You heard me. Even if you’re an independent author without enough liquid funds to hire an editor, don’t edit your own work.
At least, not right away. The biggest advantage an editor has is perspective. They don’t have any stake in the book they’re about to edit, no emotional attachment to unnecessary characters and scenes, and everything is new to them. They can look at it and see the bad for what it is and the good for what it isn’t yet, but could be.
You and I, on the other hand… objectivity is a precious commodity for us. To put it bluntly, we don’t have any. We either love or hate our book (I’ve heard of both… heck, I’ve done both!) and that doesn’t make us good editors. If you love it, you think there’s nothing wrong. If you hate it, you cut and chop where you don’t need to. Most of us fall somewhere in between; love it too much to cut, but knowing it’s nowhere close to perfect.
Every writer hears it all the time, but an example helps a lot more than hearing it does.
Here’s what editors see and what we think we see when we edit our books. (example excerpt from my short scifi “Pyramid 76“)
And here’s a mock-up what of what I see, even though I don’t realize it. I know how the story is supposed to go (’cause we wrote it) so my mind fills in the blanks to lets me skim over the text, missing what it actually says. You already know that this paragraphs says, but… you don’t know whether there are mistakes under those blurred out places.
Sure, it’s possible to edit your own work, but the amount of work required to cut through the mental blur just isn’t worth it. The hard work that went into the 1st draft can be completely negated by poor editing.
Solutions? Easy to come by. The best one is to hire an editor. End of story. (hey, pun!) Second best is to have beta readers read every single draft you write and point out every single mistake you make, even if it’s just an extra space after a sentence. Third best; wait as long as possible before editing it on your own. Time has a way of improving objectivity. Sometimes, even a week is enough to have you saying “This paragraph is… absolute drivel” or “hey, a slight chance will give that sentence a great ring”.
The most important part, though, is simply knowing this mental blur is there. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t realize it’s there.