scarce, people use it carefully and thoughtfully. Have you ever heard someone say, "I work better under pressure?" This is what they mean. They've made time a scarce resource, and they're using it more effectively than if they had all the time in the world.

An editor will remind you just how scarce time can be.

There you are; the top 5 reasons you need an editor. Swallow your pride and get one. Your writing will thank you.

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