Any good writer knows editing is an indispensable part of the writing process. You can certainly do some editing yourself—and you definitely should—but it’s difficult to get the critical distance from your own work to edit effectively. That’s where trained editors can help. But how do you know your work is ready for an editor?
You’re ready for an editor if . . .
You’ve Finished Writing
In most cases, your work should be finished before you send it to an editor. If you’re adding pages or making changes as the editor is working, you’ll likely end up with a higher bill (not to mention a frustrated editor). It’s best to wait until you’re really finished to get started on editing.
First drafts are messy and that’s normal. They are all about getting your ideas down without second-guessing yourself. If you edited while you were writing, it’d be even harder to finish your project! That said, your first draft isn’t the one to send to an editor.
Trying to make sense of rough work can result in more confusion and ultimately add to your bill, so do yourself a favour and do some self-editing. Run spell check, of course, but also think about big-picture issues like structure, plot, characters, and themes. Ask yourself questions like: Are these passages in the right order? Is this tone appropriate for my audience? Have I, to the best of my abilities, used consistent spelling and grammar?
Once you’ve gone through your work (probably a few times), you should feel like you’ve made it as polished as you can. You don’t have to be one hundred percent confident in every aspect of it, but you should feel your work is as close to complete as you can get it on your own.
You’ve Done Some Research
There are a number of things you should know before entering an editing agreement. You should have some understanding of the different kinds of editing and the various terms for them. (For example, in professional publishing a proofread isn’t just a light edit to correct typos. It’s a check of both textual and visual elements that often takes place after typesetting.)
You should also understand what an editor can and can’t help with. An editor is not a ghostwriter, nor a guarantee that your book will hit a best-seller list. And editors have limits too; not every editor offers all stages of editing in all genres.
Every editor has their own way of conducting business, so as you research editing in general, don’t be afraid to look at individual editor’s websites to see how things vary. You can also check out professional editing organizations like Editors Canada or the Editorial Freelancers Association.
You’ve Got A Publishing Plan
A plan doesn’t have to be set in stone, but if you’re investing in a professional editor, you should be able to give them some information about how you plan to proceed. Will you submit the edited manuscript to an agent or publisher, or are you self-publishing? Do you have deadlines to meet? How fast a turnaround do you need?
Perhaps the most important part of this plan is your budget. How much money can you responsibly spend to have your work edited?
Be aware that there’s a lot of variation in editing rates, but quality often comes with a cost. So, either commit to a budget that’s already within your means and be prepared to step away from contracts you can’t afford or be willing to save up the money you need. Do not spend what you don’t have. No one wants you going broke to get your manuscript edited.
You’re Ready To Work
Writing is hard and you’ve likely already put a lot of effort into completing your work. Are you ready and willing to put even more into it?
Editing is a partnership. An editor will find mistakes and, in many cases, suggest ways to fix them. But, it’s still up to you to review all the edits and, depending on your editorial agreement, integrate those changes. If you don’t have the desire or will to go through your work one or more times, then you’re probably not ready for an editor.
But if you are eager to revisit your work and make it better, you’ll be happy to know that working with an editor can be a positive and rewarding experience.
Still not sure about professional editing? Here are five reasons to hire an editor.