Dear reader, let me repeat something that you’ve probably heard before: Nobody likes a poorly written book. It doesn’t matter if the message of the book is valid or even excellent or groundbreaking. If it is not well written and constructed, people will not read it.
So please get yourself an editor. Try to find one who has experience in your general topic (science or romance, for instance), or in your form of writing (short stories, screenplay, novel). Ask for samples of work they have edited. Naturally the pieces should be readable and error-free. You’ll find editorial resources at the end of this article.
There are three basic kinds of editing. Your work may need all three, or only one of the following kinds of assistance:
- Content (also called developmental or structural) editing helps you organize your book, pare down your ramblings into some kind of usable, readable form, and put it in good order. A content editor takes an overall look at your work and advises on ways to lengthen or shorten it, and just generally improve it.
- Copy editing covers the nitty gritty of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the proper use of words (diction). Every author—every single one—needs a copy editor. Finding spelling errors or misplaced commas in a book can turn off readers immediately.
- Editing includes some organizing and some grammar checking (combining the work of the two editors described above), but also ensures that your paragraphs and chapters are properly constructed. An editor will tell you if your character, who is wearing a red coat on page 72, was wearing a blue one on page 69.
You can see that all of these kinds of editing can be extremely useful. But you need not hire three different people for this work, as most editors can do it all. (Note, though, that proofreading is a separate activity, done later on by a different person.) The descriptions above will help you communicate with your editor just what you think you require.
Don’t be surprised, though, once you send a sample chapter or two, if the editor says that you need more help than you anticipated. With her fresh review of your work, she will see things that you cannot. Don’t be offended, and (in most cases) don’t think that she is telling you this just to get more work. Word people really care about writing and words.
Your editor will become a very important member of your publishing team, so take care to choose one whose work you admire. Here are some great places to start looking for an editor:
Try the following editorial associations:
In the United States: Editorial Freelancers Association
In Canada: Editors’ Association of Canada
In the Pacific Northwest: Northwest Independent Editors Guild
In the England, Wales, or Scotland: Society for Editors and Proofreaders
In Ireland: Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers
In Australia: Editor Group
In South Africa: South African Guild of Editors
We hope this helps!