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Why do I need an Editor?*

by Pavarti K. Tyler

Unfortunately one thing many authors don't invest in is a quality editor.

But let me tell you again EDITING IS NOT AN OPTION.


One of the reasons I find that many authors skip this step is because they just don't know what they are going to get.


Questions I regularly hear are:

  • Will this person be mean to me?

  • Will they try to change my voice/vision?

  • Will they charge an unreasonable sum?

  • What exactly does an editor do?

The first three I can answer easily; the last—well, that's a little more complicated. A good editor will never be mean to you, although they may push your comfort zone at times. A good editor will never change your voice but will work with you to enhance it. And finally, a good editor is worth every cent you spend, and you should throw in a puppy for good measure. Trust me, if I didn't have an editor, I'd still be writing my manuscript in chalk on the front walk.

There are a few different kinds of editors. Some perform more than one function, some only do one, but at some point you want all of these editorial steps taken. And you want them taken by someone else; you can't do it alone. And you don't want your mom/husband/cousin/dog to do it either. An editor requires a certain amount of professional distance in order to tell you what you really need to hear. (I withdraw this statement for those of you whose moms/husbands/cousins or dogs are professional editors).

The Content Editor

This is the professional eye which looks over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb. They will catch things like inconsistent character behavior/speech, style issues, thematic variances and readability. A content editor will be able to help you adjust your language by audience (lit fic vs. YA – there is a difference!), make sure everything makes sense, has believable dialogue and a plausible plotline. Many people skip this step, thinking their editor who fixes commas will do this as well. If you are lucky, they will, although the cost for editors who are that skilled is quite high and often times, even if the individual is capable, their attention to other issues in your manuscript might mean they miss something that could make the difference between an ok story and an epic novel.


The Copy Editor

In journalism, a copy editor is essentially a fact checker and someone who protects the publication from libel. For our purposes a Copy Editor is more like a professional proofreader. Someone who performs this task usually does minimal rewriting for the sake of efficiency of prose as opposed to stylistic choices. They check the manuscript for clarity and flow. In my experiences most copy editors will also do line editing as the two are tied closely together and work well as a two part process.


The Line Editor

This is your final defense, the last step, the difference between being a writer with a good idea and a professional author. The line editor generally isn't there to discuss story arc or make sure you understand how to use a dialogue tag. Instead, they are there to make sure you are putting out the best quality product possible. Line editors will go over each sentence to make sure it is ready for publication. They check for grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency and word usage (Is he your Principle or your PrinciPAL?) and can often assist with rewriting/rewording sections that need help.

As you can see there are a lot of steps, and they are all important. In the end, the best thing you can do is find a group of people you trust with your work and get them on your team. Each step in the process will only make your manuscript better, and a professional edit is never wasted money.

* Adapted from Pavarti K. Tyler's "Finally, an answer! Here’s the difference between line, copy, and content editing."

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