Most writers dream of seeing their name in print. Being published in a journal or E-zine was always an honor for me, but I still hungered to see my name on the cover and spine of a book. Like many of you, I craved to hold in my hands a book that I had created out of my words, out of my very soul, that was uniquely and tangibly mine.
One of the questions I wrestled with is: am I ready to put together a manuscript to self-publish or shop to publishing houses? Is the time right? A lot of factors went into making that decision. I asked myself everything from: ‘have I grown enough as a writer?’ to ‘do I have a big enough body of work to pull from?’ to ‘do I have an adequate social media presence and fan base?’ This may seem like an odd question to ask myself, but one of the first things I learned about publishing was that in order to successfully promote and sell a book, you need to have an audience to sell it to.
I would argue that not only do you need good writing and a good social media base to successfully produce a book, you also need good editing. I may sound a little biased here as a freelance editor, but trust me when I say that good editing can make all the difference in taking a good (or even fair) book and making it an excellent book. My goal whenever I am editing for another Collective member or a client is to help their writing shine and to make the final manuscript tell the tightest, best story it can, whether it is a novel or a collection of poetry.
When most writers think about editing, they immediately think copyediting and proofreading. Copyediting involves reviewing a manuscript’s spelling, grammar, word usage, and punctuation (don’t get me started on commas!) and making sure that these are both accurately and consistently used throughout a manuscript. Proofreading involves getting out the metaphorical magnifying glass and checking a manuscript for such things as typos, font inconsistencies, consistent page numbering, and other formatting issues that can arise.
Copyediting and proofreading are not always glamorous, but I’m good at them (I like to use my OCD for good!) and I know that a well copyedited and proofread manuscript is a manuscript that allows the reader to fully engage with the content, rather than get distracted by spelling errors or that extra space at the beginning of a sentence.
Good copyeditors and proofreaders are essential to a writer but I personally think that developmental editors are the real superheroes of the publishing world. Many of us literally do not know where to start once we decide, ‘Yes, it’s time to publish a book.’ I certainly spent a few weeks completely overwhelmed by the thought of having to choose and then organize the writing to include in Composition of a Woman. Developmental editors are those people who roll up their sleeves and get involved at the very beginning of a project and work closely with us throughout the process.
As a developmental editor, I have been sent rough manuscripts to work with. I have also been sent four hundred loose poems to read! Each project has been unique but my role is always to focus on the big picture and help the writer find the most compelling story they can tell with their words. As a developmental editor, I have the fresh eyes and lack of emotional attachment to the work that we as writers can’t maintain. I am direct and honest but never cruel and I always tell the writers I work with that I am making recommendations- it is up to them to decide whether to incorporate them or not. Working with a developmental editor should be a respectful partnership where both the writer and the editor have a shared commitment to a successful finished product.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have writer friends who will happily serve as beta readers and/or editors for our work. And some of those friends are really good at those roles. Sometimes though, hiring a professional editor to work with us is what makes the difference between a manuscript that keeps getting rejected versus a manuscript that finds a publisher.
Do you have questions about professional editing or the editing process? Feel free to ask them below.
© 2018 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved