The benefits of a great copyeditor

by Leigh Matthews on March 6, 2016

copyediting marksOne or two typos almost always sneak past even the best authors and editors, but typos probably won’t affect the success of your book unless your manuscript is literally littered with errors (or if you’re writing a book about editing, perhaps). You are likely to lose a few readers, however, if there are major flaws in your plot, serious continuity issues, a whole host of inside jokes that make no sense unless you’re in the know, and/or bizarre and unbelievable changes in the way a particular character behaves.

Fortunately, there are these wonderful people called copyeditors who like nothing more than to spot weird things, pick apart your novel, and help you put it back together in a way that actually makes sense. If you’re lucky, they also leave you lovely comments such as, “Cool! I didn’t know this word!”, and, “Great simile!”, which helps you feel like you’re doing something right even when you’re knee deep in untangling some hellish plot snarl you just created by altering a character’s age by a month (true story: fellow writers, use gantt charts, they are your friend).

A good copyeditor can spot oddities such as an ancillary character suddenly not recognising another character that they actually dated in the first part of the novel (another true story [should I be admitting to this?]). A great copyeditor will be able to answer questions such as, “Does the omniscient narration work, or should I switch to a single narrator?” without making you want to rip out your eyeballs and smash your laptop (a slightly embellished story).

The Importance of Fresh Eyes

The thing about writing a novel is that you get so immersed in it that you become unable to see it with fresh eyes. Of course you won’t spot how one character’s decision to become a rally driver is entirely out of the blue: you know full well that their mother was an incredible rally driver who died trying to win this one all-important championship race. Your reader, however, is standing on the sidelines wondering what the hell is going on, and they might not wait ten chapters to catch up to your absent-minded plotting.

Having been on all sides of this kind of mess – as a reader, a writer, and as a developmental editor – I can honestly say that I am in awe of good editors and their capacity to provide helpful feedback and meaningful suggestions rather than just turning to their author and saying, “How much whisky did you drink while writing this nonsense? Go dry out and try again, or don’t.”

So, having almost reached the point of releasing the sequel to Don’t Bang the Barista!, I would like you all to know that I am highly indebted to my friend and copyeditor, Julia Lane, for helping make my latest novel, Go Deep, significantly more awesome than when she first laid eyes on it. Of course, any errors and idiocies that remain are my responsibility alone, and we still need to have a serious discussion about the Oxford comma, but, frankly, who doesn’t need to have that discussion?

In conclusion, if you self-publish, hiring a copyeditor is a damn fine idea. If you can’t afford one quite yet, consider how you might be able to barter for copyediting. The benefits are enormous, not just for getting your current manuscript up to snuff, but for helping you grow and learn as a writer. As a novelist who self-publishes, I know how it feels to be working in something of a vacuum, but a good copyeditor can offer feedback that helps you refine your craft and be a better novelist going forward.

If you’d like to hire Julia, you can contact her Julia Lane copyeditor. Or, if you want to find a copyeditor closer to home, take a look on PeoplePerHour and get 5% off by using that link.

And, if you’d like to pre-order Go Deep for Kindle, you can now do so!

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