Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes
I mentioned in my post on expectations for self-publishing how essential freelance editors are before you actually decide to publish your manuscript. I’m not going to reiterate the obvious reasons. Instead, I’m going to point out an essential reason why many writers, not just those going the self-publishing route, should hire a freelance editor.
Freelance editors can function as writing tutors and will give you an enormous boost in your writing skills that can take years to gain from beta readers alone. Georgia McBride was my first freelance editor ever, and she worked on the sequel to When Stars Die (which was originally going to be the first book). It was called Witch Tourniquet, and while she only got through half the book before I decided to shelve it in favor of making it a sequel, I gained textbookfuls of knowledge from her services alone. Yes, I’ve learned from beta readers in the past, from reading and writing, but I was stunned at the enormous boost I gained in my storytelling skills–and the majority of it came from the first chapter alone.
Freelance editors will give you legitimate ideas on how to make your book better. They simply won’t point out what’s wrong and tell you to fix it. They will give you strong ideas, and that is what Georgia did. My first chapter changed dramatically from her advice. It went from a third person narrative of a girl simply travelling to a safe house, to a first person narrative of a girl contemplating ending her own life because she was slated to be burned due to witchcraft. I was able to nail this chapter on my first re-write because of the enormous lesson I learned from Georgia’s critique. She even told me that not many of her clients are able to do this. For many, it takes several re-writes, especially because the first chapter is so essential due to its hooking (or lack thereof) properties. A poor first chapter can lead to loss of reader interest.
In any case, the job of an EXCELLENT freelance editor should be to teach you how to edit on your own (which, for self-publishers, does not mean bypassing a freelance editor. This just simply means you need to learn how to take care of the major issues on your own before hiring someone to polish it). For those going the traditional path, you want to learn this on your own because you don’t want to have to depend on a freelance editor to solidify your skills. This makes you look bad and makes agents and editors wonder just what your writing skills are. For those going the self-publishing route, this will keep you from having to spend enormous amounts for editing. By learning how to take care of the big stuff on your own, you will simply need an editor to help you polish it and you hopefully won’t need that editor more than once.
But they are invaluable as learning opportunities. I would argue one critique for a manuscript is worth an entire novel prose-length writing class (with the assumption there aren’t other writing classes on novels)–and possibly more, considering the one at my uni only expects one chapter for the entire semester.
As a freelance editor myself, my job is to teach you how to edit so you will not continuously need my services; however, this takes work on your part because you need to choose to learn from my critique. This is a gift in itself, considering not everyone wants to learn from their mistakes and improve from the advice of others.
Now will everyone going the traditional route need a freelance editor? No. Some grow from beta readers just fine, if they’re lucky to find strong ones. I never was, but Georgia did my manuscript for free because I interned for her. There was no monetary loss on my part, but I did hire her previous intern, and she helped me polish my copyediting skills so that way I could learn to fix structural problems on my own.
It is your job as a writer to judge just what kind of growth you need.