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Don’t Let the Overwhelm Keep You From Your Best Book

The following is a guest post by Brenda Errichiello.

For an indie author, the editing process can be wholly overwhelming. Do you need a content editor? A line editor? A copy editor? What do these things even mean? How many times should someone look at your book? How do you know the person you’re working with is good?

photo by crystiAnd even after you get through the logistics of editing, there’s the heart-stopping concern that the person you have chosen to work with will eviscerate your writing. Or you. The threat of criticism can be paralyzing–and the fear of an editor changing everything about your life’s work can keep authors from seeking them out.

I work with a lot of indie authors. I hear these concerns all the time. And I see even more indie authors opt out of the editing process–not the proofreading process, mind you, but the actual developmental editing process–because the threat of the unknown is too much to bear.

But this resistance to seeking out help during the early stages of story conception creates a weaker book. And I don’t want that to happen to you. Indie publishing is a great opportunity to create something that’s one hundred percent yours. But just because you have ultimate control over the process doesn’t mean that you should do it alone.

When you hire an editor, what you’re really accomplishing is finding someone else to care about your book. When you have the opportunity to work intensely with an editor, especially on a developmental level, you’re inviting another person into the conversation. They’re a resource for you. Editors can help you fill in the plot holes. They can identify and improve weak character motivation. They can reflect your writing back to you and help you understand how your reader is going to react to what you have written.

The thing is, when you’re so entrenched in your work, it’s hard to see the big picture. You can see the brilliance of the world you’ve created because you’re inside of it. But every writer, even the experienced ones, can sometimes struggle with creating a complete picture and expressing their world in a way that allows others to enjoy it. Working with an editor doesn’t have to be a hack fest. It’s not all slash and burn.

In fact, a good developmental editor will help you:

  • organize your story
  • address audience appeal
  • fine tune your pacing
  • develop conflict and tension in your manuscript
  • optimize the beginning and the ending of the story, and
  • identify the parts of your book that just are not working

Editing in the late game of book production is essential, don’t get me wrong. But there’s a reason that editors in publishing houses work through author’s revisions for months, sometimes years, before sending them to the proofreader. Assembling the foundation of a book is a monumental project, and it’s essential to have someone else to help you identify and then incorporate all of the loose ends. Seeking out help doesn’t mean that you’re weak. It makes you a smart indie author. Every change and suggestion your editor makes will help you learn how to craft your book–and the editing process should ultimately result in making you a better writer.

Essentially, working with your editor on the foundation of your story is a process, not an event. Writing grows through conversation. Don’t expect to feed your manuscript into a machine and receive a ten step plan for the perfect book. Your editor will share her reaction and give you suggestions for improvement, but book-building is a process, as I am sure you know. When you sign up for content editing or developmental editing, your editor will help you make your book better–but only if you come ready and willing to match her work with your own.

Even so, don’t be afraid to ask your editor how she will help you. You’re investing in a creative partner for your book. Spend time on Skype and send emails. But don’t let the intimidation factor of developmental editing keep you from allowing your book to become the best it can be. Reach out. We’d love to be of service.

About Brenda

Brenda Errichiello has been editing books of all shapes, sizes, and genres since 2004. She launched her business, the Eclectic Editor, last year and still can’t believe she’s actually getting paid to do what she loves most — read!

The Winner of the FREE Comprehensive Edit Giveaway!

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Congratulations, Emily! :-)

What’s your biggest editing frustration? Share it in the comments!

  • My biggest frustration is when my editor doesn’t understand modern slang and wants it removed.

  • This sounds like a great giveway! That said, my biggest frustration with editing is just the sheer overwhelm I feel when looking at that big stack of manuscript pages.

  • Dana

    One of my biggest frustrations in regard to editing is finding mistakes LONG after I thought all were caught and fixed.

  • My biggest frustration is finding an editor I am happy with.

  • Blair Thornburgh

    Pacing. Insanely frustrating to fix in your own writing.

  • Thanks for offering this giveaway! My biggest frustration is knowing when the work has had enough editing – when to stop and send it out into the world.

  • Lisa Wilton

    My frustration stems from the fact that it needs so much work and I don’t know where to start. I seem to read through and I’m not happy with any of it at all!

  • Pacing and structure. I tend to write multiple characters and making sure their individual arcs are meshing into one big arc can be tough.

  • David Burton

    Besides the fact that I don’t have any money to have somebody else do the editing (like I should), my main frustration is the time it takes when I want to be creating new work.

  • I’m actually not going to enter this, but I’ve worked with Brenda and she is a phenomenal editor. Cheers to the future lucky winner.

    • Kritika, I’m very grateful for the kind words. I’m so glad we got the chance to work together! (And I’m looking forward to the next book!)

  • My biggest editing frustration is trying to get into the mindset of my reader to tell if I’ve included enough background information.

  • My largest frustration is getting to the editing stage in the first place.

  • Kirsten Weiss

    In the past, the biggest frustration has been that I’ve had to shift scenes around in my book. My editor has always been right about it, but it hasn’t been as simple as it sounds. That said, hopefully that won’t happen with the next book, because I think my plotting has improved!

  • The biggest frustration was having an editor not understand the scene and try to change it. Once we communicated it was fine. Other than that, working with editors has been good experiences that I’ve learned from.

  • I would love the assistance of a professional editor – trying to self-edit is so damned hard. I am trying to think about structure and pacing, characters and plot, how well the world is seamlessly integrated, if the dialogue is sharp enough and of course whether or not the last few pages of editing somehow ate all the tension out of the story. In other words my biggest frustration is trying to do all of the editing myself!

  • cviens

    When I write, I write freely, when I edit, I get stuck so hard that I have a hard time getting back to my story. I hate to get rid of any words in one moment, and in the other am ready to trash a whole chapter!! It is frustrating for me, so having someone help me would be a God send!

  • jswwrites

    The three books I’ve published were very linear and relatively easy to move along plots. The YA I’m about to edit has a LOT more moving parts, characters, and complications. So I”m thinking an editor might be a good investment for this one!

  • I’d just like to say that I’ve done a comprehensive edit with Brenda myself, and I can 100% vouch for her editing skills and qualities. So, a free comprehensive edit is a fantastic deal — good luck to all!

    I’m not going to enter this purely because Brenda fully deserves my cash on future projects, but I just wanted to vouch for her abilities and basically encourage people to enter and give Brenda’s editing services a shot. :)


    • Ryan! Thank you so much for your vote of confidence. I am touched and humbled by your support! :)

  • The perspective that I’m sharing in my book is so revolutionary to others that most don’t know what to say it seems, so it’s hard to get helpful feedback. I do hear the word brilliant often tho, which is encouraging.

  • Editing is the grunt work, not the fun work. Motivation, motivation, motivation! :)

  • The editing of the first draft of my novel has already become a complete rewriting. I can not say that it is frustrating per se, because I like to do it, what I don’t like is not seeing the end of the tunnel of this rewriting…

  • My biggest editing frustration is not one but many.

    First, English is not my first language and no matter how well you speak a second language you are always going to be comparing that paragraph you have just wrote in English with how you would’ve written it in your mother tongue (Spanish in my case).

    Second, if you are a writer you are in love, madly in love with your story which means that no matter how many times you read it you find absolutely nothing wrong with it, because that’s what being in love is all about. That doesn’t help if you want readers, and want the truth, only the truth and nothing but the truth about your writing.

    Third, for some reason I can’t understand, I hate comas and they disappear in anything I write. That’s also the situation for full stops, semi-colons, etc. The whole thing ends up being some kind of incredibly long sentence that seems to have no end. As experimental sample of writing looks awesome. If you intend to be understood by people, it’s a serious mess. Paragraphs also seem to suffer from the same disease in my writing.

    And those are only a few of my frustrations about writing.

  • Heidi

    The most frustrating thing for me as a indie author is to find a legit, qualified editor that is reasonably priced.

  • I did hire an editor for my debut novel – expensive, but I think it was worth the money, as my book was a lot better than it would have been without her. I wrote over 62,000 words last month as part of NaNo, and would love to be the lucky one in this contest, but either way, I’ll keep Brenda’s contact information close!

  • My greatest editing frustration is that too often I read over mistakes because I read what I meant to write, not what I actually wrote!

  • Lynn Tilson

    Frustration – trying to put together what my father wrote – which is where I began – with real life connections & more characters. And having my artist finally refuse to give me permission to use her art !

  • I launched my own copyediting business a few months back and love to copyedit! However, as a writer, I would still hire an editor myself. My biggest frustration would be the big picture stuff and knowing whether I have a good story overall. Even though I copyedit, it would still be difficult for me not to get tunnel vision on my own writing.

  • Carol

    I understand what a good editor can do for a manuscript. My frustration comes in the form of their high prices. I wish I could afford their services.

  • My biggest editing frustration comes from my rewording and reorganizing sentences because I don’t trust myself when it comes to grammar. I definitely value a new set of eyes for my work during the editing process!

  • I think my biggest editing frustration are the little things: I can see gaping plot holes, but I often miss the commas and semicolons that are out of place. What a lovely giveaway! Thank you so much for this chance.