Any good writer knows that editing is an indispensable part of the writing process. You can certainly do some editing yourself, and you definitely should. But if you truly want your words to shine, then hiring an editor is your best bet. But how do you know your work is ready for an editor? And how can you save money once you decide you are?
You’re ready for an editor if…
You’ve Finished Writing
In most cases, your work should be finished before you send it to an editor. If you’re adding pages or making changes as the editor is working, you’ll likely end up with a higher bill (not to mention a frustrated editor). It’s best to wait until you’re really finished to get started on editing.
You’ve done a self-edit
First drafts are messy and that’s normal. They are all about getting your ideas down without second-guessing yourself. If you edited while you were writing, it’d be even harder to finish your project! That said, your first draft isn’t the one to send to an editor. Trying to make sense of rough work can result in more confusion and ultimately add to your bill, so do yourself a favour and do some self-editing.
I’m not talking about just running spell check. Although spelling and grammar checkers can certainly be part of your process (just be careful, since they aren’t always accurate), your self-edit should include a thorough re-read of your writing. As you read, think about both big-picture issues like structure and content, and potential line-by-line problems like tense, spelling, and inaccuracies. Ask yourself questions like: Are these passages in the right order? Is this tone appropriate for my audience? Have I, to the best of my abilities, used consistent spelling and grammar? If you’re writing fiction or creative non-fiction, you’ll also want to make sure you have paid attention to plot, pace, and character development.
Once you’ve gone through your work (perhaps a few times), you should feel like you’ve made it as polished as you can. You don’t have to be 100 percent confident in every aspect of it, but you should feel confident that it’s complete.
You’re comfortable with Track Changes
Most editing these days is done on screen. This is great because it saves paper (Yay for trees!), postage, and money. However, it does mean you need to be comfortable with your word processing software. Since Microsoft Word is the most used word processor, most editors use its Track Changes feature when editing. Track Changes is great because it allows editors to add, delete, and comment on your work without permanently changing anything. So if you haven’t used this feature before, read up on how to use Track Changes for Word and try it out.
You’re willing to format your document
Many editors have guidelines on how to prepare your document for editing. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that changing formatting (especially if you aren’t the author and therefore aren’t familiar with why a document has been formatted a certain way) is time consuming. It can detract from the time an editor has to do actual editing. Another reason is that changing formatting in Track Changes can create a messy document. Extra Track Changes comments or highlights can make it harder for you and your editor to see more important edits. Finally, if your document is going to be professionally typeset, the formatting will be done by your typesetter anyway. So don’t get attached to your formatting and always check with your editor for instructions on how to prepare your document for editing.
You understand what your editor can and can’t help with
An editor is an editor, not a ghostwriter or a guarantee that your novel will be a best-seller or that your blog post will go viral. Consider what you want out of your editor and what level of editing you need (Editors Canada has a handy list of editing definitions to help you with that). Then, be prepared to have an open and honest conversation with your editor about expectations.
If you’re a student, be aware of the ethical guidelines of your institution in regards to hiring an editor. Some universities consider it academic fraud, while others limit what an editor can do for you (like allowing the editor to point out errors, but not allowing the editor to fix them for you).
You’re ready to put more work into your writing
Writing is hard and you’ve likely already put a lot of effort into completing your work. Are you ready and willing to put even more into it?
Editing is a partnership. An editor will find mistakes and, in many cases, suggest ways to fix them. But, it’s still up to you to review all the edits and, depending on your editorial agreement, integrate those changes. If you don’t have the desire to go through your work one or more times, then you’re probably not ready for an editor. But if you are looking forward to getting into the nitty-gritty of polishing your writing, you’ll be happy to know that working with an editor can be a positive and rewarding experience.