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:
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.
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.