You have written your first draft, edited it, let your ego be destroyed while your work improved thanks to critique partners. Now it's time to polish that manuscript with a fine tooth comb and destroy whatever is left of your ego. It's time to hunt and peck for the thousands of errors you missed.

This is you, copy editing alone

It's time to get an outside editor. Mainly a copy editor at this point, particularly if you are going to publish traditionally with a publisher. But if you're going to self-publish you may want to find a copy editor and a content editor, or an all-in-one service. However, let's look at copy editing first. This is the time to call in a favor from any friend with an English degree.

The first step is to know what you need. Copy editing is editing for grammar and spelling. Do you need this? YES! The human brain will do a trick: a small error like using "it's" when you meant "its" may be skipped with first reading. If so, it's likely to be skipped with each successive reading. And MS Office's grammar check sucks like a Dyson on shag, so you can't count on it. Remember misspellings and typos can take a reader out of the story, so you want to eliminate them one and all. So enter the editor...

That's right...you need the evil love-child of Bruce Lee and Anna Wintour

So how do you find a copy editor? First, look to friends and family. Have any of them done this? How about any that are teachers and used to editing papers? How about any English B.A.'s living in your home that will work for food? That being said, you have to trust the person. If it's someone you know don't be afraid to give them a test. Write a 200 word story and put in 3-4 specific errors and see if they catch them. Normal pay is $300 for an average 80,000 word novel in USD, but with family or friends you can usually negotiate much cheaper if you allot enough time and promise them a free copy.

Then there are grad students who want an even higher degree to mourn as they labor at Starbucks. You can advertise on sites like Craigslist to find them, but make absolute certain they can provide references you can trust OR pass a test you make up. A true professional who has done this before and works at editing as a business will charge you about $300 and is a simple Google search away, but grad students can usually work for about $100-200 as long as they get credit and can add it to their resumes.

Family and friends can be free, but remember this is a huge workload you're asking them to undertake, so suck-up to them. But what if you're broke, and you have no available family or friends? Well, in that case, you know the break you took during the last lesson? Extend it to 90 days. Then print out a hard copy of the manuscript and sit down to read it with a red pen. After a 90 day break and reading it in hard copy form tricks your brain into thinking it's processing new information and it is more likely to catch errors.

Editors usually take 21-30 days, doing it yourself will take about 120. Editors cost $100-350ish, do-it-yourself is free. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, so a sacrifice must be made.

Some sacrifices are more delicious than others

Now, what you will get back should be a marked copy, NOT an edited one. That means there should be red marks throughout, notes in margins, letters struck-through, etc. Copy editing is pretty straightforward and you won't have any real disagreements. Sometimes they may question a word choice and I advise you to always consider this: ask yourself why you prefer to use your word and ask yourself if you think the reader would agree with you or the editor. That's about it for conflicts with copy editors. Remember, these people know what they're doing and you should trust them.

Now we come to content editors. These are not necessary. Are you anal retentive? Do you have $500? Are you self-publishing? Do you practice Zen meditation and have a long fuse? Do you lack full confidence in your own abilities? Then look into this. Do not hire off CL or friends/family. Google an established, real, experienced professional. Why? Because content editors will tell you if you need to delete a character, re-write major scenes, delete scenes, add characters, and other major things. If you select one, you need one who has a history that shows they know what the fuck they are doing. Just like selecting a plastic surgeon, you get what you pay for.

Though, scarily enough, this is the result of good, expensive surgeons

Most of you will not want this option. The truth is, you should have enough faith in your own ability that it's not necessary. Remember outside content editing can futz around with your voice, aka, your writing style. However, with faith or not, if you publish traditionally, this is one of the services your publisher provides. We'll cover that in Writing 105.

So for now happy hunting for an outside editor, or for those of you who self edit and need to take a long break, might I suggest you open a World of Warcraft account, go to get a new driver's license at the DMV, or master ancient Egyptian embalming, you know, anything to eat up 90 days? Of course, marketing, writing other projects, or relaxing works too. 

No matter which path you take, after this step you should look like this

Happy hunting, and next time we'll take a look at conflict resolution that comes up with content editors. If you're not using one, feel free to skip to lesson 2-C.