In all the years I have under my belt as a writer, I have humble beginnings as a proofreader and editor. Growing up, most girls had babysitting jobs or paper routes. Given my class ranking in high school, I made extra money by proofreading and typing up term papers, book reports, and oftentimes writing them as well.
During those first ten years or so of my writing ‘career,’ I sent out dozens upon dozens of query letters and samples of my manuscript. I received back just as many rejection letters, many of them with advice on how to improve my writing. Over the years, I received a lot of good advice, a lot of bad advice, and a lot of advice that just didn’t seem relevant or hold true for me as a writer. Some of it I took to heart, some of it I took with a grain of salt, and some of it, the really hard lessons, it took me years before I finally grasped the gravity of what those well-meaning editors were trying to get across to me.
One of the most important pieces of advice I ever received is also the one piece of advice that it took me the longest to finally understand and to accept as a writing truth, and that is the ultimate need for a very good, high quality, professional editor. With so many years spent as a freelance editor, I know full well how to edit and proofread a piece of work. Add in the thirty plus years spent writing and proofreading my own work, and all that experience has only honed my skills as both a writer and an editor.
But I was naïve when it came to my own work. I thought that editors were meant to be nothing more than spell checks with fingers, someone who picked up what MS Word could not, like correct word usage and punctuation. I could easily do this on my own, and have always put my own works through dozens upon dozens of rewrites and edits. I saw absolutely no reason why anyone with a strong grasp of the English language would want to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars doing what anyone with a bit of patience could do on their own. Besides, I had read enough carbon copies of books that all sounded like they had been written by the same boring writer to know that editors could do real damage to the writing style of the original author, stripping it out to the point where even the action scenes seemed dull and lifeless. Who the hell wanted THAT for their story?
It was not until the self-publication wave hit Amazon that I realized just how very, very wrong I was in that mind set.
Editors do more than just find typos. Those that are good at what they do, do so much more than merely find typographical errors. Strong, professional editors help out the syntax of the sentences in the story, correcting grammatical mistakes that go beyond subject/verb agreement and shifting tenses. They actually help the author hone their writing style, make sure the storyline and the writing itself flows smoothly and is consistent throughout. They also make sure that the writing is actually good and does not read like something that the author just slapped down with never a rewrite or second thought about it.
A quality editor would never let something like “I’m already hard…..My cock would like to say ‘hello’ to her kitty….I slap her, make her mine…. She purrs, I smile….I whip my dick out, make her take it” ever see the light of day. This amounts to nothing but incredibly lazy writing by someone who has obviously never written anything before in their life. Even when writing erotica and porn, there is a right way to write it so that it sounds good, and a wrong way. A good editor would never have let this be published, and for good reason. It’s just plain horrible writing, lazy, the work of someone who obviously doesn’t care about the art of writing or their reputation as a career writer. It is just drivel, a vomit of words onto the page with no real plot line, no writing style, and no real care as to how the story and characters are presented.
And herein lays the problem with the self-pubbing industry. More and more people are hitting the ‘publish’ button on Amazon on the first thing they slap down on their computers and call it a novel. It’s not going through professional editors, if they bother to send it to any type of editor at all. Most self-pubbed authors are just doing it themselves or having friends, family, or a few beta readers with absolutely no credentials as editors look through and try to catch mistakes. It results in the above drivel, badly written ‘erotica’ and other stories that read like D-rated porn movies.
As a writer, I take great pride in my work. I spend months cultivating plotlines and characters, bringing them to life in my own mind before committing them to paper. I want to be taken seriously as a professional writer, which means that I take the extra time and the extra expense to produce a quality product the first time around. If you think you can bypass this and ‘save up’ to buy professional editing services once you ‘sell a few books,’ then consider this: readers RARELY re-read a novel, and if they do, it is usually only once. There are simply too many new books being produced that they want to read to go back to anything but a super-favorite novel and read it a second time. With that said, the chances of a reader going back and re-reading an indie published novel that has had the grammatical errors ‘fixed’ after they have purchased the book is virtually non-existent. Having a quality product for them the first time can mean the difference between the reader either returning the book/leaving a bad review, and them recommending the book to fellow readers. In addition, publishing a poor quality novel can stay with you for years, resulting in loss of readers who were unimpressed with your first work and refuse to take a chance on you producing better quality writing at a later date.
In the literary world, there really is NOT a second chance to make a first impression. So you have to ask yourself, is producing sub-par books something you really want to be known for as a writer? Is it worth your reputation as a professional or worth risking losing potential readers? In the end, no one, not even Anne Rice, can risk producing anything but the very best, quality work possible. Bottom line, if you expect to be treated like a professional writer, then you must produce and sell a professional quality piece. Otherwise, that imperfection could very well stay with you through the entirety of your writing career, a testiment to either your Success, or your Failure.