Armageddon (Or The Professional Edit)

You’ve researched, pondered, written, and spell-checked. You’re ready for a professional edit. (I’d suggest reaching for bandages, antibacterial cream, and chocolate now.)
P4250572-1024x768If you’re seriously trying to get published, you already know the odds (less than one percent for an unpublished author). Everything has to be perfect; stars must align; God must smile on your face. And you must be lucky, or a well-publicized ax murderer with a story to tell. Assuming you’re not on death row, you pay your dues after doing your best—and that means a professional edit.

I found my first manuscript’s editor through a writers’ association. My second was recommended by my literary agent. I was accustomed to taking direction from clients and remembered brutal edits in Journalism 101 class, but nothing prepared me for the electronic file I opened one summer evening in Germany.

The entire right column—the comments field—was crimson. The attack extended BELOW the page, corrections, re-directions and questions dripping from the edge like a hemorrhaging wound. Her work eviscerated 85,000 words. So I did what any adult would do in this situation: laughed while reaching for an almond-studded Toblerone bar.

The visual impact staggered me. Creating the document was tough, but how was I going to conquer 250 double-spaced screens of literary gore? The answer was one screen at a time.

About twenty screens into the carnage, a pattern emerged. Then I discovered mistakes: syntax, redundancy, logic flaws—mind you, this document made it to the top level of a Big Six, so it wasn’t garbage—bringing Journalism 101 lessons to the surface of my work. Halfway through, I started anticipating comments. By the end of the document, I believed my editor was the most brillant person on earth.

The process was an epiphany. It hurt. It was a vast, hard work. But I LEARNED SO MUCH from her expertise, seeing my document through another set of qualified eyes.

My second manuscript is queued up for July edit, and I’m expecting a scarlet August. But the professional edit is some of the best money I’ve spent during my publishing journey, and I’d advise you budget for one. (Just remember funds for Mr. Hershey.)