You’ve written a book, maybe more than one. You may have unsuccessfully attempted taking the traditional print publisher route, or you may have decided that you want to strike out on your own. Whatever the reason, before you head to the post office, or slap that sucker up on Amazon or some other self-publishing website, the book should be examined by a fresh pair of eyes.
But why? you ask. What’s the point?
The point is you wouldn’t go to a job interview in sweatpants and a t-shirt, right? You’d gussy yourself up in your best suit or dress and make sure you look presentable and respectable. It’s the same with your book. You want your pages to be neat and tidy and readable. Your book represents you, and if it’s full of spelling mistakes, formatting hiccups and grammar goofs, it’s going to tell people that maybe you aren’t as professional as you think you are. And worse – that maybe your story isn’t very good.
Meh, you say. I’m good at proofing my own work. I don’t need a professional.
There’s nothing saying you can’t proofread or edit your own story. Absolutely! By all means! In fact, once you’ve completed the manuscript, you should set it aside for a few days then carefully re-read it as an initial edit. But if you’ve been working on that manuscript for weeks (maybe months!) and have read it so many times you’ve got paragraphs memorized, there’s a very good chance you might be missing something.
A funny thing about the human brain – it can trick your eyes into reading something that’s not there. Your brain will magically fill in the gaps where letters have been dropped, and skim over letters that have been added. Proofreaders are trained to read a page not word-by-word, but letter-by-letter – including punctuation and spacing.
It’s the same with line edits. Do you notice if you’ve repeated a phrase, a word, or an action throughout the entire manuscript? Does your hero repeatedly shrug his shoulders? Does your heroine constantly sigh? As writers we tend to fall into the same traps, using words and phrases that are comfortable and familiar. We generally tend to write as we speak, and we tend to usually speak in the same way (I’ll bet you have your own catchphrases your friends and family recognize, and may even sometimes tease you about!).
I can do all that. I’m on top of it!
Great! That’s fabulous! But let me ask you a few things:
• Do you know the difference between your and you’re? What about its and it’s? Too and to? How about there, their and they’re?
• Do you know how and when to use apostrophes and other punctuation?
• Are you showing or telling?
• Whose head are you in? Do you hop back and forth?
Feeling a little bit confused? I don’t blame you. A lot goes in to writing a novel – more than you might think. There are many elements to keep track of, and it’s easy for one or more of those things to slip or fall by the wayside.
Well…okay. But how do I go about it? And isn’t it expensive?
Research. Ask around. Are you part of any kind of writing or critique group, online or otherwise? Word-of-mouth is a great way to get recommendations. Someone will likely have a name for you. Check that person’s training and experience – it shouldn’t be hard to find.
It’s also true that having someone work on your manuscript for you is going to cost you a little bit of money. Again, ask around and compare prices and services. Fees vary widely, so do your research. Testimonials and recommendations can be a big help. Also, while I am not a tax professional and you should check with your own tax preparer, you might be able to claim the cost of hiring a freelancer as a business expense. This can be especially true if you’re treating your writing as a business.
Keep in mind that spending a little bit of money now might make the difference between having your book sell and adding another rejection letter to your file. Do you think it might be worth it?
Tanya Saari[author] [author_info]Freelance fiction editor Tanya Saari has been working in the publishing industry since 1998, when she started as a Proofreader with Harlequin Enterprises. From there she became an Editorial Assistant, in turns working with the Temptation, Duets, SuperRomance and Blaze series. She also maintained a presence in the eHarlequin community (under the name Tanya Starratt) first as a contributor, then later as a host. In 2005 she left Harlequin to pursue other avenues, but has continued to edit in a freelance capacity. Tanya has a post-graduate diploma in Book and Magazine Publishing from Centennial College in Toronto, Ontario, and an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. Interested in hiring Tanya? Send an email query to email@example.com Fee and service information is available here or search for “Tanya Saari, Fiction Editor” on Facebook. Also, visit Tanya’s blog here.[/author_info] [/author]
Great advice, Tanya. I was fortunate to have my father, a retired journalist and editor, offer to line edit my ms. I originally thought he was just going to read it through, make a few general comments, and that would be that.
Lucky for me, he thought the ms had promise enough that with judicious editing and some serious revision, it might be publishable, so he gave me the “Full Monty” a detailed line edit, complete with red pen marks, and summary comments at the end.
I was blown away by his generosity, knowing it must have taken scores of hours to do such a detailed edit. It also woke me to the multitude of sins we writers commit in the name of the ‘first draft’.
My naive self suspected his edit was worth hundreds of dollars if a professional had done it, but now I see it was possibly worth many more hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
Best lesson learned: don’t make so many mistakes the first time through. Learn the craft of writing, avoid the beginner mistakes. Saves a huge amount of time and money.
How very fortunate, indeed! What a wonderful father!
I think perhaps the most important thing for anyone to remember is, if you’re serious about a writing career you must treat it as a business. That means doing everything in a professional manner, including how you polish, prepare and present your work.
Best of luck with your writing, and thank you for your comment!