A friend recently asked me to take a look at a novel she’d bought for her Kindle. A huge fan of cowboy romance, she’d been extremely excited to sample a new indie-pubbed offering by one of her favorite fiction authors. However, my friend refused to read past the first three pages because “the writing was stilted, convoluted, and difficult to follow.”
She planned to post a negative review and ask for a refund on her purchase. My friend’s reasoning? “I read fiction for pleasure. If I have to work that hard to figure out who is saying what and what is going on, I’m done with that book and that author, and I’m not afraid to let others know it!”
What could cause a reader be “done” with a book AND an author?
I took a gander at the pages in question. I found long, run-on sentences, vague pronoun references, and a complete lack of transitions that could leave a reader clueless about time and plot flow.
All things a professional editor would have noticed and fixed with the author’s assistance. All things a disgruntled reader could use in cyberspace to trash your novel, your writing, and your career.
I know many authors that swear by their editors and just as many that swear they’ll never waste a dollar on one. To each his own, but here’s my five cents on why you should protect your writing and spend the money on a professional edit:
You’re serious about your career, right?
Writing one outstanding book after another is the key to author success. Don’t you want to do everything within your control to ensure that each one of those books is the best possible product you have to offer? Of course you do. An editor offers you valuable insight regarding continuity, flow, plot, character development, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The time to find and fix an issue with your story isn’t after reader upon reader points it out in online reviews or when refund requests start to add up. Spend the money on a professional edit.
Editing your own work is challenging.
Writing and editing are two different mindsets. As a writer, you tend to see on the page or on the screen what needs to be there to portray the mental picture you have in your mind. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily what’s on the page or on the screen. An editor lets you focus on what you do best—writing—while she or he does what she or he does best—editing. As a team, you publish a novel that has readers talking about the right things regarding your story. Spend the money on a professional edit.
You can’t rely on a grammar and/or spell checker.
No matter the hype or sales pitch, a checker is not a substitute for professional editing. Most checkers are geared toward business writing, are programmed with hard and fast rules, and won’t recognize literary style or voice. An editor is not only trained to see errors most people miss, but she or he is skilled at helping you craft your prose and enhance your style to ensure a reader can’t put your novel down, literally or figuratively. Spend the money on a professional edit.
An editor is more than just an extra eye, grammar nazi, etc.
She or he is your partner in crime. Yes, an editor drives you crazy by highlighting grammar and syntax errors, pointing out continuity issues, and suggesting plot and character development enhancements. But an editor also emotionally supports you and your style, your voice, and your vision. Her or his suggestions are designed solely to improve your manuscript. And, with every subsequent novel, your relationship becomes a well-oiled machine that produces fiction that gathers more readers and makes more money! Spend the money on a professional edit.
What have you got to lose? Other than readers and sales…