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Do I need an Editor or a Proofreader?

Updated: May 9, 2022

The fear of getting ridiculed for imperfect grammar and glaring typos is a thing for many new writers who are aware of their shortcomings. Often, they ask if they should be getting editors or proofreaders.

This blog is written from the perspective of a self-published author as well as a webnovelist. I will try to give the pros and cons that I know for both perspectives so that you can decide to hire an editor or a proofreader of your own. The rates vary greatly so I will not be covering that but if you're interested in hiring me as your editor or proofreader specifically, then head on to my services tab to check out my packages.

Patreons to credit: Dame Butterfly. -This could be you. Join now.-

Before I start, I want to mention that you are in no way obliged to hire an editor or proofreader to become a better writer. Some writers I know proofread and edit their work without external help. Ok, maybe with a little help from softwares such as Grammarly but that's about it.

You might be interested in this blog: Should I Buy Grammarly Premium?

I personally have done without the editors and proofreaders for My Wife is an E-Ghost! but it was a terribly time-consuming process even if I knew what I was doing. The editing process for writing a webnovel and a self-published book is very different.

For a detailed breakdown of my editing process for webnovels, refer to this blog.

When editing for E-ghost, I had to do several types of editing including rewriting several rounds to polish the mammoth of a manuscript into something that flowed like silk. Some things I did involved content editing & rewriting, copy editing & line editing, proofreading with the aid of my trusty digital writing assistant - Grammarly.

It took me a total of nearly five weeks to finish editing what I wrote in two weeks. Editing is heavy work and unless you know what to do, you might be staring at blocky texts feeling unsatisfied with what you wrote with no idea how to fix them.

Before you decide if you need a professional to rescue your manuscript, it is important to understand the difference between an editor and a proofreader.

Job of an Editor:

Editing helps a writer smoothen the wrinkles in their written works by organising ideas, identifying pacing that might feel out of place or picking out parts that make reading uneasy for readers. Their job is to polish the rough diamond you've created and help you shape it into something more than just a shiny rock.

Types of editing and editor could offer:

Stage 1: Developmental edit / Content edit

Think of developmental and content editing as someone who dissects your book's plot and ideas logically under a microscope. The editor here doesn't correct your grammar in detail because that isn't the main focus. Instead, they become critiques about the sequence of your story, the plot and if there are holes in it. Your style, pacing and sometimes tone are judged through a sieve honed by their experience as avid readers and book marketing experts.

At this stage, you might be asked to rewrite sections of your book or even the whole damned thing. It's probably the most painful stage because many times writers feel attacked when their editors show rejection of their original creation. I'm not saying these editors are always right but communication is a two-way street and I know some editors who are toxic bitches who enjoy putting new writers down while making them cough up money for their services. However, if you find the right editor to work alongside, you'd thank them later.

Stage 2: Line edit / Copy edit

The two types of edits are rather similar hence I grouped them in the second stage. Writers don't often go through both types of edits because it is expensive, not to mention both types of edits have many overlapping areas with proofreading that I will talk about later.

The aim in stage 2 of editing is to fine-tune your writing quality after your ideas are decent. This is probably the editing service that more inexperienced writers are looking for. The editor here will look out for consistency throughout your manuscript, correcting the tone, use of words, grammar and writing technicalities like capitalisation and grammar.

The only difference between line and copy editing is the level of detail they focus on. Copy editing is a more overall and generalised editing style that aims to piece everything together cohesively. The editor might highlight your use of overly frequent passive telling, filler sentences or phrases, and possibly paragraphing breaks during this stage of editing. They might correct a few missing articles in your sentences or fix some typos but not all of them will be picked out. If you're a writer who needs someone to comb through your manuscript line for line with a fine-toothed comb, you want to engage line editing services instead.

Unlike copy editing, line editing feels more like hiring a teacher to mark your written essay and spot all your mistakes for you to correct. Their job is to offer you advice about the choice of vocabulary wherever suitable while they read line for line, highlight overly complex sentences that are hard to read, pick out overly used phrases that could potentially be boring for your readers etc. The editor's job when line editing is to sharpen the quality of your writing so that it is 90% to 95%close to the quality of a polished manuscript for publishing.

Of course, some people claim there are more stages but I'm simplifying things here to what most writers need and not all. Again, this blog is more of a guide than an SOS manual. Every book requires a case by case analysis and only you as the writer know what you need best for your baby.

Job of a Proofreader:

Now that you understand the role of editors and what they do, it's time to understand the limitations of a proofreader.

Many people think that all they need is a proofreader to work on their manuscript before it is ready for the publishing house without an editor. That's only possible if you are the editor. A proofreader cannot replace an editor's job because they can only help to push that 90% or 95% quality to a 99% or 99.9% quality for the publishing house. Their job is to pick out what the editors missed in the previous editing stages.

A proofreader will not offer you writing advice. If anything, they only do what they're paid to do like what Grammarly would do for you. They pick out grammar errors, punctuation inconsistencies and typos that maybe your spellcheck missed because it thought you meant "eat a boy" instead of "meet a boy". Don't ask me how "eet" was autocorrected to "eat", I don't know either.

Role of a Beta Reader:

Since I've made this such a technical blog, I guess a little more content wouldn't hurt for those who wish to know.

The role of a beta reader is to give the writer feedback on their drafts as a reader would in a constructive and hopefully encouraging manner. Writers are creatures with fragile hearts. Therefore, we usually let a small group of trusted individuals read our stories and let us know what they think about it. We don't just need confidence from encouraging comments from beta readers, we need honest thoughts and a 400-page analysis essay about what they thought, if possible.

Role of a Mentor:

This one should be obvious. I don't know if I'm fit to mentor anyone but from the number of people asking me for writing-related advice to subscribing to my blog's updates, I will say I'm just one step away from becoming a writing mentor.

Mentors are literally writers themselves but they've been in the industry for far longer and are usually much wiser. Don't get me wrong, not all mentors are trashy but I met many along the way that made me decide to stop looking for one and start exploring my own path without any torches. If you don't have a mentor, don't panic. I didn't have any either and many writers don't.

The writing advice and tips I give are those I learned all on my own with nobody to depend on. It worked for me and I'm not claiming that it would work for you but if you believe in the things I went through and would like to try it out rather than spend the next decade trying to figure out the same things I did, then I suppose you can see me as a writing mentor.

Mentors do not write with you, for you or edit anything you do. Heck, most of them don't even read unless they really have to because that's just how busy a writer's life is. However, they are the people you call at 3 in the morning to ask how you could craft a murder scene and listen to them share with you the most creative ways to kill a cheating lover.

Some writing mentors require you to pay for their time and services while other writing mentors you find through connections and tug at the string of fate.

In conclusion...

Every book has a different need and depending on your skill, experience, confidence and needs as a writer, you may or may not need to hire professionals to make what you've written into the next Pulitzer Prize nomination.

P.S. I wrote this at 1 am in the morning and definitely failed my lifestyle challenge so fuck fixing all my typos that may or may not exist in this post.

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