Why writers should not be their own editors *

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about why writers should not be their own editors…

I teach people how to be better self-editors.

Yet I also subscribe to the notion that most people require professional editors.

I reflected on this apparent contradiction recently when I read an interesting piece on the Fiction University website. Written by Dario Ciriello, (@Dario_Ciriello), the post ran under the headline, “Why Self-Editing Your Novel Doesn’t Really Work.”

I both agree and disagree with Ciriello’s premise (which is why I’ve placed an asterisk in the headline, above.) He argues — reasonably enough — that authors are often blind to their own mistakes and that a professional edit provides a valuable, and fresh, set of eyes on the manuscript. Agreed.

But if you’re going to go to the time, trouble and expense of having a professional edit, don’t you think it makes sense to get your manuscript into the best possible shape before you do?

Here is how I framed the issue in my book Your Happy First Draft (which I had professionally edited, by the way):

Your paid copy editor will do a better job if you have done a good editing job first. I liken the process to hiring a cleaner. If your house is a disaster, the cleaner will be busy with tidying and vacuuming. Furthermore, you are likely to be ecstatic with their work because your house or apartment will appear so much better. But if your house is already tidy, the cleaner will have time to dust the intricate items on the buffet and polish the windows as well.

To me, the question isn’t one or the other type of edit. Both are valuable. Both are necessary.

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