3 Reasons Why Authors Should Care About Editing

In my How to Self-Publish Your Book continuing ed. class at Hofstra University, I talk about the importance of editing. Occasionally, I’ll have a student in class argue that writers don’t have to care about editing, since chances are they’re going to hand off their manuscripts to an editor — content editor, line editor, or copy editor — at some point before the publication of their novel anyway. So why spend the time worrying about stuff that you pay others to fix?

I’ll tell you why:

1. Knowing how to edit makes you a better writer. This is, by far, the most important reason to care about editing. As a writer, editing should be part of your process. (Personally, I’ll finish a chapter or two during a writing session, and the first part of my next writing session is spent going over what I have written during the previous one.) Editing, or “pruning,” as one of my current students calls it, helps us tighten our text and focus our ideas. It helps flag misspelled words or clunky sentence structure. And, as I like to say, the “magic” of writing is often in the editing — it’s during my revisions that I discover texture and nuance, because I am freed from the stress of just getting the plot down. As you edit, your story begins to take shape. Imagine a lump of clay that is molded into something beautiful bit by bit — a squeeze here, a pull there. With writing, it’s no different.

2. Knowing how to edit will save you money. Some editors work by the hour. And some of the good ones will charge you more than $100 per hour. If you hand them a cleaner manuscript, that’s fewer hours of work for them, and higher bank account balances for you.

3. Knowing how to edit will make you a better marketer. When it comes time to promote your work, you may be called upon to do quite a bit of writing: blog posts, written interviews, etc. Cleaner text = More powerful text. And more powerful text can lead to more sales.

Can you think of any other reasons why authors should know how to edit? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why Authors Should Care About Editing

  1. I’m a big advocate for writers editing other writers, because doing so is a fabulous way to see your own mistakes and weaknesses without a filter. Also, if you haven’t revised your own work, you aren’t done writing it. First drafts are first drafts, not completed works.

    I’ve encountered a few writers who say they won’t show their work to an editor because they don’t trust the editor to understand their voice. If the voice is good, the editor will absolutely understand and respect it. If you write passively and load your story with excessive detail and exposition, you need an editor to tell you that you’re not ready yet.

  2. Good points! Knowing how to edit will also make your relationship with the editor a better one, because the editor will see that you are hardworking and concerned with the quality of your manuscript. It will also improve the quality of your final manuscript, because although there are many good editors, most simply don’t have time (or the publishing schedule won’t allow them) to do the repeated editing necessary to take a manuscript from poor to fair to good to great. You’ll also hopefully ensure that the final product is closer to your own words, voice, and vision. If you don’t edit your own work before it goes to an editor, you might not like what you get back.

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