Part of my involvement in writing has put me in position to judge any number of contests, some for published authors and some for unpublished. Some request their judges to be tight-lipped regarding their involvement. Others, like the CT Magazine contest, actually publish comments by judges about the winner.
All that to say, I’ve seen an interesting trend. When I first dipped my toe into the writing world, the knock on Christian fiction was that the writing was bad. That changed over the years. The story-telling improved and so did the ability to put the stories down using fiction techniques any other writer would use, including good grammar, character development, story structure, and so forth.
Criticism of Christian fiction remained, however, largely centered on content—not enough speculative fiction, for example, and too much romance. But as self-publishing came into its own, that changed as well.
Unfortunately, what I’m seeing too much, is a reverting to the former issue—the quality of writing may suffer. I suspect poor editing may be a part of the problem. The truth is, all writers need editors. Reading blog posts can demonstrate that fact—even competent writers may miss errors in content or mechanics because blog posts aren’t edited.
I know my passing this information along might seem self serving, since I offer a freelance editing service, but the truth is, the editor you need might not be me.
First, why does every serious writer need an editor?
- We have blind spots when it comes to our own writing
- Our family and friends will love what we write, no matter how good it is
- Our family and friends may not be able to tell us how to fix weak spots
- Fiction without glaring errors is more apt to be the kind readers talk about
- Critique partners, while helpful, may not have the knowledge or experience or ability to analyze what will move our fiction to the next level
If these things are true, and if Ms. Sansevieri is right, how should a writer go about picking an editor? According to Lauren Hidden, book editor and writing coach, there are a few basics someone looking for editing needs to consider:
- Objectivity–someone who isn’t so close they will overlook mistakes because they are too afraid of losing relationship if they say what they really think.
- Knowledge–a person who knows your kind of project and who knows what changes to suggest
- Experience–an editor who other writers can recommend or endorse
- Price–an editor who offers services within your price range
- Service–someone who provides the type of editing you require
- Time frame–a person who can complete the work within the time period you specify
I think along with “time frame” I’d add, “availability.” If you need your work edited at once and the person you contact has five other clients ahead of you, then you’d be wise to look for someone else.
I’d also recommend you do some comparative shopping. In the sidebar at my editing site, Rewrite, Reword, Rework, you’ll find a list of qualified editors. Some of those may also have links to other editors you may wish to investigate.
In other words, one editor does not fit everyone, nor are all editing services priced or structured in the same way. By doing your homework, you’ll have a much better chance of finding the editor that fits you and what you write. And that should be your goal.
I would stress that anyone can hang up a shingle as an editor, but claiming that role is easier than actually doing a good job. Some of the books I’ve judged name their editor in the acknowledgements, and I think, “Really?” I can’t help but wonder about the misuse of words, the improper grammar, the problems in story development or the inability to make the characters come alive. Why didn’t the editor help with those things, I wonder.
So not all editors have the same experience, the same background, the same ability. For those writers who wish to self-publish, and want to enter contests, hope to generate a healthy number of sales, even to take their books to reading expos and the like, the quality needs to be on par with books published by established publishing houses. Hence, the choice of editor should be one of the major decisions the author makes.