When you reach a certain point in your journey, it is time to bring on the editors! I don’t mean your BFF who took a few advanced English classes either. There are some who honestly believe that they don’t need editors. Yeah, no. I have met a LOT of writers in my life and I have never met anyone who didn’t need an editor. I’ve read a lot of self-published work that really needed an editor. I’ve read books from the big five where the editors were certainly having an off-day when they worked on that book (or the writer decided s/he was better than editors). You need an editor, you need an editor, EVERYBODY needs an editor!
I have always loved my editors. They really are working toward the same goal – they want your book or story to succeed because it helps them to succeed. You are too close to your own work sometimes to see the flubs and inaccuracies. Yes, there are some terrible editors out there – I’ve come across a couple myself – but they are a minority and it doesn’t take them long to out themselves as terrible.
If you go the self-publish route, I highly recommend an editor – you WANT to put out the best work you can. If you’re going the more traditional route, editors are unavoidable and awesome both.
I have mostly been incredibly lucky with my editors. They’ve been great professionals who really do know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about. I have always taken the position that, unless there’s a really valid reason I can back up with factual research, the editor is probably right. I have no problem rewriting sentences or cutting scenes that were there more for me than for the story. You always hear the phrase, “kill your darlings,” and for the most part, I agree. Sometimes, a line is so good it’s worth making an argument for keeping or moving but, for the most part, if you really love it, it’s probably there more for you as a writer than for the story and you can keep it in the file.
I have a file where I keep all my really precious “darlings” that were more for me than for my stories and generally, I turn them into other stories or poems and both the originating book and the next project are both better for it.
That’s not to say all editors are created equal. Or publishers for that matter. My horror stories are at least small ones. I had one non-fiction editor who accepted my work and then stripped out everything that made it mine before it went to publication. I signed all the things, she was absolutely within her rights to do it but, honestly, I don’t even understand why she accepted my story in the first place. It wasn’t a paying gig and I’ve never seen a physical copy of it so really, it doesn’t matter but I definitely was upset when she sent me the final approved copy, just so I could take a look. It made me sad more than anything as the story was very personal. Years later, I can say that she was probably right for her vision of her collection of essays but it probably wasn’t the right collection for my story (too late now though!).
The other terrible editor I came across had zero business being an editor in the first place. I love little ezines and new magazines and I don’t shy away from submitting things to a new publication that has a beautiful landing page or an interesting premise. At one point, I sent a poem set to a pub run by a guy I knew. He accepted one of my poems then turned around and brought on an editor who had zero experience who took that poem, ripped it apart – literally moved lines between stanzas, changed words so they no longer fit the meter (though in her defense she probably didn’t understand that there was a meter as it looked free verse if you weren’t paying attention). I tried to explain, she got snippy, and I pulled the poem because I really don’t do drama that way. I later sold it to a really great magazine (and a note in my email from a reader who loved it as it was meant to be).
Editors are there for more than silly grammar and punctuation problems (though I humbly apologize to all my editors from the past, present, and future, for my comma happy typing style!). They help you keep the continuity and make sure hair color, eye color, names, and personality doesn’t change during the story in ways it’s not supposed to. They aren’t going to annihilate your story just because. They want you and your work to succeed. Remember, the better you do, the better your story does, the better reputation they get, the better they do too. Editors are friends, not foes. If you have one, thank them don’t argue with them. Yes, your work is precious and awesome but I promise you, it’s not perfect.