I’m not going to claim to be an expert self-editor. All I know is that I did a really good job at content editing part of my book and the synopsis, and all I had was one beta reader (I seriously took a huge leap of faith going for AEC Stellar, didn’t I?). I also want to mention that when I refer to self-editing, I am referring to being able to edit your own content so that way all you need afterward is beta readers that you do not have to go back to fifteen million times, or a freelance editor you don’t have to keep paying thousands of dollars for.
Beta readers can become time consuming, especially if you have your manuscript out to several of them at once and they all have entire tomes of flaws pointed out to you. Then you have to fix it and re-send it to them again, where they whittle their complaints down to entire notebook-fulls; then you have to send out again, then again. Granted, this process probably only applies to beginning writers, but that is why I stressed the importance of freelance editors in a previous post of mine. You want to learn from them once (or twice) so you don’t have to keep going back to them or your beta readers. But if you have to keep going back to your beta readers for the content of your story before even getting to the nitty gritty sentence structure, then you’re not learning what you should be learning and finishing that manuscript is going to become ridiculously time consuming.
Freelance editors can be ridiculously expensive. Some charge $4 a page for one service and $6 a page for another, so that’s thousands of dollars right there. There are ones who are cheaper, but you often want those ones recommended to you. Granted, they are worth it the first time and some offer to read it again for half off or free of charge, but if you haven’t learned from them and have to keep going back for every book you write, you’re wasting money. You only want to have to pay them for your first book and first book only–if your beta readers aren’t sufficient enough, that is. A good freelance editor will function as a teacher to teach you how to self-edit so that you can bring yourself to the point where you only need beta readers to wipe away excess dirt instead of them having constantly point out major flaws in your writing that will take whole re-writes to fix.
Never undermine the importance of being able to edit the major stuff yourself: plot holes that take entire re-writes to fix, being able to edit the pacing of the book yourself, character development, plot and sub-plot development, making sure something develops in every chapter, being able to know what your gut is telling you when something is wrong. These are things that you want to learn how to self-edit on your own that way when you get to beta readers you find your novel doesn’t need an entire overhaul to fix what they point out. Or so you’re not spending monstrous amounts of money on a freelance editor.
But how do you know that you’ve learned to self-edit? If your beta readers, assuming you have good ones, aren’t tearing your next manuscript apart. Or the freelance editor you decided to hire for your next book isn’t charging you so much because said editor discovered it doesn’t need as much work as your previous one. Or if your gut isn’t sending you alarm bells. For some, self-editing is a gift, and for others it is an acquired skill through experience. The point being is that you want to eventually bring yourself to the point where you are a strong self-editor not having to heavily rely on beta readers or freelance editors–as Georgia McBride taught me.