First things first – apologies for my silence here on the Writing Tips for the last couple of weeks.

Like all of us, I suppose, I’ve been writing in fits and starts but, in slightly larger news, I’ve unearthed a picnic bench that has been buried under a massive thicket of brambles in my garden for the last couple of years. Let’s face it: all those little jobs, that do need doing and only get bigger with time, have been sitting, staring at all of us since the lockdown began and as such, I have torn my hands up, having abused them with both thorns and nettles. I’ve also bought some hand cream. I suspect that’s an age I’ve got to without even noticing.

Anywho, a very important writing tip for the day – always have an editor.

There are few things as embarrassing as hearing about a spelling error in your blurb from a reader. No matter how wonderful your manuscript is (and I’m sure it is. I believe in you), it’s worth getting another set of eyes on it before you hit the ‘Publish’ button.

This doesn’t just apply if you’re considering self-publishing. Even if the more traditional route appeals to you – finding an agent, a publishing house and the whole contract thing – it’s worth getting your manuscript as polished and shiny as possible to entice buyers.

Recently, I read a book and there was a scene with two men. One of the men had received a letter. His pal asked him when the letter had arrived. He answered, “Tomorrow.” Now, obviously, that’s a bit of an error. Quite a large one, in fact. It was not a comedy. And there’s not a spellcheck in the land that would have picked it up.

Please, for the sake of readers everywhere: never mistake spellcheck for an editor.

So – types of editing:

Developmental Editing – also called content editing, this involves an editor providing detailed feedback on the script. The editor will sharpen up your ideas, and help you fix any major plot holes or character errors. You don’t want a vegan character suddenly tucking into a bacon sandwich.

Copy Editing – Once the story is all ironed out and everything makes sense, a copy edit consists of checking spelling, grammar, word usage and repetition.

Proofreading – it’s up to you whether you feel you want a developmental edit and/or a copy edit, but the final stage is vital. Proofreading. A proofreader looks at the overall book. Any inconsistencies in spelling, style, layout which have not yet been corrected or picked up on should be discovered by now.

Very important thing to note: an editor can give you advice on what might want changing but it is up to you, as the author, to make those changes, or not. Ultimately, it is your novel.

It’s a very important relationship, between an author and an editor. When looking for the right person, you’ll want someone who is not only competent but who you can get along with. You’ll probably want someone who can give you criticism without hurting your feelings. It’s got to be someone whose advice you’ll respect and who knows what they’re doing.

You can find loads of editors via the many and varied writing groups on social media. I think it’s pretty standard for an editor to offer a sample edit – of a thousand words or so – for free. This is so you can get a handle on how they work and whether you like their approach.

Editing costs – for a developmental/copy/proof edit of a 60,000 word manuscript, you can generally expect to pay anywhere between £500 and £1000. This is, let’s face it, a pretty hefty financial commitment, so it’s worth shopping around for an editor you like. Also, if you’re planning to sell your ebook for 99p through Amazon, you’re only looking at a profit of around 27-29p, so to justify the price of the editor, you’ll want to make sure they know their stuff.

Just to reiterate: readers think of books in terms of number of pages. Writers and editors think of them in terms of word count.

If the money involved is frightening, I totally understand that. So, here’s what you need if none of the above sounds workable – find a friend who likes to read and has a bit of time on their hands, and offer to buy them dinner. If you can get someone to read your book, from the point of view of the average reader, they are termed – a beta reader. Some writers have whole groups of them, to spread the workload around.

Okey-cokey. So that’s what I know about editing.