Written by Sarah Yoon
Every writer comes to a point when he or she grows too close to a story to see its flaws. I remember coming to that point with a few undergrad essays—after many tired stabs at revision, I would print it off and hand it to a sympathetic housemate. And that was only for a ten-pager.
Novel manuscripts are longer, more complex, and harder to dump on a qualified beta reader. Professional editors come into the process when you’ve done all you can, and you need the hard truth: where to revise, how the structure holds up, whether it even makes any sense. You need fresh eyes and a trained mind. Though editors are necessary for the writing process, starting that professional relationship can be difficult. To help you know when to hire an editor, ask yourself these four questions:
- Can I do it myself?
Be honest with yourself: have you reached your limit? There’s a point where you’re not sure which elements are working and which aren’t. To break out of this rut, you’ll need beta readers. You may automatically turn to friends and family. Some of their responses may be spot on, and some might show vague confusion. Your readers might interpret a scene differently than you intended, accidentally exposing unintentional themes or habits. This feedback is incredibly valuable.
- Do my writing friends have both ability and time?
Some friends may be willing to read your work without knowing exactly what you’re asking of them. They’ll hand the manuscript back to you with a vague yet enthusiastic “Good job,” after fixing a few spelling errors and admitting that one of the scenes “felt weird.” When you find someone who has the ability to give you meaningful feedback, make sure that he or she is able to realistically commit to it. Editing a book is a substantial time commitment. If you don’t have a willing friend who has both ability and time, you should start looking for an editor.
- Do I know what I need?
Before you rush to find an editor, you need to know what type of edit your novel really needs. It’s quite easy to assume that you’re further along in the process than you really are—many writers request a line edit when they really need a developmental edit. Consider whether your novel needs deep edits or if you’ve clearly communicated the essentials and your prose needs a look. List out a few elements you think should be improved but you’re not sure how to fix. When you know your needs, you’re well on your way to being ready.
- Am I ready?
Hiring an editor takes two large steps. First, you need to be emotionally prepared for critique. But don’t be alarmed; editors are paid to have your best interest in mind, so you can trust that the critiques come from an unbiased professional. Second, you need to accept the cost of editing. Your payment buys both time and skill. When you dig up an editor who will stoop to a cutthroat rate, you’re likely to get sub-par edits. If you’re willing to accept both steps, it’s time to find your editor!
Want to read more? Check out “Strategic Breakdown: The Developmental Edit” and “Three Steps to a Sustainable & Streamlined Editing Process.”
If you need an editor, feel free to contact Sarah Yoon for rate and service details!