I’m a Good Writer – I Don’t Need an Editor!

Anne Pottinger, editorI’d love to have a dollar for every time I’ve heard or read those words. I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d certainly have an agreeable stash of ‘funny money.’

It’s a fact that everyone who writes gets too close to the prose they’ve created. I’ve done it myself. In my psyche, I ‘know’ what I’ve written and when I read it back that’s what I see, not a couple of typos I’ve allowed to slip in.
Every editor worth his or her salt will admit to this. Kathie Ide, an editor recognized for her mentorship who has written several books on the subject of editing, wrote an article about how she always sends all her work out to a fellow editor for scrutiny before publishing anything. She confessed her documents and manuscripts are always returned to her with errors marked.

A professional editor will scour your manuscript with fresh, perceptive eyes. Your typos, spelling, punctuation, syntax and grammatical errors will jump out at her, as will redundancies, homophones, instances of awkward phraseology, stylistic errors, inconsistencies, etc.

Studies have indicated we really do have problems seeing our own typos, especially habitual errors. Spellcheck doesn’t spot common errors such as there for their or its for it’s. Having a completely fresh set of eyes look over your work before publication helps avoid those silly errors you never noticed but which seem to leap off the pages at readers.

As an insatiable reader and writer and lover of the intricacies of both the US and UK versions of the English language, my destiny was carved in stone several decades ago. It was inevitable I would become an editor.
In ninety-nine percent of the projects I edit I see the same common errors, both from newbie and established writers. I think this goes to prove that all writers have their blind spots. They usually know better and they are astonished when their slip-ups are pointed out to them, often again and again.

To throw in two examples, do you know that some adjectival lists need to be separated by commas, while others don’t? Do you know the rules governing when to use the article ‘A’ versus ‘An’? They are more complex than you think.
A lot of freelancers call themselves editors and will gladly take your money and either do nothing for you or more often, pocket your cash and do no more than tell you what you want to hear. A skilled editor is able to see the bigger picture. He or she sees your manuscript as your readers will, with the same demands and needs to be entertained and informed, but with the added skill of being able to help you fix the spots where you screw up.

I recently discovered an author new to me on Amazon. His books can be downloaded free using Kindle Unlimited. I read his first book and was impressed by his agile mind and plot construction, but page after page was rife with careless, sloppy errors: homophones, sentences not making sense because of missing or redundant words, characters referred to by different names, the make of car miraculously changing mid-journey, and much more.

It cost me nothing, so I downloaded his second and third books. Again, I was absorbed by his plots, but each book was marred with the same careless errors. Potentially excellent books remained mediocre. I was left with the impression he hadn’t even taken the trouble to re-read his own work, let alone had his books edited or proofread. The majority of his Amazon reader feedback points out the poor or non-existent editing. Clearly, he either doesn’t read it or doesn’t care.

I will close by repeating the title of this article, ‘I’m a Good Writer – I Don’t Need an Editor!’ Are sure about that?