I follow a blog called “Dixie Helps Writers” which is a helpful blog that centers on the editing process of your book. I agree with a lot that Dixie has to say. One of her recent posts, “Don’t Beat Up Your Editors” is not only aptly titled, but also a plethora of helpful information you should consider before seeking out an editor for your manuscript.
However, I wanted to touch base on a few minor things I thought Dixie didn’t cover in this post.
In the beginning of her post, Dixie tells a story about an author who went to an editor and she said of the editor: “All he did for me was fix typos and grammar mistakes.”
I agree with Dixie. That is NOT a good reason to beat up your editor. You should be thankful if an editor corrects your typos and grammar! It’s what some of us are born to do! No author can possibly correct every issue within their manuscript. There is always something that is missed. However, if you wanted more feedback about your book, then you need to fix some of those things before sending the book off to an editor.
Dixie’s post goes on to offer four things you should do before sending your work off to an editor. I like her list – you should read it – but it’s missing a few things.
- She says to let the book sit for awhile (I agree) and then to read it as a reader. I don’t think that’s realistic. If you’ve spent any amount of time with this manuscript, you will not be able to truly read it as an unbiased reader would. If this book took you more than a month to write, you’ll need at least two months or more to distance yourself – if you ever can. But, yes, do distance yourself. And then, find some way to hear it read out loud. If you don’t have someone you can get to read it to you (my critique group reads sections of manuscripts out loud during our meetings), let the computer do it. Most writing software programs (like Word) have features that will read your text back to you. It isn’t perfect, but by listening to your words instead of reading your words, you might hear something you missed. (This helped me when I wrote my two books. I was TOO close and simply couldn’t read it again – even after having let one manuscript sit for more than a year! But the computer reading helped me fix several mistakes.)
- Dixie also suggests using guides for self-editing. I agree with that as well. Check out my post “Get Your Novel Edited for Less” that gives a few helpful tips about self-editing. HOWEVER, all the self-editing in the world doesn’t replace a good editor, but it will help to cut down the costs and aggravations.
- She also suggests beta readers. I cannot agree more with this statement as well, but I want to clarify what a good beta reader should be. Dixie is right – your mom, sister, best friend or spouse is NOT a good beta reader. I don’t care if they each have a PhD in writing. To some extent they cannot separate your possibly inferior writing from you as their loved one.
A good beta reader should be:
- Someone who is an avid reader of the type of book you’ve written. If you write Romance, find someone who reads Romance.
- Someone who has good grammar. If you email this beta reader and they don’t use punctuation or correct grammar in their reply – they won’t notice it in your work, either. They might be good for plot holes, but not line edits.
- Someone who is willing to give of their time (perhaps in exchange for a small token – like a free book or a small gift card) for an honest and thorough review. “It’s a great book!” is not how a beta reader should respond to you. Most of the beta readers I’ve used offer me at least a one-page, detailed synopsis of what they liked and disliked about the book as well as things they would change to make the book a better read. I often use other writers as my beta readers. They know the way a book should flow and they can spot the errors, too.
It takes a lot to write a book. Some people work on their manuscripts for years and years. I’m astounded that some of these same people think it should only take a few days to edit it. No one is perfect. You cannot expect to write a completely enthralling novel with not a single mistake right out of the gate. J.K. Rowlings didn’t. Stephen King doesn’t. They have editors, beta readers and all the tools of the trade at their fingertips and they still, sometimes, make mistakes.
And it’s okay. Do the best you can do with the tips Dixie and I are providing and, who knows? You might have a bestseller on your hands!
Looking for a beta reader or editor? Contact me today and let’s get started!