I know I mention doing a lot of studying in this post, but trust me, it's worth it.

One of the recommendations I make in my series about paid reviews and in the guidelines of my own review site is that authors make sure their work is edited before sending it in to be reviewed. When I refer to editing, I'm referring mostly to manuscript editing as it's defined in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) and proofreading. I can’t stress the importance of editing enough. Frequent mistakes within a book make it seem unprofessional, and for many readers, those errors detract from the story. I’m one such reader. Errors tend to stick out to me and knock me off course. They’re like bumps in the road. Some, such as missing or misspelled words, are more serious bumps than others, such as misplaced punctuation. When we authors ensure our work is properly edited, I feel we show greater respect for our craft and for our readers.

At the same time, I know that affording an editor is hard. There are some places authors can go to get better rates, such as Readers’ Favorite. I’ve never used an editing service before, so I can’t personally recommend any, but there are a lot out there. It’s up to each of us to determine which ones are trustworthy and which ones aren't, and to figure out what editorial services we need.  For those of us who just can't fit it into our budget, there are some . . . I don't want to say "alternatives," but there are things we can do to help improve our writing even if an editor is out of the question. One such "thing" we can do is study.

I know that sounds boring, but it's necessary. I haven't been able to afford the services of an editor, so I improvised. I bought the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style used and started studying it so I was better equipped to do the job on my own. I’d already read other writing and grammar books, which helped me better understand CMS. CMS has been especially helpful because it also offers a lot of information about the publishing industry. It's a little pricey new, but there are affordable used options available. It’s an enormous book and there’s a lot of information in it to try and recall constantly. Like many things, you kind of have to pound it into yourself with practice and even then it helps to have it on hand to refer back to. All this studying is a lot of work and commitment, but I’ve found it to be extremely helpful.

I find it also helps to use a word processor with a built-in writing assistance tool/spell checker, but keep in mind that such programs may introduce errors into your work because they sometimes take things out of context. They also don't catch certain errors for the same reason. You still have to be vigilant. I've heard good things about Grammarly, so that might be useful editing software to check into. While these options may be more affordable than most editing services, it’s important to keep in mind how difficult it is to edit our own work. I want to clarify that I don't believe it's as impossible as a lot of people claim, just hard to do well.

What I mean by this is that we often auto-correct our work in our minds as we read it because, well, we know what we meant to put. This is why I try to always read my work over at least three times and then step away from it for a day or so before completing the final edits. Fresher eyes are more objective and thus catch more mistakes, but it’s still possible to skip over some issues. We can miss mistakes in our own work that would be blatantly obvious if they appeared in someone else’s. For this reason, I continue to recommend hiring a professional editor, if at all possible. I also recommend acquiring the services of beta readers and critique partners. Hopefully you'll be able to do this in addition to hiring an editor, but if you can't afford an editor, beta readers and critique partners can save your work in certain ways.

A beta reader is basically someone who reads books before publication. They let you know what they thought of your story and give you pointers on how to possibly improve it. They should be avid readers of whatever genre your book is. Writers who read other writers' work before publication are usually called "critique partners" instead of "beta readers" because they read from the perspective of another writer rather than as a reader first, but their function is similar. Neither a beta reader's nor a critique partner's focus is on picking out errors, but they may still mention them if they find any. Like some editors, they may also suggest rewrites of certain areas. I suggest acquiring their services before hiring a professional editor and again after receiving the final edits. Both often work for free, in exchange for similar services (in a critique partner's case), or for a lower rate than many editors.

Now, let’s say you can afford an editor. How can you decide what editor to go with? There are so many scams out there, and there are a lot of editors who just aren’t qualified enough to handle your work. How can you pick through them to find the right one? I’ll tackle this issue in my next blog post. It’s already completed but I’m trying to keep this a weekly blog. So, for now, I hope you found some value in this post and will check out the next one. I also hope you’ve had a great start to your new year!