Friday, October 28, 2011

A Good Editor is Worth Her Weight in Gold

Last week I received edits for Artifact back from my fantastic editor, Ramona DeFelice Long.

When I made the decision to publish my mystery series myself, I knew that working with an editor was one step of the process that was essential not to skip.

In spite of years of learning the craft of writing, being blessed with an amazing group of critique readers, and having a brilliant agent who took me through two substantial rounds of edits on my first manuscript — none of those experiences was the same as having an editor.

Learning the craft of writing — through writing workshops, mystery author mentors, and time spent writing — leads to proficient writing that doesn't make a reader throw your book across the room. Having amazing critique readers helps you make sure you're tell a compelling story in a way that makes readers want to keep turning pages. And having a brilliant agent — one who's willing to take a risk on a book she loves because she sees potential — can move your book to the level where publishers take notice. Each is an incredibly important step in the process. But none of them replaces the last key step of having a professional editor review your work.

If I'd signed a contract with a traditional publishing house, I would have worked with the editor who convinced the publisher to buy my book. I was lucky that I'd already worked with an editor who edited two of my mystery short stories accepted into Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter anthologies. I loved the edits Ramona suggested for my short stories. She really got what I was going for. That was important to me. It was an easy decision to turn to her when I needed to hire an editor myself.

Here's an overview of the type of edits I received for Artifact:

  • Basic edits / aka proofreading. Ramona caught a few remaining typos and awkward phrases. I will never understand how typos still slip through even though I and several other people read the full manuscript many times! It's distracting an unprofessional to spot more than the rarest of errors in published books, and I never would have caught these myself.
  • The next level of edits. It turns out that while I don't have a crutch word I use over and over again, I have crutch phrases. Neither I nor my critique readers had noticed this, which I hope means my readers were so caught up in the story that they failed to notice because they were reading so quickly to find out what happened next. Ramona pointed these out by highlighting the offending phrases. Once I saw them, I realized how distracting they could be.

  • Deep edits. Lastly, the structural assessment was more than I had hoped for. There were two key areas where my manuscript was *good enough,* but she showed me how these sections could be *great.* And for that, I am forever thankful, and I know I made the right decision to work Ramona. 
As I mentioned above, I was lucky I already knew a good editor who was a good fit for my work. There are a lot of good editors out there, but just because they're good doesn't mean they're necessarily right for you. If you're looking for an independent editor, I recommend you start with a small section of your book, such as a few beginning chapters, before committing to a full manuscript critique.


  1. What a good post, Gigi. You and Ramona both deserve credit. A good editor can make a huge difference. Knowing that both of you worked on it makes it sound all the better. I can't wait to read your book.
    Good luck with it!

  2. Ah, the things that slip by us. How could we have missed that? But we did and we do. A good editor is worth her weight in gold. Hmm, seems like I've read that recently. Good luck with the book.

  3. I've found that it's almost impossible to edit my own work, for just the reasons you've noted. We're trained to be readers, so we skip over the machine language codes on the printed page - things like punctuation, or the word 'said.' There could be all manner of typos that go unnoticed, as most readers sight-recognize the shape of words. 'Knowledge' looks just like 'Knowlege' when you read it fast enough. That's why editing is essential. And of course, it's difficult to recognize when you've overused something. If you say the word 'like' nine times in every sentence, it's probably not OK for all your characters to follow suit. It takes a good and brutal editor (and all the good ones are brutal) to tell you to your face that you have far too many okey-dokeys coming out of far too many mouths.

    William Doonan

  4. I'm late to respond to comments after my last dose of chemo (but only one more to go!). It really is funny how the brain picks and chooses what it picks up on. Thanks for the good wishes as I finish up edits!


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