Why are Editors and Beta Readers Important?
Updated: Aug 12, 2018
Yes, this is something of shameless self-promotion, as we have an editing sale coming soon. Also, please note that we edit the work of authors we publish free of charge. These editing services are for those who do not wish to publish with us or publish a genre we don’t publish. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, onto why editing is important.
As writers, we have entire worlds in our heads. A lot is happening in these worlds and we struggle frantically to get all the relevant parts of them onto the page. For some reason, I get the image of a kitten entangled in several balls of yarn, mewling helplessly. Okay, maybe that’s just how I feel when I have several plot threads and motives conflicting. But what happens when we inevitably forget a thread? Sometimes we can become so engrossed with one plot point that we forget about a subplot started five chapters earlier. That is a loose thread. An editor or beta reader should pick up on that.
World-building is a large component of writing fantasy. What are the Rules of the world? Remember, you cannot break your world’s own rules, but it can be relatively easy to contradict them or forget them, especially if there are many of them. I did this in my draft of The Golden Bell. Iron wards off faeries. A character had the walls surrounding his castle topped with iron spikes. Yet, several chapters later, a faerie host rolls in with zero problems. No, this should not be happening. It’s already been established iron makes them weak. You don’t want to let something get to print with a blatant contradiction like this.
Then, of course, when we imagine our worlds and our characters, everything is dazzlingly clear in our minds, and as take our imaginary worlds to the page, some elements can get lost. For example, one character may have curly black hair, and somehow, you just forgot to type it. Or, a character is creating a statue, but your readers somehow assume it’s a puppet. The latter happened to me during the party for Tantalizing Tales of the Horrific and Fantastic by Marie Krepps. I’d written a prologue for The Golden Bell, which we used as a teaser. Someone asked, “What’s happening here?” Another person chimed in that he’s making a puppet. Someone else said he thought it was a doll. Someone decided she had some serious revising to do (Hint: that person is totally me.). I saw my antagonist’s actions so clearly in my head, but I’d left out some key descriptions. And, yes, I was embarrassed. I edited my prologue within the next day.
Now, sometimes when I write, I’m tired. I write after my day job, which can be mentally taxing. My fingers start to meld words together. I’m struggling to type as fast as I can think and my fingers are like, “Let’s just blob the words together.” Sometimes I leave words out, because my fingers just skip them. It’s like they’re protesting how much typing they have to do and decide to cut corners. Then, there’s the cutting and pasting. There’s the Find+Replace feature. All of these can cause havoc. And sometimes, when I look back through my own piece, especially after working on it for months, the subconscious part of my brain doesn’t want to find more things to fix, or will just read what is supposed to be there.
I feel I should point out the Find+Replace feature can create some hilarious mistakes, like if one wants to change “Ed” to “Roderick.” Well, lovely. Now “educated” has become “Roderickucated.”
I’m sure my experiences are hardly unique. But I probably wouldn’t write if it weren’t for those who agree to edit and beta read my work. I’d have loads more situations like the prologue one I mentioned earlier. That piece you spent hours on? It deserves better than going to print with errors. You deserve better than to have a red hot face when obvious errors are later pointed out.