Friday, August 22, 2014

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: Everyone needs an editor

This month  columnist Donna Alward talks about why editors are so crucial to a book's success...             


I’ve written close to 40 books – well, closer to 50 if you count the ones that are buried on my hard drive and will remain there forever.

Here’s what I know. Every single book I’ve published has been made better by the work of an editor.

And it doesn’t matter how strong your editorial skills are. Editing your own work is a bad idea. For one, you’re just too close to it to see flaws. Not only that, but it’s too easy to read through and mis-read. You can see things that you think are there but aren’t, and your mind will correct things automatically that you might miss.

And that’s just with punctuation and grammar, during the final stages before your book gets published. My editors also look at STORY. They look at characterization, conflict, pace, plot…you name it. They look at it with clear eyes that aren’t already emotionally involved. They can see things that you don’t…possibilities of another way that may be a better way to proceed. A conflict point that needs teasing out. Characterization inconsistencies, slowed pacing.

Sometimes my editors will give me specific examples of how to fix things, and sometimes they’ll simply point out the trouble spot and leave it up to me to find a solution. Sometimes if their remedy doesn’t work for me, I simply have to figure out WHY they want a change and then I can fix it my own way. I think each time I’ve done that, my editor has put the change through. It’s not really about whether I’m right or she’s right…it’s about the story being right for the reader.

With the heavy self-publishing market happening right now, editors are in demand, and they should be. You can tell when a book has been properly edited and when it hasn’t. And if you hire a freelance editor, check their qualifications and maybe read some of the material they’ve edited. Not all editors are created equal. One great thing about the romance community is that we share info, so talk to other writers about who they’ve used for their editing and get recommendations.

I’m in the process of self-publishing another backlist book, and even though this book has been previously published, I hired an editor. One thing we did was find areas to update things like, well, technology! When the story first came out, it wasn’t strange for my veterinarian hero to have a beeper. But my editor picked up on it and we changed it to a cell phone. And I seriously couldn’t believe how many grammar and syntax changes she made that really tightened the story. She was ruthless and I loved it!

When I finally release this book (hopefully on September 1) I’ll feel pretty good about the level of care that went into making sure it was ready.

I know some people don’t think they need an editor, or they don’t want to be told to change things in their story, or they don’t have time. But I disagree with all those things at some level. An impartial eye is always beneficial to pick up what we might have missed. You also can’t be married to your words…sometimes you have to kill your darlings in order to make the story stronger. No one writes perfectly. No one. And time? This is your career, your readership, and readers are smart. Not to mention they deserve your best work, so the extra time it takes to revise and edit your manuscript is crucial.

One last thing…if you’re writing for a traditional publisher, cost is not an issue. But if you’re self-publishing, you’ve got to lay out the cash for that up front. It can be a challenge, but it’s still important. Why? Because you want this venture to be a success, and success happens with a strong product. You’re not just selling this book, you’re relying on this book to sell your next, and your next.

Food for thought. And now I’m off to finish my current book, so I can get it to my editor. She’s got a very keen eye and knows exactly what my stories need to take them to the next level.


Donna’s current release is the backlist release of THE GIRLMOST LIKELY.
No one wants to take a risk on The Girl Most Likely To Have Fun...except the one person in the world she'd rather not ask.

Katie Buick dreams of opening her own niche restaurant, but finding a financial backer for a reformed party girl is proving impossible. Until she makes a final desperate plea to Ric Emerson, former geek and high school friend turned successful businessman. Too bad they haven't spoken since she humiliated him before their prom. The last thing she expects is for him to say yes, or for him to have made such a complete transformation from old friend to heartthrob. But she learned the hard way that nothing good comes from mixing business with pleasure.

Ric knows Katie's idea is brilliant, and with his business acumen and her work ethic, they're sure to be a success. Building the business brings Ric and Katie closer together. Chemistry still simmers between them, blurring the lines between personal and professional despite their best intentions. Ric trusts Katie to make their business a success, but can he trust her with his heart a second time?




  1. What a great message, Donna. Yes, we writers absolutely need editors. My editor is my story teammate--I couldn't tell that story without her.

  2. Totally agree with this Donna. I used to be an editor (not for romance) but still fee I need one. It's a very different mindset for each role.

  3. 'feel' I need one. Now everyone can see why . . . Ugh.