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.