Four Ways to Get Free Editing

So I ended last post by admonishing readers to hire an editor. In case you missed it, the point of the discussion was that today’s publishing climate often puts expediency ahead of quality, which makes for a lot of errors. Writers need to be proactive by paying for their own manuscripts to go through the editing process if they want a quality product.

“Yeah, that’s nice, but I can’t afford it,” I hear some of you say. Not only have I been there, done that, but I have more than a few T-shirts to prove it! (Have I mentioned I grew up on a farm?)

In the true spirit of our name, The Write Helper, I offer four ways to get free editing.

Join a good critique group. The key word here is good. What are the signs of a healthy, thriving critique group? Members are published and continue to seek publication. They win or place in contests. The climate of the group is one of learning and growing, attending workshops and conferences. Members are encouraging and give helpful feedback.

It’s usually not a problem to find a grammarian or two in such a group. Warning: don’t be a critique hog by taking more than your share of critique time just to get your manuscript edited. As you develop skills, do make corrections to future pages before bringing them in. I could tell you stories of lazy, selfish writers from my nearly eighteen years of group attendance, but I’ll save it for another day.

Swap manuscripts with other writers. I’ve done this with trusted writer friends whose skills I respect. How it works is that you agree to read each other’s manuscripts, making comments and edits. Caveat: if you aren’t yet skilled in giving critique or making line edits, this probably isn’t the best option.

Read a book on the subject. Sure, this is a lot of work, but if you’re a quick study, a $20 investment for a book on self-editing is a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ll pay for an editor. (Yeah, I just said that.) A couple of books I recommend are Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King and Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.

Seek out experts. If you’re looking for a concept edit, why not ask a librarian or a friend who’s a voracious reader? Need proofreading for your manuscript? Make friends with your fifth grader’s English teacher. Sure, you have to judge who might best be able to help you, but if you find that right someone, it’ll save you a bundle. And you can always ask several people to get more feedback.

If you’re willing to invest the time, there are ways to get around paying for professional editing services, but it will also cost you in sweat equity. When the purse strings are tight, you do have some options as you follow your dream to becoming a published author.

Have you tried any of the above methods for editing your manuscript? Tell us about it in the comments.

Related posts: “Why Every Writer Needs an Editor,” “Edit Thyself: Three Simple Tips”


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