A lot of people will passionately insist you need a professional editor and will absolutely fail without one. So, when I was in my pre-publishing stages, I gave myself an endless pep talk to work up the courage to go find an editor. I was terrified of sharing my work with just another human, let alone a "professional." What if they wanted me to change things that couldn't be changed? What if they said I was a terrible writer and a hopeless case? What if I'd never be ready to publish?
It took a lot for me to even type "professional editing services" into Google. I was floored by what I found.
Editors cost thousands of dollars. Thousands. As if it wasn't hard enough to work up the courage to put your work in another's hands and say, "Here, tear this apart." And yet, some people will still insist, and I mean really, obnoxiously insist, that you need a professional editor.
Personally, I don't think it's necessary. Even with a professional editor, you can still end up with a bad book--or just a book with errors in it. Maybe they aren't a good editor, or maybe they were and you just didn't take all their advice. I've seen "professionally edited" books that still have large and noticeable flaws. It's a huge gamble.
So, what can you do instead? Two things.
1) Find a writing group, or another way to get multiple sets of eyes on your work. They don't have to be "pros." In fact, I think it's better if they aren't. If you write young adult fiction, wouldn't you rather have teenagers reading your work than some old "professional" who's long since forgotten what it's actually like to be a teenager? Think about who you're selling to, and get those people to give their opinion. Of course, if you want help with the spelling/grammar/technical side of things, you're going to want someone more "professional" to assist. If you're still in school, work up the courage to ask a trusted teacher.
Despite who you find (or don't find) to give you feedback, I'd still suggest joining a writing group. Being part of a community of writers is immensely valuable. You can find groups like this either online or in your area. Personally, I like my online author group. We all help to make each other better, and it costs us nothing but our time. So remember, you are there to support your fellow writers and help them as much as they help you.
2) Become a good self editor. The last Tuesday post focused on this in depth, but here are a few reminders on how to do so:
- Read over your book multiple times, fixing different elements each round (grammar, style, etc).
- Take breaks between your reads.
- Try different formats, and read your book both silently and out loud.
- I didn't mention this one in the last post, but never let yourself slip into overconfidence. Writing may flow with ease some days, and it's okay to enjoy the "I'm so good at this!" moments (especially because these can be rare). But self-editing always takes a great deal of time and focus, and that focus can disappear when the "I'm so good at this!" thought enters. Basically, it's one of those weird things where you'll be better at it if you don't think you're very good. Of course, it's no good to say "I'm a terrible editor" to yourself either, just try to have the mindset of a beginner. More on this subject later.
Happy editing, and good luck!