Should you hire a professional editor right away?
NaNoWriMo is over! As you bask in the glow of your victory and December frost, you’re probably asking yourself what’s next. You’ve cranked out 50k words, and you are buzzing with the excitement of success and productivity. Now you’re ready for the next step. You’re ready to hire an editor.
Whoa, hold your metaphorical horses.
There are a few things to consider. First of all, we’re assuming that your draft is complete, as far as word count. We’re assuming the story is finished. Just because you wrote 50k words doesn’t mean you’ve typed THE END.
But even if you have, that baby manuscript has just been born. It’s a tiny little first draft.
That thing isn’t even crawling yet.
In my Editing Basics video, I discuss the importance of giving your manuscript time to rest before beginning the editing process. I recommend at least a month. Step away from your story. Let it breathe. Work on something else. Say hi to your family and friends. (I know they haven’t seen you during November.) And when you go back to your manuscript, you’ll approach it with fresh eyes and be able to see it objectively (well, more objectively).
Which brings me to my next point: Do not hire a professional editor before you self-edit.
1. The end product will suffer.
An editor can only improve what’s on the page. You want to give your editor the cleanest, best version of your manuscript so that he or she can make it the absolute best it can possibly be. If you give your editor a first draft, he or she will have to focus on fixing silly mistakes and won’t get to really dig in.
2. You will pay more.
Personally, I request a sample chapter before offering a quote for editing services. Why? I set my rates based on 1. the number of words and 2. my anticipated editing rate. So if you send a first draft, the rate per word will be higher because I will recognize that I have a first draft in front of me, which will take longer per page to edit. And nine times out of ten, editing reduces word counts. So the word count of your draft will be higher than edited versions, and thus the bill will be higher for professional editing.
To get the most out of your professional editing experience—for yourself, your manuscript, and your wallet—take your story through the paces yourself before sending it off. That means going through the entire editing process: rest, structural editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading (possibly multiple times) until you have absolutely no idea how to make your story better. When you sit down at your desk, look at your words, and are at a loss for how to improve them, then you are ready for a professional editor.
Our job is to see things you can’t. And if you send us a manuscript at this stage, you will be much happier with the final product than if you send a draft.
As editors, we want you to be thrilled when you read your edited manuscript. We want you to jump up and down and say, I wouldn’t have thought to make these changes, but I love them!
Of course, you can always book ahead! Especially if you work well with a deadline. And if you need help working through the self-editing process, check out my Writer Coaching services. Of course, you're always free to email me with questions.
Tell me in the comments, did you participate in NaNo? How did it go? What’s your post-NaNo game plan?
Author & Editor
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