It is a truth universally acknowledged that an author in possession of a good manuscript must be in want of an editor. Or is it? For authors taken on by traditional publishing houses, editors are not optional. And while some authors view editors as a blessing, others are less convinced of their virtues. But not many will claim to be able to completely forgo some form of editorial help on the long road to successful publication.
Take Mozart, for example. Legend has it that he produced completed masterpieces straight out of the ether. Fully formed. No amendments. No changes. No second thoughts. Like the goddess, Athene, emerging from the forehead of Zeus. Let’s face it, there probably isn’t an author in the world who wouldn’t wish the creative process was that straightforward! However, the fact is that Mozart was no more immune to the vagaries of eighteenth century music publishers than other lesser mortals, and, where possible, he used family or trusted friends to proofread manuscript engravings to avoid the pitfalls of poor quality or unauthorised copies. And there is even evidence to suggest that either Mozart himself or his publisher edited some of the manuscripts from performance copies before publication. Why? Well, presumably to give the music-buying public a better Mozart experience!
Editors are not the bad guys
So where is all this leading? Well, my point is that editors aren’t necessarily the bad guys. A good editor, whether in-house or freelance, can be a huge asset for a writer. Writing is a very personal process. Publication, as the name suggests, is a public activity. And if you’ve put hours of your time, blood, sweat and tears into your latest novel or short story, it seems rather strange that you would send it out into the wide world alone and unprepared.
A good substantive or copy editor can help a writer with the transition from private to public. They can use their experience and professional skills to support you and identify any problems that may cause you embarrassment or cause difficulties for your readers. Most importantly, they they can encourage you, fight your corner for you and challenge you to make your work the best it can be. And that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?
For more details on substantive (structural) editing, copy-editing and manuscript critiques, check out Book Nanny’s website at www.booknannyfictioneditor.com.