My pubs don't do much editing. One will go through and copy-edit, maybe make a few notes, and that's it. The other doesn't copy-edit at all, I suspect, and she only mentions things when they're important, and I listen up.
So you understand why I LOVE a good editor when I have an opportunity to work with one. I definitely agree that a good editor will make your story a TON better.
But since I'm a Libra, I want to bring up the other hand.
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but my impression of freelance writing is that you must be able to turn in polished work. In some cases there's an editor, but my impression is that for most areas of freelance writing, the company hires you to do the job. They don't hire you and then hire someone else to edit you.
They hire someone who can do the whole kit and kaboodle.
(I say this with no experience in the industry. Please feel free to correct me. Obviously, if you're writing for magazines or such, it's different. But I'm thinking technical writing, medical writing, and writing marketing copy, website content, etc.)
There is an assumption out there that a fiction writer can NOT self-edit "good enough." There's an assumption that if you're self-editing, you're pretty much self-delusional.
What's strange to me is that in freelance writing, I don't see any of that prejudice at all.
Why is fiction so different? I believe editing is a skill. I will agree that it takes a while to develop, and that when I'm self-editing my stuff, I have to battle the self-delusions. I've had to learn that if I get the teensiest little nudge that I barely notice, then I NEED to fix it, BIG TIME. If I'm making excuses for something to myself, then I NEED to fix it, BIG TIME.
I've learned that teensy-tiny, barely audible inner nudges are HUGE things from a reader's perspective.
I've struggled to learn how to see things from a reader's perspective and not my own. I've learned I have to put out of my mind what I know about a story, and make sure, when I'm editing, I go to a place where I only "know" what I've read in the story so far.
I will be the first to admit my failings in this area. I mean, I'm pretty sure you've all seen me beat myself up for days over a comma or a misspelled word to know that I take this area seriously.
Not even books in the stores are without mistakes and plot holes. There is no "perfect" product.
I consider an editor a HUGE luxury. I do think that anything more you can do for your story, anything you can do to get more perspectives and different feedback will help you.
I'm sure there are good writers out there who haven't developed great editing skills. I'm sure that there are simply some awesome writers who are mediocre editors.
But then again, I think editing is a skill some authors can do perfectly fine themselves, of professional quality at least. Two heads are better than one and all that, but one head can still be of professional quality.
I just know that no fiction editor has ever told me something I didn't know deep down. (Non-fiction is a COMPLETELY different story, in my case.) They've mentioned things I ignored but shouldn't have. They've asked me to expand endings that I cut short because I thought 40,000 words was a strict limit instead of a guideline.
It's taken me many years and a lot of time to be able to see the "big picture" of my stories. I feel I've gotten to the point where I can. I would be thrilled at the chance to work with an editor, it's true.
I just don't understand why, in fiction, there's the assumption you can't do it yourself. It's hard work: I probably spend 70%-90% of my time self-editing. Probably someone who's just editing it could do it in tons less time, probably in a single pass, even, because they don't have to work at all to see it through fresh eyes.
I just find the dichotomy between freelance and fiction interesting.
And, it's true: I could be self-delusional. I could be a terrible editor. I have no idea. I did have a friend that I worked with when I first started, but we could give feedback the next day. I never seem to finish things in time to ask others for help. I need to learn to write without a deadline.
It's funny: I wrote a post about a year ago, where I was going to ask you guys a favor, and ask you if I could edit something you wrote purely so you could give me feedback on my editing skills.
In music, the best organizations train the judges by having them write their critique, and then having a third-party who's heard the performance critique the critiquer. That's wise, I think. I wonder if the big publishers train their editors that way?
So I don't know. How do you get feedback on your editing skills? How do you improve your editing skills? How has your self-editing changed over the years? And do you think fiction writers could be better self-editors, as professional quality as freelance writers, if it was expected of them? Or do you think it's an impossibility in fiction?