Last week, I came across a post on one of the Facebook writer and author groups I belong to. Written by an English teacher who had his own beta readers and a very good opinion of his proofreading skills, it essentially went like this:
Between me and my beta readers, why in the world would I ever need to pay for anything as pointless as an editor?
I didn’t reply to that post. For one thing, honestly, these writer and author group posts either get absolutely no responses or a billion (only a slight exaggeration there). And this one got a billion, with most people disagreeing with his position anyway.
At that point, why bother?
Secondly, his unimpressive attitude aside, it’s a valid question. I mean, if you’ve got a good grasp of the language you’re writing in and you’ve got some free readers to tell you where they like your manuscript copy and where they don’t, then editors with their charges and critiques can just go take a long walk off a short pier.
Sure. Why not. Of course, understand that you’re bound to at least have some typos in there regardless of how many times you scour your manuscript. No matter our educational background or abilities, we’re just not equipped to catch every single editorial mistake we make in a 70,000-or-more word document. And beta readers aren’t looking for those kinds of issues.
But if you’re okay with that, whatever. It’s your choice and your money.
As such, I had every intention of forgetting about the question entirely until Sunday, when I finished up The Alice Network, the latest book put out by my favorite author, Kate Quinn.
To give you the briefest of scoops, The Alice Network crosses two wars and follows two fictional lives. There’s Charlie, a young American woman two years out from World War II, whose older brother is dead and whose French cousin is missing. And then there’s Eve, a World War I British spy who worked for the real-life Alice Network, a courageous and effective group of female spies who crisscrossed German lines to deliver important information.
If you want to know more, you’ll just have to read it yourself.
To say that this book is phenomenal is an understatement though. There was one major moral/logical objection I had to it, which I won’t detail here. However, the writing is riveting, the historical research is illuminating, and the characters pop off the page like they not only exist but are walking right beside you.
In short, The Alice Network is a literary masterpiece, which – strangely enough – made me go back and reevaluate that unknown, unpublished English teacher’s dismissive post about editors.
Though, before I go any further, a sincere and serious clarification is in order.
Nothing I’m about to say is meant to diminish the phenomenal talent that is Kate Quinn. She’s the kind of writer who leaves me in awe. I have a pretty good opinion of my own writing talent, and I’ve seen some extremely impressive abilities among other writers, both published and unpublished. But Quinn is simply a superstar in this area.
And I sincerely doubt she operates without an editor.
In fact, I’m quite sure I spied a mention of her editor in the thank-you section of The Alice Network. Because here’s the thing about the best, most engaging writers – even the superstar ones…
They don’t showcase their best abilities without professional-level help.
Thinking otherwise is like expecting an athlete with tons of natural potential to make it to the Olympics without a coach. It’s possible, sure, but the odds are not very good.
Like coaches to athletes, editors are there to observe and analyze writers’ styles, making suggestions and offering advice to strengthen their talents and skills. Without an editor, a writer can be successful, profitable, liked and followed.
They’re just never going to be an all-around superstar. Not like Kate Quinn. Not at all.
If you don’t care to be a writing superstar, then that’s genuinely okay (just as long as you don’t have the unimpressive attitude that Facebook poster I mentioned above seems to possess).
But if you want to hone your craft to a fine-tipped pen point… if you want to make people’s jaws drop at how utterly awesome your book is… then get yourself a good editor and get ready to shine.