How committed are you?

Many indie authors choose not to shell out for an editor. But the right relationship can make writing soar.

Not the tiniest piece of crap eluded her. She invariably landed squarely on what was wrong and left me to face it down, if I could.”Author Philip Roth speaking about his editor Veronica Geng

Authors who sign with a publishing house work with an editor. Beyond the requirement to work with an editor, they know they need an editor. Even authors like Philip Roth who is, according to a recent article in The New Yorker, “ruthlessly self-critical while he is writing.”

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Offering the best chance to take off and soar.

A good editor can see flaws the author can’t and has a relationship with the author that allows for honest feedback and discussion. The result? A book worthy of the reader’s time and money.

From the beginning of my journey into writing historical fiction, I anticipated working with a professional editor. But, unlike authors who work with a publishing house, we indie authors go into our own pockets to hire editorial services.

More than once along the way, I wondered if it was worth the investment. After all, I had worked through my manuscript with my writing partner, two groups of beta readers, other historical fiction authors, and finally my own writing skills honed by years in the editor chair myself. Did I really need yet another set of eyes looking at things?

Whenever I wavered, I returned to my goal in writing my upcoming novel “Go Away Home” — to tell the best story I can and write it as well as I can. In my heart, I knew that included an editor.

As I prepared to choose an editor, serendipity lead me to Jenny Q, an editor who specializes in historical fiction. When all other things are equal, it made sense to have an editor attuned to questioning anachronisms and historical facts.

I hired Jenny Q  for copy editing and she delivered that. She smoothed out choppy and disjointed places, suggested more appropriate word choices, questioned and clarified when my meaning grew hazy. She also did more. While I had not hired her for a developmental edit, she pointed out several places where the story would benefit from slowing down and building more emotional depth into my main character. We talked through those places, batting ideas back and forth.

Instead of being discouraged to find I need to write several more scenes, Jenny’s willingness to talk through her thoughts and my reactions, plus her encouraging feedback, has me eager to get back to the keyboard to make my story soar. As I write these new sections, Jenny will continue as my partner, copy editing to ensure each new scene fits smoothly into the whole.

After working with the same editor for ten years, author Amy Tan‘s longtime reader, editor and friend died. For twelve years, she was without an editorial partner. When her new book “The Valley of Amazement” was an idea, she was ready for a new editor. “I don’t care what the money is, I want an editor. I want the best editor for myself,” she says in a Wall Street Journal article.

Now that I’ve worked with a good editor, I understand the value authors like Philip Roth and Amy Tan find in these relationships. Professional copy editing gives me confidence my book will be what I set out to write. Now I can’t imagine publishing a book without it.

How about it indie authors? What has your experience been with editors? Have you used one? Why or why not?