I began the process of searching for an editor several years ago while I was writing my book, Finding Eagle. I was looking for someone who knew her stuff and would also respect the personal nature of my work.
Along the way, I came across a postcard advertising two women offering professional editing services. They listed the usual reasons for hiring an editor rather than relying on friends or family to edit your work, and they expressed themselves pretty well. They were experienced, sharp, and pleasant. Then I flipped the card over and beneath their names was the tagline, “We are not your mother!”
I laughed out loud. The quickest way to drive any editor to distraction is to have a friend or relative do the final edit of your book. Here are a few of the reasons why:
- Skill – While well-meaning and well-educated, not all friends have the knowledge, detail-orientation, and drive for perfection you will receive from a professional editor.
- Objectivity – When it comes to content, friends and relatives tend to look at your work through the lens of their relationship with you (OMG! When was THIS happening?”) rather than an objective assessment of the power of your story.
- Experience – Casual readers generally haven’t been immersed in the world of writing and publishing and don’t have the benefit of that knowledge and experience to offer.
- Honesty – Those who are close to you may have a difficult time expressing forthright opinions and recommendations (such as, “You may want to consider starting over,” or “Were you making a point here?”) because they genuinely do not want to hurt your feelings, make work for you, or disappoint you.
- Buttons – I once read a quote from an author that went something like this: “At work and at home I am a powerhouse and a leader. Why is it that as soon as I cross my parents’ doorstep I am a shriveling mess?” Family members push our buttons. When we go home to them, we can lose our power, and our writing can, too.
- Challenge – Beyond punctuation, wording, and even content, a strong, objective editor may challenge your thought processes, your motivation, and perhaps even your way of being in relation to your book. This can be a tricky path for you to walk with anyone who is close to you.
I believe in the course of writing a book, that sharing, feedback, and support from those who know you well can be extremely helpful. Before it was done, my own book was read and critiqued by two family members, a half-dozen friends, and two writers’ circles – all of which was helpful. The final edit was done by a professional editor, and I appreciated immensely her knowledge, objectivity, and gentle candor – and especially the fact she wasn’t my mother.