When I was an English major, people would ask me, “So are you going to teach?” I’d tell them that teaching is an entirely different skill (there’s a whole different degree for it!) and just because you like reading or writing doesn’t mean you can teach it or any other subject. On the same wavelength, editing is an entirely different skill from writing. A lot of times the two overlap, but getting an editorial eye on your work is a huge benefit.
Over at Writer Unboxed, Juliet Marillier talks about why editors are important. It’s one thing to be able to write a novel. It’s another to be able to write a good novel. And even if you can write the most stunningly beautiful novel on your own, usually having another pair of thoughtful, critical eyes helps a lot. As Marillier says:
“I mention this because, of recent times, social media sites and other forums have seen a rise in scathing comments about traditional publishing houses, mostly coupled with pro self-publishing arguments. People who make those derogatory comments generally disregard the huge amount of support a traditional publishing house offers a writer, and completely overlook the critical role an editor plays in helping that writer produce the best book she can.
Folks, whether you are self-published or mainstream published, please understand that producing that ‘best book’ includes having the manuscript professionally edited. Yes, there are some readers out there who won’t notice (or who will forgive) your clunky prose, your typos, your misuse of words, your flaws in continuity, your gaps in logic, your weirdly random choice of character names. Maybe errors in your work don’t bother you. They will bother the majority of your readers. Get your ms properly edited. A good editor is worth her weight in gold.”
That doesn’t mean that you have to wait until you’re published to get a kind of editorial look. Obviously a professional editor has a lot of experience and talent, but even writerly friends can help catch mistakes or offer helpful advice. Anything you can do to polish your novel is worth it, and a sharp editor can help immensely. Ideally, your editor would also make you excited about your manuscript and any necessary revisions. They can give you all the suggestions in the world, but you need to craft them into an even better novel.
0 thoughts on “Editorial Eye”
Hi Annie. I appreciate what you are saying and if I could afford it, I would hire a professional editor. Unfortunately, my financial situation cannot afford ANY costs associated to my writing, so I make do with what I have. I am quite diligent when it comes to grammar and spelling and I have a good online friend, who was also an English major, who kindly, and enthusiastically I might add, reads everything I write and she catches anything I might have missed. She also offers suggestions, some of which I take gratefully. She may not be a professional, but I would be totally lost without her. 🙂
You totally don’t have to hire a professional editor! I think a good friend with a writerly background can be just as good–and it helps that she knows you and what you really want to convey with your work. Sounds like you have a catch!
I used to get the same question as an English major! I never understood it.
As for editing, I’m definitely in the “hire a professional” camp. Since I’m investing so much time (and blood and sweat and tears) into my novel, I want to do everything I can to get an agent and get published, i.e. produce a highly polished manuscript before submitting.
Good point. And the most polished manuscript you can have goes a LONG way in getting a publisher’s attention.
I am actually an English major who wants to become a teacher. 😛 It is definitely true that there are different skills required depending on what you want to do as an English major, though.
I agree with S.Z. Williams. If I’m going to publish a novel, I want to have a professional looking at it before I send it out to a publisher (whether it be a traditional one or otherwise). I like to share and talk about my writing with friends while I’m in the process of writing, so I do get some input there, but an editor should know the finer points of editing.
I am forwarding all English major-teacher questions onto you! 😉
Alright! I’ll do my best to answer them. I’m not quite to “teacher” status yet, so I know more theory than actual practice. But it is stuff that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. 😉