A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘beta readers’

Why Hire an Editor?

It seems these days that everyone is DIY-ing everything. And why not? It’s fun to make your own decorations, gifts, and cards. But one thing you should not DIY is editing.* That’s right, I said you shouldn’t edit all by yourself. This is a lesson it took me most of high school and the first year of college to learn. I was an avid self-editor. While self-editing is an important step in the editing process, it isn’t the only step.

So why shouldn’t you rely solely on yourself (or worse, spell-check) for all of your editing needs? For starters, you know your story. You know exactly what you mean when you write certain phrases – the same phrases that befuddle readers. If you only self-edit, you are going to miss an important opportunity to improve your writing ability. You might, even with your story bible, miss a detail that you changed in one place but not another (we’re humans, after all).

Another excellent reason is that spell-check doesn’t catch everything. I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself. You write see instead of seen and spell check doesn’t catch it. You’ve probably read and reread and rewritten your work so many times that you skim, and you miss it too. A second pair of eyes will help you beat typos like those.

Okay, okay, you say, but why hire someone when friends will edit for free, or some beta readers will, for free, read and give feedback about what passages don’t work? Simple: you get what you pay for. Friends will often be slow-going (especially when you are an adult writer and your friends are also adults) and, unless they are also writers/readers, they may not edit to the standard you need. Many friends and family readers will only tell you what you want to hear, for fear of hurting your feelings. This is unproductive if you are trying to improve your craft. In the blogging community or writers’ workshops** you may find people who are willing to give the feedback you need, but unless they have an incentive to get it done, they, too, will likely lag. It’s no fault of theirs – people simply have to take care of things happening in their own lives first. An editor, however, will be on a schedule. It is in their best interest to get the work done, and do it well so that their reputation prospers.

I get it, you may not have much money right now. Luckily there are a wide range of editors out there, with all sorts of different fees. There are both professional and freelance editors, some with specific skill sets or preferences for projects, and some who are open to taking on just about any project. If you are really strapped for cash but want to hire an editor, and if you have a computer, you can always earn some extra money with things like Smart Panel, MintVine, SwagBucks, and so many other similar sites. If you aspire to be a published author, you really should hire an editor. Your chances of being accepted by a publisher will increase because a better manuscript means less work for them. The same for story, article or poetry submissions to publishers and magazines. In some cases, even blog posts can benefit from hiring an editor.

So take a look around, find someone who meets your needs, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. That’s what the editors are there for. To help your writing become the best it can be.

Take care,

Emily

*Of course start with doing it yourself. Clean up your writing as much as you can, that’s your job as the writer.

**Sometimes the writers you find in workshops or other locations take their role too far, and are crueler to your writing than they need to be. I’ve seen it happen. Always choose someone you trust.

Poetry

When I was in high school, I took a class called Poetry/Mythology. The class name is pretty self-explanatory. We studied mythology and poetry. The poetry part is what stuck in my mind and to this day I read any poem I come across out loud, trying to find the rhythm and the flow.

You know what?  A lot of poems don’t have rhythm. They’re free verse and,  quite honestly,  they drive me crazy. I like consistent numbers of syllables in each line, I like rhyming. I like all the different types of poems, so long as they have a set structure.

Believe it or not, this relates to Quest for Salvation. In a couple of places I have those bard-like poems that are almost always found in fantasy novels. (Stay tuned for my next post – once again a discussion of the fantasy genre.) I like the poems. I like the rhythm.  I worked really hard to get them just right. And then one of my beta readers told me to change one of them because they didn’t like the number of syllables I chose.

Yep, I was rather upset. To my merit, I refrained from sending an angry email. I simply didn’t ever mention it. I have a few points here. 1) Writing is subjective. No matter what, not everyone will love the stories we create or the words we use. I constantly find myself rephrasing sentences from other books the way I prefer them. 2) Poetry is even more subjective. What sounds good to me may annoy someone else. I hate free verse,  others love it.  3) We don’t always have to listen to our beta readers. Sometimes they nit pick. Sometimes they aren’t paying very much attention. Sometimes we pick readers that just don’t care. We learn from these things, sure, but I have learned to have more faith in myself – not that my beta readers can fix everything.

Take care, fellow travelers.

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