When I was younger, I thought that I just had to write a book and then I could send it to an editor without even giving it a second look. I believed that the editor would receive the messy manuscript and make it magical.
I was so wrong.
While your manuscript doesn't have to be perfect before you send it to an editor (that would defeat the purpose of having one), it should be the best you can possibly make it. Why?
1. It is your book, so you should edit it first. It is your work, and you have the responsibility to fix it first. You know your vision; it is up to you to make sure your draft matches it to the best of your ability.
2. It will refamiliarize you with your own work. That way, when your editor says that Lily acts out of character in chapter three, you know what she is talking about.
3. It might be cheaper. Some editors give you a quote based on a sample of your writing. Even if the editor does not do that and has a standard price, you might have to go through more rounds of revisions, which is more expensive.
4. It will save you time later. If you fix that plot hole now, you won't have to do it in a few months after you get your edits back.
5. The editing process will be less intimidating. Not only will you have fewer issues that you have to fix, but you will be familiar with editing your work. You won't think: "Ahh! I don't know how to edit." Instead, you will think: "Oh, I have done this before. I have it handled."
6. You will be less precious about your book, which will make your book better. If you have already seen some of and fixed the flaws in your book, you won't be offended and defensive if the editor catches other problems. If you have already seen some of the issues, you won't be s surprised and hurt to find others. You will be inured to the whole process.
7. It makes you a better writer. If you edit your work on your own, you begin to realize certain ticks that you have as a writer. Then you can be aware of them for the next book. For example, there might be certain words that you constantly use as a crutch or that you overuse adjectives.
8. You will know which hills to die on. When you receive edits from an editor, some of them are objective and some are subjective. If your editor tells you that you constantly are changing tenses, then you know you need to fix it. However, if the editor wants to cut the jokes in the book that are crucial to the character, then you can fight to keep them.
9. You will better know what kind of editor/edits you need. If you are editing the book and notice that you are struggling with the love scenes in the novel, then you know you need to hire an editor who specializes in that. If there are major structural problems in the book, then you know to hire a developmental editor.
10. It is just part of being a professional. You always want to send someone your best work, even if she is going to correct it.
Not sure how to edit your book? My friend, Jennifer Blanchard, and I are going to put together a workshop on how to do this. Keep your eyes peeled next week for more details!