Do you think you’re “too good” to need an editor?
“I got this,” you say. “I don’t need someone else to correct my spelling. I’m good.”
But then you publish your blog post or article or whatever it is you’ve just launched into the world, and you start getting comments. That last paragraph didn’t make any sense. I see the point you were trying to make but … You may have mixed up a few of your facts on page four.
WHAT? How is that possible?! You took extra time to make SURE everything was proofread perfectly!
The thing you missed, though, is that editors don’t just edit spelling and grammar. That’s definitely something you might be able to manage on your own.
No, editors do a lot more than that. Like helping you rephrase a few sentences that went off the rails a little bit, or having you check over a few facts that seem a little off.
Editors matter. And this becomes extremely apparent when you have one, and then suddenly don’t anymore.
About a year into my first full-time job as a writer, our company started doing monthly article workshops. This involved a writer and editor pairing up one-on-one three times every quarter to go over notes about a specific article, in addition to weekly “check-ins” in which the editor would comment on a published story from that week about details they had changed, “fixed,” or improved.
I loved this process. And I loved my editor. (I miss you!!) And when Business Happened and the company got rid of all our editors, I felt lost. When you’re used to having that extra layer of protection from errors and such, it feels uneasy when it disappears. You’re technically sending unedited work out into the world — edited by you, HOPEFULLY, but not proofed by another set of eyes — and that’s tough even for someone who has been proofreading their own work for a long time.
There are advantages to being forced to act as your own editor, of course. It forces you to go a lot slower, be a lot more cautious, and check over your work not once, not twice, but hopefuly three or four times before you hit that publish button for the last time.
But there’s also absolutely nothing wrong with feeling like you need an editor to stay afloat. I personally feel the most comfortable publishing something about Star Wars or Marvel, for example, if I know there are multiple editors backing me up who will catch anything I may have missed. The larger the audience, the more I want my work to be looked over before it’s released.
This is why I don’t worry quite so much about my blog posts. I make $1.56 per month from this blog (thank you lovely Patreon supporters!) and can’t afford to hire an editor. But those of you who read regularly are probably going to forgive minor typos, if there are any, as opposed to readers on a fan site who will comment or send an email because of one misspelled word. (Why do people do that? What do they gain from this?)
I’m not ashamed to admit I don’t trust myself! I write very quickly, and sometimes my hands can’t keep up with my brain. The latest message from one of my site editors: “You forgot to finish this sentence …” It happens more often than you’d think from someone who has been writing as much for as long as I have. I am a human. I mess up. And one of my biggest fears, especially writing in the health space, is getting something very, very wrong.
That’s what editors are for. To catch things like that. Self-editing is fine, but you are simply not going to see every little thing that’s wrong with your work. By the time you’re done writing it, your brain thinks it knows the words so well that it’s almost like it skips right over the errors. You might catch some of them, but definitely not all of them.
There are ways to combat this issue, of course — some suggest reading your work backwards, sentence by sentence. Others swear by reading your work aloud, which is my preferred method when I’m really taking the time to make something as close to flawless as possible.
But here’s the thing about being a professional writer: Your time is extremely valuable. And if you’ve ever edited your own work before, you know that if you’re really aiming to get it right, it’s an extremely time-consuming process. It’s difficult. Editors exist to take that burden off our shoulders. Will you have one when you’re first starting out? Probably not. But once you do have one, whether it’s for a job or you hire one yourself, you’ll never want to go back. And that’s okay. You’ve done your time. You don’t have to.
No matter how experienced you are, you shouldn’t have to do all this by yourself. Could I self-edit everything I write and publish it without another person looking over it first? Absolutely. I have the skills, I have the experience, I could do it. But I utilize my resources, because by this point, I’ve earned them. Plus, I’m much better at editing other writers’ work than my own. I think all editors are like that. Looking at your own stuff is just … nah.
Needing an editor isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t mean you have no idea what you’re doing. In fact, leaning on an editor proves you’re at a point where you’re willing to trust someone else to hold and care for your baby. That’s a big step for a lot of people. If you can, focus on the most important part of the process — the actual writing — and leave the editing to someone who is getting paid to make your words look and sound pretty.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.