Guest blogger Gary Ponzo on “Do You Really Need an Editor?”
Recently I've had some opportunities to work with editors for my published novels. Now, I've always worked with a critique group who would line-edit each chapter as I was writing, so I've been conscious of the importance of a keen eye to scrutinize my work. After I finished each book I would have an editor go through the manuscript for grammatical errors and that was helpful as well. But as time went on my books began to expand to Germany and audio rights and print options, I felt compelled to have my work fully edited by a professional editor. Why not?
Well, here's what happened with me. And let me state right now, these opinions are completely my own and have no bearing on the competence or abilities of editors. I truly believe they serve a real purpose, especially in a day when Indies are trying to compete with traditionally published books. There's a real need to look and sound and smell professional.
First of all, I had one editor go through my work and I noticed a trend. The editor kept adding semicolons. Everywhere. No kidding, maybe one every other page. My eyes began to gloss up from the interruption of rhythm. My sentences no longer flowed into each other. They now had a “;” to remind us we were actually reading words instead of a story. Okay, that's a personal choice, I get it. Maybe even technically correct. But that wasn't how I intended the prose to sound to the reader's ear.
Then I had another editor actually change the language one of my characters spoke in dialogue. This character was in the mafia and the editor was correcting his grammar. Changing his words to the point where he sounded like an English professor instead of a hitman. I began having questions thrown at me from the editor like, "I don't understand his motive here? Why can't you explain this better?" Well, the truth is, it would've ruined the plot. So then I started second-guessing my plot. Should I change it so the reader has full understanding? But I've left plenty of foreshadowing? It was paralyzing. I wrote three page over the next month because I was afraid to write freely.
So, do you need an editor? Almost certainly, but I would set some parameters. Tell the editor what you're looking for and exactly what you're not looking for. I think I've found someone who fits that description and I will use that person on the remainder of my novels.
When you work with an editor, just know what to expect when that page full of red ink paralyzes you. Trust yourself to know when the advice is sound and when it's opinion. Sometimes, that's not easy to distinguish.