How important are editors to writers? I’m considering this question because I’m currently working with an editor on my latest historical novel. In fact, we just finished the second edit back and forth.
Are editors necessary? For those of us who are traditionally published, it is editors who decide what will be published. So obviously, we writers should be paying attention to what they have to say. Yet I have heard some writers claim that self-published authors can do away with editors. These writers feel they should be able to write and then edit their own work without interference.
Nevertheless, a good editor can help a writer gain a clearer perspective, distill the most significant elements of a piece of writing, organize content in a way that's comprehensible to a reader, offer advice on how to solidify story elements that are causing problems and then proof or copy-edit in a way that preserves the integrity, voice, and tone of a given work. A good editor can point out plot flaws or information inconsistencies, proofread for typos, grammar, and spelling, check references, and format your work properly.
Given all of that, should you hire an editor? That depends. I’ve never done so. However, I was an English major as both an undergrad and a grad student. I taught English at all levels. I likely could have worked as an editor myself. That doesn’t change the fact that when I put on my editor’s hat to examine my own work I still find errors that need to be fixed. So I truly value input from editors because they present a fresh set of eyes. They can also be objective about our work in ways we cannot be. But my work with professional editors occurs only after my work is contracted with a publisher.
After my work is contracted, be it a novel or a short story, I value what the editor brings to it. With a novel such as the long historical I am working on now, I particularly appreciate the editorial suggestions and corrections I have received. They make my writing much stronger. Of course, I don’t always agree with all editorial changes, but I keep an open mind to them. I truly appreciate the benefits good editors provide.
What’s your opinion on this topic? What have you experienced working with editors? Frustration, positive experience or a little of both?