Have you ever seen a book that had a typo, or some kind of grammatical mistake and you noticed it? You probably have, and you remember it. That is why writers need Editors. Seriously, don’t kid yourself. I am never satisfied with my work, not even the work on my blog. I would never think about putting anything out for serious release without getting some outside help.
A colleague was telling me about a recent discussion he was having with some fellow writers and some of them were ridiculing the idea of having an Editor. I do not know them, they might have had a bad experience or something, but really, they are kidding themselves.
There is a difference between Editing and proofing. All Editors proof, but proofing is not Editing.
Proofing is raw-checking something, without software. Poring over the material word by word and correcting spelling, punctuation, spacing and grammar. There is no real Editing. It is simply taking the text as it is and making those types of fixes, with no changes of structure or formatting of any kind. Proofing can happen before or after the edit.. sometimes both! Sometimes a second person proofs or finishes, after the Editor does the edit.
Editing is deeper. Editing includes deconstruction where necessary, flow, adjusting syntax and looking for ways to increase the efficiency of the read. Many great thinkers and visionaries simply cannot write in a way that the average reader can follow them, so they need help breaking down long thoughts and sentences into shorter ones, and usually a little bit of help determining paragraph breaks. Also, the writing of most people is “patchy”, it may change in pattern based on the mood they are in, how tired they are, whether they missed that cup of coffee, or any range of influences. Consistency is important, and so is the quality of having that “tumbling” effect where one sentence leads to the next and does not let the reader off the pages without regret, and the impatience of wanting to get back to it as soon as possible. A good Editor can locate those moments in a writer’s style and help make sure there is that sort of consistency and flow as much as possible.
Sometimes writers with vivid imaginations really do not know how to form an honest sentence. It does not mean they do not have thoughts, or that they can’t think well, it can be that they are just not adept with organizing their thoughts all the time. There is nothing wrong with admitting this and getting some help.
Finally, a good Editor does something important when they edit. They are a boon to Publishers because they pre-format the work by getting it into the correct page style for the type of work it is. All a good formatter has to do now is tweak the page formatting and the kerning (the character spacing) to make the work flow from page to page and to make it easier on the readers eyes. The more work you do for the publisher, the more likely they are to choose you.. and an Editor wants you to be chosen, because then you will become their repeat business, as your Publisher becomes repeat business for you.