Does My Book Need Editing? AND How to Find Affordable Options

What is the number one mistake new writers make?

They send out their work, or self-publish it, without editing and revising! It’s basically akin to going to your wedding in a dress that you ordered for $25 from SKEIN and didn’t even press or try on first. Actually, it’s even worse than that.

So, why do so many writers opt to skip this important step and go without editing their book?

Let’s look at a few reasons.

Why writers don’t stop to edit and revise:

1. Over-excitement

Let’s face it, it’s hard to write a book! Whether that’s a picture book or a novel, when you finally reach the end, it’s very tempting to leap frog over any other steps and set your sights straight on publishing.

I finished my novel, after five years. Five years, y’all! I knew I needed to edit and revise still (I mean, I do some side-work editing), but STILL I was tempted. My particular delusion was to believe my novel was nearly done and wouldn’t take much.

When I learned how much revising I actually needed to do… (here’s looking at you, first 1/3 of the book), I cried. I literally cried and full-on mourned for a couple of days.

2. Confusing the book in your head with the one on the page

I’ve seen this one a lot. You know your story so well, every character, the plot-line, etc. So, when you read your book, you fill in all the blanks or plot holes and under-developed characters with what is in your brain. This is one of THE biggest reasons you need other people to read your book. Let me repeat myself, YOU NEED OTHER PEOPLE TO READ YOUR BOOK.

Not only that, you need other people to critically read your book. This isn’t time for your grandma or best-friend to tell you it’s great. You need beta readers (your first practice audience) to find all the places your story doesn’t make sense. Understand? You need people who are not personally invested in you or your book to give you honest feedback that helps to make the book better.

Sometimes that person can be a family member. My husband is very good at telling me what he actually thinks, and I can trust he is being honest. Sometimes, the person is a semi-stranger or critique partner.

3. Choosing to self-edit but missing the big picture

Many writers are pretty good with grammar. And heck, if you aren’t, most word processors will show you where and how to correct your common mistakes. Some writers think this means their story is ready because they found all the errors. But they’re wrong! There is a big chance the grammar is fine, but is the story ready? Maybe not.

You need to look at your story first, not the commas or whether such and such phrase is grammatically correct. I have seen many books that are grammatically correct and still broken on the story level. Why? Because good storytelling isn’t just about commas. It is actually about characters and events and they way you choose to order the events, and so much more. It is about whether the book you love in your head is actually the book you’ve written. It is learning what is missing and how to fix it. This is why you, as wonderful as you are, cannot edit your own book (at least not without some help). It is impossible for you to separate all you know about your lovely main character from what you have actually written. If something is missing, your brain will just fill in the blanks. You need other people for this step.

4. Editing is so expensive!

This is a very real setback to many writers seeking out editing services. Let’s face it, most of us are not wealthy. We work other jobs and write. Sometimes we feel guilty to spend money on our side-passion of writing, especially if others in our family don’t get it.

Why is it so expensive? Many kinds of editing are very labor intensive. Your editor will pour themselves into your project and work on it for days, weeks, months, depending on the level of editing. It isn’t fair to pay them peanuts.

The time-commitment is the main reason editing costs so much. It takes a lot of time to work on novels! If you are wanting to get your novel professionally edited, it won’t be cheap. Anyone who is super cheap should be a red flag.

If editing is important, but expensive, is there any hope for the writer who still needs it when money is an issue?

Yes! There is always hope.

My top 5 tips to find editing help on a budget:

1. Critique Partners

These are basically other writers (probably poor, like you) who you can team up with to swap feedback. These partnerships can be with other writers you know in your area who want to meet up regularly, or they can be virtual partnerships you find through writing organizations you belong to, or Facebook groups, from Twitter, etc.  


They are free!

Can offer helpful feedback (especially if found through a good writing group/organization and your partner is familiar with your genre and type of writing)


Quality of feedback depends on skills/writing experience of your partner

Can take a lot of your time (you have to also give feedback for their work, which means reading it and giving your best to them as well)

Can be slow to work with (you may only give one chapter of your novel at a time)

Can be discouraging if you get bad feedback or have a partner lacking in tact

Critique Partners don’t always know how to fix something, just that it needs to be fixed

Feedback can be shallow, depending on how much time and investment your partners can put into your work

2. Read a lot in your genre

Another free step to improving your skills and your manuscript is to read widely in your genre. This isn’t really editing, but an important step for any writer hoping to sell books. If you are writing mysteries, for heaven’s sake, read lots of mysteries! And read the kinds of mysteries you write, written recently (in the last five years). Read classics too (I love classics!), but you need to know what mystery writers are doing NOW.

And yes, this even goes for picture books! Did you know picture books are really their own special beast? When you write a picture book, the story in the text is only half the story. The other half is in the pictures. The writing doesn’t have to describe much because the child will see the forest, bear circus, or whatever on the page. Done well, it is truly a collaboration between an illustrator and writer. This is why picture books are supposed to have such tight word counts (500-700 words). Of course, they can be higher sometimes to accommodate subject matter or scope, but they are very hard to write well. Reading contemporary picture books can help you understand this. Plus, nothing is more annoying to parents than a too wordy picture book. The kids’ eyes will glaze over and it just gets boring for everyone.


Helps you understand the expected standards for your genre and what readers expect from your book

Raises awareness whether your own book is at the level it needs to be for publication

Exposes you to quality writing (most of the time) and new techniques, etc.


Takes time and energy

Sometimes it is hard to apply what you read to your own writing.

3. Find newer editors on freelance sites

With the advent of freelance sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and others, you can find editors who are, like you, trying to get their foot in the door of the publishing world. Obviously, this is a double-edged sword. These editors are often cheaper, but need more vetting. Do they have a website of their own? Do they have a degree (such as English or Creative Writing), or comparable work experience? Do they have samples of their own writing or editing? What are they rated on the freelance site? These sites let clients give feedback and rate the freelancers based on several criteria such as job-completion rate, quality of work provided, and much more. You should be able to also ask for client testimonials.

I find work on Upwork for ghostwriting and the very tiny amount of editing I do. I have found wonderful clients who have given me repeat work.


Often cheaper rates

Quicker turnaround times

Freelancers are rated based on job performance and client satisfaction

All money is exchanged through the site and freelancers aren’t paid until contract is completed

Great way to find quality editors who are looking to build up work experience


Freelancers need to be vetted well

Some scammers will offer low-quality work (such as just running your book through Grammarly, or not putting much time into it)

4. Find part-time editors

This piggybacks off number 3, but some editors can offer a cheaper rate because it is their part-time job and not their livelihood. You are more likely to find people like this on freelance sites too, or within author groups. Sometimes other professional writers supplement their income through editing.

My point? There are quality editors out there who may not edit full-time, or have years of experience, but can still be very beneficial for you and your book.


Cheaper rates

Quicker turnaround times (sometimes)


Need to make sure they are legit

May have less work experience, although still can be helpful

5. Get a mini-edit

One affordable option is to purchase a mini-edit of just a first or last chapter instead of an edit of a whole novel. Your first chapter is super important not only if you hope to captivate an agent or a publishing house editor, but even if you plan to self-publish. If I don’t like the first page of a book, sometimes the first paragraph, that’s it. I probably won’t go back to it. (I know, I’m pretty ruthless! But I bet I’m not the only reader like this).

Getting a mini-edit of your first chapter is a great investment to make in your book. Plus, you can see the kinds of feedback you get on the one chapter and apply it to other areas of your book as well. Most of us tend to make the same couple of mistakes over and over. Really taking the feedback to heart and applying it to the rest of your work is a way to improve the whole manuscript.


Much less expensive than a full edit

Helpful to find errors that might be repeated other places

Getting your first chapter in shape improves your chances of winning over agents, editors, and readers

Quicker turn around times


Not a full edit and the bulk of the book is not included

So, there you are! I hope this has been helpful and given you a few ideas how to find affordable options to make your book the best it can be.

Don’t fret! There is an editing option for every budget.

Leave a comment and let me know the challenges you’ve found in seeking out editing and revising. I’m happy to offer solutions the best I can.

Happy editing!

Trying to do all the things… and still WRITE!

Photo by Bulat Khamitov on

I can’t.

I can’t have a functioning brain at 6 am when a kid wakes me up the night before 52 times.

I can’t keep the rooster from plucking feathers off the backs of his favorite hens unless I sew them little chicken aprons which are adorable, but I just can’t.

I can’t keep my fluffy dog from getting fleas the last two weeks of the month as her flea medication wanes. And I’ve tried so… many…things!

I can’t find the time to fix the pillows on the couch that have been body-slammed into oblivion, or fix the door that a boy (most likely) climbed on and broke off our bathroom cabinet.

I can’t keep the little fruit flies off of my counter.

I can’t seem to not feel anxious over strange symptoms in my body that are probably bloating but I believe are cancer. My mind + mystery symptom = it’s always cancer. Reality = it was the burrito.

I can’t do all… the… things. So many things.


I CAN write.

I can be “a writer” if I write anyways.

Because what I really mean when I say “I can’t this, I can’t that” is that I’m saying I can’t be perfect. I can’t run a perfect home, farm, family.

I can’t do everything and be the superwoman I want to be. But if I want to be a writer, I can do that.

I can choose to write anyways, chicken aprons or not.

I can write when I wake up early and keep my writing schedule perfect, or when I don’t.

I can write when there are fruit flies buzzing around my bananas.

I can write when I am in the mood and when I’m not.

I can write when I’m feeling excited about my project, and I can write when it feels like drudgery.

I don’t have to do all the things before I can be a writer.

I just have to write.

Is it easier to live a creative life when my regular life isn’t swirling into chaos and clutter? You bet.

But can I still do it anyways? Definitely.

I’m showing up to do the work I want to do (and the work I don’t always want to do).

And that’s why I’m a writer. Because I write.

Am I a perfect writer? No way.

I don’t always reach my goals (2,000 words). I don’t always write everyday. I don’t always make the best choices and sometimes watch Columbo instead.

But I keep coming back and I don’t give up.

I can’t do all the things, or even all the writing things, but I can write. Today, tomorrow, and next week.

And you can too.

What are the things that you let keep you from the creative work you wish you could do?

How to kick WRITER’S BLOCK to the curb

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Ugh, writer’s block!

Writer’s block is enemy number one to anyone attempting to live the creative writing life. We all know the usual version of it: staring at the blank page and seeing a wall.

But there are two other sinister versions of writer’s block that are easy to overlook.

Version 1 – “I can’t write because I have to clean the gutters”

This version makes doing ANYTHING ELSE BUT WRITING seem imperative. “I told myself I would write this morning, but that grout in my shower isn’t going to scrub itself.

And I really should learn to make jam today, I’ve been meaning to do that.

And maybe I should dust….”

I hate cleaning house, but when I have this kind of writer’s block, I turn into Mary Poppins tidying the nursery. The busyness makes me feel good. After all, I’m still accomplishing something.

It’s easy to forget I’m actually running from the work I want to be doing… writing.

Because, oh yeah, I want to be a writer, not have immaculate gutters that are the envy of my neighborhood.

If you can dodge this obstacle and manage to actually get to the desk and tune out the dishes, writer’s block will get mad and pull no punches.

Version 2 – “You will never be a writer”

And then there is the other manifestation of writer’s block: the ugly voices that come out to bash you where it hurts. The critical voices inside can be almost too much to take.

At its heart, writer’s block is every critical voice you’ve ever heard coming out to dance on your dreams in golf cleats.

And since “a dream is a wish your heart makes” (thank you Cinderella), your heart feels battered and bruised by these voices. It hurts! No wonder we would rather tackle the laundry than write!

Whenever I set out to write, my voices are waiting in ambush.

They say things like:

“What are you even writing? This is terrible.”

“You have nothing original to say. Why are you trying to write at all?”

“You don’t know what to do next. This novel is a hot mess.”

And the one that cuts to the heart of it all:

“There is no way this will ever be good enough.”

Oddly enough, the advice the voices give is always the same:

“Just stop. You should definitely stop… NOW! Don’t even sit down; don’t even try! Whatever you make won’t be good enough.”

Sheesh. Is it any wonder writers get blocked when we have those kinds of negative Nancys driving the creativity bus?

I say it’s time you take charge of your own bus and boot the voices to the curb.

The best way I know to deal with voices that spew out fear is to look them right in the face, listen to what they say, take a deep breath and say, “Okay… and?”

In other words, challenge the heck out of them.

Let’s take the “your not good enough and never will be so don’t even think about trying to be a writer, ever” voice. This one, in my opinion, is the evil mastermind of all the other voices. If you deal this voice a death blow, the minion voices will shrink back into the shadows.

When my voice looks at my writing or my little fledgling idea and says, “This isn’t good enough,” I like to say, “You’re right.”

That’s right. I let myself agree.

Because here is what I’ve learned as I’ve studied writing craft and process: a first draft doesn’t have to be good enough. I will say it again.

A first draft doesn’t have to be “good enough.”

And every time I sit down to write something, to create something new that didn’t exist before, THAT is a first draft. Nobody’s first drafts are good enough. Not Shakespeare’s, not Neil Gamon’s, not yours, not mine.

Let’s consider a writing/garden metaphor for a moment. Some writers plan out their garden, they make neat rows, study seed catalogs, and get everything mapped out before they stick one shovel into the dirt or plant one seed. But when the garden grows it will still be a wild thing with shoots spreading out all over, weeds creeping in, and big ugly cutworms crawling onto the tomato plants.

Other writers will throw a bunch of wildflower seeds wherever, won’t till the ground first, and if the fancy strikes them, will buy up whatever plants are on sale and half-wilted at Walmart and throw those in too.

My point: whether planned out or grown from the seat of your pants, both “gardens” will have to be pruned, shaped, and cared for to reach their full potential. Maybe some will need more shaping and tending than others, but neither will be “good enough” from the get go, at least if you want a good garden in the end.

In other words, your first draft was never meant to be “good enough,” or perfect. Because let’s be real, don’t we really compare our first drafts to finished and published books? Books that have taken years to write, revise, edit, edit, edit, rewrite, edit, proofread, and finally appear as a beautiful thing on a shelf.

It’s like comparing your kitten to a mountain lion and being angry that it can’t roar or hunt like a pro.

This is a first draft. This is what your are sitting down to write. You are planting the seed. You are watering the scraggly little bush. You are not whacking at it with the electric pruners because if you do that, it will die.

Do you hear me? Those critical voices, the ones that say it isn’t good enough, they will be your friends later on in the rodeo called revision. They will help you see which branch to cut, which area needs planting, where to throw some fertilizer.

But not yet.

Right now, you and your writing don’t have to be “good enough.”

What are some of your critical voices and are you letting them drive the creativity bus?

I hope you will boot them off at the next stop, sit back, and just write.

The Key to Creative Success

Photo by HoliHo on

Like most writers, I used to write stories as a kid. Then I grew up.

A couple of bad experiences in a creative writing class with a teacher obsessed with Science Fiction (about the polar opposite of what I write) left me doubting I could do it at all.

Still, I always had the lingering feeling that maybe I could write stories and maybe they could actually be good.

But I didn’t try.

I was so paralyzed by fear of failure that I was stuck.  I figured if I didn’t try for my dream and lose, or have it taken from me, at least I still had my dream. And it was precious to me and well-guarded.

So I felt jealous. I was jealous when people who were pursuing their dreams had success. I was jealous when a crappy musical play about bagpiping and cougars was produced at my town’s community theater. I wish I was making this up. I’m not.

Side note, my husband still says that play was amazing just to get my goat. And it always works!

But back to the point, I started to see it like others got to do things and I just didn’t get to. 

But my friends, having come out the other side of this kind of faulty thinking, I can now see the main thing successful creative people have is something pretty simple: they have a little bit of natural talent, and the tenacity to not give up.

They are people who develop themselves and seek out ways to grow. They keep putting themselves out there and getting better until they become, like Steve Martin says, so good they can’t be ignored anymore.

Successful creatives possess the drive to work hard to improve their craft, and they find the right venue for their natural artistic abilities. It’s not magic. It’s not a special calling or blessing from the Cosmos that says they get to do this and other people don’t.  

So if you find you are jealous of the success of others (or mean, spitting, and hateful), take a moment to ask yourself, “What is it I wish I could do?”

And once you’ve named this, why aren’t you doing it?

No matter where you’re at, you can take some small steps to start down the path. For me, the small step was letting myself peruse the writing section at the library. It’s amazing to me now how much courage it took just to acknowledge to myself writing was something I wanted to do. And then I took my another step and actually checked out a book called On Becoming a Novelist, by John Gardner. A great book.

I think you’ll find, even if you are still a long, long way off from your end goal, you’ll find joy just in moving toward it. Stop plopping in the road and grumbling at all the people who are passing you by. Get up and start walking.

So, what exactly do you wish you could be doing that you aren’t pursuing yet? And what little step can you take today to get closer to it?

And let’s face it, no matter what you write it can’t possibly be worse than that play.

Creative Jealousy, Frustration, and a Cattle Dog

“I’s not jealous.”

If you’re like me, you’ve felt the green-eyed monster’s bite on occasion. This, of course, is Jealousy.

While I’m not typically jealous of other people’s possessions, I have been jealous of other people’s creative endeavors. It’s hard to admit, but I’ve been surly to see the success of creative people, and I’ve belly-ached over why it can’t ever be me. It wasn’t pretty.

I would think, “How come THEY get to do all this creative stuff, and I don’t ever get to?!” 

I was baffled and envious. How come other people could pursue their artist things and have success and how come I couldn’t? And it was doubly worse if they got paid to do it; it was the final straw on my straw pile of self-pity.

As a side note, in case you’ve never seen a straw pile of self-pity, it isn’t pretty.

The real question I should have been asking was, “Why does the artistic success of others bother me so much?”

It bothered me because I was frustrated.

I wasn’t pursuing my own creative dreams; I wasn’t using any of my creative abilities for much beyond the occasional sewing or craft project.

I had something in me that wasn’t being used, let out, developed. And I was frustrated.

To better understand frustration, follow me back a few years to the sad tale of Moondog.

My husband and I lived in a big city with no kids and one aging dog and we decided, on a whim, to adopt a 5-month-old Australian Cattle Dog.

At first things weren’t that bad. We went to dog parks, went on lots of walks, and he was just a puppy.

But as he matured, we just couldn’t give him enough outings, mental stimulation, and exercise. And make no mistake, a dog bred specifically to herd cattle for 10 hours a day in the rough terrain of Australia NEEDED exercise. These dogs were herding dogs bred with wild Dingoes to give them the stamina they needed, because all the regular sheepdogs kept dying. This was a serious working breed.

But of course we didn’t know any of that when we adopted him. And we didn’t know that these dogs were very smart and needed mental work as much as physical work.

Without this need fulfilled in some meaningful work, Moondog was neurotic. Although sweet to us, he was nervous and aggressive around other dogs and people. On walks, he would lunge at people in uniforms, old ladies, anyone who walked funny, and on and on. He would lunge at kids on skateboards, trying desperately to aggressively herd anything he could. Once he ripped a kid’s baggy pants and scratched his leg. Other times, he would be fine. It drove us crazy. 

We hired an Animal Behaviorist to help us figure him out (even though we couldn’t afford it). My husband often went on long bike rides with Moondog running beside him. He taught him to catch frisbees. We hid things around the house and played games with him to find the objects. But Moondog continued his aberrant behavior (at least aberrant for a city dog). We often mourned the fact he couldn’t just do what he was bred to do because we knew he would be great at it. Or maybe he would have seriously decimated some herd of cattle. Who knows!

In the end, we know we couldn’t have done more for him, but we feel like we failed that dog. And when he eventually bit a man (for real) on the thigh, we realized we couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t hurt someone else. We had to put him down: a beautiful, healthy dog that just wasn’t meant for the world he found himself in. 

When I think of him, I realize the frustration that dog must have felt. And although it is not the same thing exactly, when creative people don’t follow their passion to create, they end up creating all kinds of unsightly things instead like bitterness, resentment, and jealousy. I know for me this has been true.

So what makes you jealous? And what is your heart trying to tell you about this? What is it you really wish you could be doing?

Stay tuned for next time as we discuss the key to creative success.

Little Journeys to Happyland

I love the cover of this vintage book. So many questions spring to mind!

1 – Why is there a creepy ant guy in green tights, and what is he whispering to the boy?

2 – Why are the trees wilted or covered in Spanish Moss?

3 – Why is the subtitle “Little Journeys to Happyland?”

This last one is my favorite.

Let’s face it. We all long to go to Happyland. That’s right. It’s one word.

For some, playing the bagpipes may be their Happyland. For others, it’s watching The Price is Right. For some, it may even be learning the Byzantine tones and practicing them all the time (if you don’t know what those are, feel free to ask my Choir Director husband).

For me, Happyland is writing and getting lost in something I’m working on to the point I think, “shouldn’t someone be fixing dinner about now?” Someone not me, of course.

For the last five years, ever since starting my novel and beginning the freelance writing journey for real, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to get to my Happyland.

It’s often hard to incorporate writing (especially my own writing) into my already busy life. Since I’ve misplaced my magic soap bubble (see picture above), and I can’t find my way to Happyland that easily, I see my options as follows:

1 – Write when kids are around. Only, I tend to get crabby when I do this. Something about having a 14 year old boy hanging over my shoulder and commenting, or being interrupted 52 times by other children is not conducive to creativity.

2 – Write after kids go to bed. Sounds good, except for the fact this is the only kid-free time most adults get to actually talk and see each other without someone walking someone else with pool noodles in the background. Did I mention I have 3 boys? So writing at night is not a great option.

3 – Write in the afternoon/during screen time. I can do this, and have in the past. However, something about the early afternoon/post-lunch makes my life energy devote itself to digestion and my brain suffers.

4 – What is left?! I can hear your desperation. How will she write? How will she ever get to Happyland?!

Early morning time.

It isn’t perfect, because it’s still early and morning, but it’s my best shot.

When I write in the morning the house is quiet. I put the dogs outside. I get a yogurt cup. I sit at my desk in my PJs. I open my computer and work.

Do I sometimes not get up right away, waste away my time in the void of my phone, and then try to still fit it all in before my 6 year old pads his way into my room? Maybe.

And when this happens do I feel crabby and disgruntled because somebody popped my Magic Soap Bubble to Happyland. Okay, yes.

But when this happens do I give up everything, decide I’ll never be a writer, and wallow in my inability to develop discipline and get up early.

Not anymore.

I let it go, do what I still can for today, and try to make better choices next time.

The crazy thing is, little imperfect choices, little journeys, can still get you to Happyland. The book isn’t subtitled, “Epic, Perfectly-Planned and Executed Journeys to Happyland with no Side Stops or Wasted Time.”

It’s called little journeys to Happyland. Little journeys. I mean, how far can you really travel in one go in a soap bubble anyway?

My little journeys are still something. And they still take me someplace if I don’t give up. And if I don’t pop my own bubble.

What ways do you order your life to make sure you have time to get to Happyland?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

And stay tuned for the next post, “How being around kids (ALL THE TIME) can be a good thing for a writer. . . really.”