Chantel Hamilton is an editor and guest writer on Jane Hamilton’s blog. Her post is a comprehensive discussion about book editing that I would recommend reading if you have any questions about editing. The only thing I disagree with is she says that other writers can not help you with your writing. I think maybe what she meant was other writers shouldn’t be asked to edit your manuscript.
Other writers can definitely help you with your writing. That called a critique group and critique groups can be very beneficial. But in a critique group, your fellow writers aren’t editing, per se. They may catch punctuation and grammar items but they are looking at your piece for the more obvious things: “This sentence confused me.” “Above you have him in the hallway, now he appears in the bathroom. How did he get there?” “Who is saying this?” “You changed POV here.” And they help keep you writing and praise you when you do something they enjoy – which is always nice :).
Granted, these are all things an editor may tell you, but an editor will go through your piece in more detail than a fellow writer. Editors also have a view of your whole piece in their mind. When they are reading chapter 10, they may think “Didn’t the author say this in chapter 2?” They may have to go back and confirm that, but even copyediting is not looking at just what is in the page in front of them; it’s keeping the whole piece in their mind to some degree.
And a writer might be able to edit your book, but most would not want to, even if you paid them. It takes a lot of time and effort to do that and most writers want to spend that time and effort editing (revision) their own stuff. Editors may also be writers (as I am), but an editor wants to edit. It’s their job, and if they are good, they enjoy it. And as Chantel mentions, editors have had training in the “rules” and are very familiar with the standard style guides (Chicago Manual of Style – CMS – and the Associated Press style guide – AP – are the two most common, though there are others).
Note: Even though Chantel defines 4 different types of editing, make sure you understand your editor’s definition of the type of edit they think (or you think) you need. There is some variation out there for these definitions. As long as you both understand what is going to happen, then you should be good to go.
p.s. I think most editors will do a sample copyedit for you for free. It won’t be a long edit, but enough to allow you to compare different editor’s styles. I recommend it when trying to whittle down your editor prospects.
This post explains four critical types of book editing, why you need an editor, how to choose one, and what your editor can and cannot do.
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