It can be argued that self-publishing authors need editors more than those using traditional publishing. With the weight of a publishing house and their marketing team behind you, a few spelling errors can be overlooked. Lack of substance and writing style can be overwhelmed by a well tuned hype machine. Fifty Shades of Grey being a prime example. It’s not the subject matter that bothers me, I have plenty of sex, sometimes graphic sex, in my stories. What bothers me is that E.L. James simply can’t write. And that’s after the editors at Knopf worked the manuscript over.
Good editing can be expensive, and I know few wannabe self-published authors with wads of cash to spare. But that’s no excuse for not having as many eyes as possible look over your manuscript before you publish. You can start with friends and family. Every person that looks reads your story is another chance to spot spelling errors, formatting problems, and basic grammar fuck-ups. If possible, however, you need to go beyond that. The most economical way is to find a writing group.
I’ve been a member of a writing group for over five years now. Nothing has compared as far as a source of ideas, advice, and not so gentle prodding to keep on writing. I get some of my best story ideas from my writer’s group telling me how they would like to see the plot develop.
Now there are writing groups and there are writing groups. You may want to stay away from groups that focus on poetry (unless you’re publishing poetry), endless writing prompts, and their feelings. You need people unafraid to give you honest feedback. Be careful of writing groups larger than a dozen or so. An organization that size can easily devolve into a popularity contest more focused on being a venue for certain people’s work rather than critique. Also, I recommend a writing group that meets face-to-face, not just online. Online groups can be too honest, leaving you open to meaningless knee-jerk comments that won’t help you grow. It’s much better to have a place where you can ask a critique partner exactly what they mean by their comments.
The best thing about a writers’ group is that all the advice is take it or leave it. You have the option of following what they say or sticking to your guns. Just don’t argue with the people critiquing your work. It’s their opinion, and they’re entitled to it. You ASKED for it. You should always take their feedback seriously, and weigh heavily the reasons why you would choose to ignore it.
To find a critique group, try meetup.com, or your local library.