| || |
If you're new at writing...if you've just traveled around the world, or done something amazing that deserves a book, but don't know how to put sentences together...sure, you need an editor to help you polish it. But if you just write because you like to exercise your imagination...you should learn how to polish your own words.
This isn't easy. It will take years of writing, going to writers workshops and enduring critique. You will have to listen to critics telling you "this sentence is redundant. You keep using the word 'suddenly'. Your paragraph is confusing. I don't understand the motivation of your character."
And so on!
I went to the Philadelphia Science Fiction Writers' Workshop for 20 years off and on. Five or 6 stories would make the rounds of 20 people. It was a pretty exhausting 12-hour day, physically & emotionally. "I thought my story was brilliant and everyone just thinks it's 'so-so'?" But it was the best possible education I could have gotten. Not only did my own stories get shredded but I got to read others' writing and gain an understanding of why it did or didn't work. After going through this, for many years, I got to where I could hear those critics' voices in my head. I learned the valuable skill of self-examination. After getting over my infatuation with my own brilliant prose, I could step back and tell myself painful truths, such as "this paragraph uses 5 sentences to say what I could say in one."
A word of warning: many writers become discouraged by critique. Being able to “get over yourself” is an emotional maturity issue. In addition, some of the main facilitators in my workshop were former slushpile readers. Eventually I realized that nothing I wrote would impress them, because they have seen it all. They have been in the SF trenches practically since the days of Campbell. Truth be told, “science fiction” was a Job for these people. I don't think they even really liked it anymore! I regret I let these people's jaded attitude discourage me from writing for many years. (Of course, that was in the days before web publishing and Createspace. There was no way to publish your writing except to attract the notice of equally jaded, cynical agents and editors who had a) seen it all, and b) were only concerned about the bottom line.)
Anyway, after all of this experience, I think I am qualified to be my own editor. And why not? What does an "editor" have that a regular human being doesn't? Why do people say I need to hire an editor ($100 for the first 10k words and .5 cents for the rest: about $4,000 for a 140K novel.) And yet some of them say "my wife/husband/cousin is my editor"?
So here is what you need: years of experience as a writer and workshop member. And lots of time. Write the draft, let it rest awhile, come back to it, pretend you're a reader who never saw it before, and mark what doesn't work. Repeat several times. Get a print proof. Read it and mark it up again.
Congratulations, you're an Editor!