When I’m sick, I go see a doctor. When my car makes a funny noise, I take it to a garage. But
when it comes to my writing, which I often care more about than my body or car, I edit myself.
After all, who knows me and my work better than me? Quick quiz: find the fallacy in the above

So I published my first novel, Left for Alive, (available through Amazon, as we all know) with
myself as editor and a friend as proofreader. And while it’s not exactly like representing
yourself in court (and having a fool as a client), it came close.

I wouldn’t have known how much work my work needed unless the consultant I contracted
with to bring my second novel, The Devil’s Breath, (coming soon to your iPad or nightstand) to
market required me to use a professional editor and proofreader as part of our engagement.
I interviewed a couple of editors and selected the one who flattered me the least. Over the
phone she was confident and had strong opinions about her craft and her value. She’d also won
a number of awards for her work. If I was going to be edited, I wanted to go with a pro.

After we agreed on schedule and fees, I sent her the manuscript. Three weeks later, she sent
me back the manuscript with her edits. I opened it up, confident that I’d find very little on the
page or in the margins and equally confident that this was the easiest money she’d ever made.
Not so fast, Bubba. She had a color code: blue to denote changes; notes in green. The pages
were remarkably colorful. After praising my writing overall and the novel’s overall execution,
she got down to specifics.

Some of her criticisms I already knew but hoped that others hadn’t noticed. I tend to overuse
em dashes instead of the proper punctuation. I put in breaks in the copy wherever it suits me.
And I tend to break up my dialogue with unnecessary descriptions about the speaker’s
movements. The first two I knew. The last one I thought was helping the reader but was instead
breaking up the natural flow.

We wrangled about capitalizing German nouns. While it may be editorially correct to lower-
case them, I grew up in Germany, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that ALL GERMAN NOUNS
ARE CAPITALIZED. Always, wherever they occur, and whether or not they are proper nouns.
And I couldn’t put my name on something that my German acquaintances would roll their eyes
at. The solution was simple: capitalize all German nouns and make an author note about it.

But a good editor does far more than catch punctuation mistakes and wrangle with you about
capitalization. A good editor rearranges words to avoid awkward clauses, improves flow, makes
sure you’re not employing words that weren’t in use during the time frame in which your story
takes place, suggests a better word when you’ve used one that doesn’t quite fit, holds you
accountable on story and character arc, and otherwise cares almost as much as you do that you
have a compelling, well-written novel.

Bottom line: I’m finishing up my third novel and I’ll definitely be using her again. And I’m happy
to recommend her right here:
Melanie Mulhall