Should a Writer Pay for Professional Editing?

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© Cotton Nightie

Cotton Nightie

Guest Writer @ GoneWithTheWord

When I started writing, I was lucky to have avid and responsive readers of my short stories. I was a true amateur, drawn into the craft of writing as a passion instead of a profession. Those friends helped me interpret my own words by providing feedback on what did and didn’t work in my stories.

I recognized early on that storytelling isn’t simply relating events. I often had powerful emotional responses to some stories I read yet others left me untouched. There was some kind of magic in storytelling I could perceive but not reliably express. I began deconstructing my own stories to find what worked and didn’t, using the feedback of those early readers to provide the perspective I was unable to find by myself.

Sometimes I fell in love with my own words to the point I could not maintain any emotional distance. Because of this, I wasn’t providing enough context in the story to give other readers that same emotional response l felt. I was using my own words to trigger an emotional response in me without thinking of what other readers might want to hear. It was essentially a form of mental masturbation. And worse, when others read those stories, they saw a plate of purple prose with a side of adverb sauce.

I realized I needed more help than what readers could provide but I didn’t know where to turn. I saw freelance editors offering their services on Twitter and Reddit, but didn’t really understand what they did for writers. I read an article that described the two broad categories of editing: developmental and copy editing. Developmental editing focuses on larger issues of story structure, plot, and pacing. Copy editing focuses on sentence structure, grammar, and style.

Working with developmental editors changed everything about storytelling for me. Instead of wondering if a particular scene or characterization worked, I was able to dissect the story with my editor to evaluate its impact and often come up with something stronger. Having someone mirror my words back to me made my writing clearer, more concise, and more likely to draw readers into the story I was telling. And while I sometimes managed to write compelling stories and scenes, I’d inevitably ruin them by using repetitive words, awkward syntax, or homophone confusion. I’m particularly blind to my own grammar mistakes like many writers and regularly ignore doubled or missing words without a glance, but luckily my copy editor’s red pen finds them all.

Cotton Nightie is a best-selling author who has established Cotton Nightie Press; a boutique publisher for the kinds of romantic stories you want to curl up with.

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