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First drafts are for beta readers, not editors. Hence, I’m not joking when I say keep your first draft to yourself (or at least away from me).

Do whatever you have to do to get your family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, shop workers—anyone—to agree to read your draft and give you feedback. But do not look for an editor at this stage just because you think you’re done. I promise you, you’re (probably) not done yet. Unless you’re a naturally gifted and amazing writer, finding an editor at this point will most likely be a waste of your money and an editor’s time and talent. Even after you’ve gone through ten beta readers and made all the deletions, additions, and changes you agreed with, I’d say your work probably still isn’t done.

You aren’t ready for an editor until you’ve done everything you possibly can with your book. This means you’ve read it so often that you hate it now. You’re having nightmares about it. Your characters are living in your head. And you’ve agonized over words, punctuation, and paragraphs. You’ve even woken up in the middle of the night to change a word in chapter fourteen. I mean you’ve given this thing every bit of love and life you have to give. Only then—when you know in your heart of hearts that there is nothing more you alone can do to make it any better and you cannot even fathom looking at the horror again—are you ready for an editor.

Why? Well, it’s simple really. Like many things in life, the more blood, sweat, and tears you put into your book, the better it will be. And this includes working on the appearance. I mention this because I’ve encountered documents that looked put together by a kindergartner during her first computer lesson. Understand? Do you like dealing with ridiculous numbers of unnecessary line breaks, a zillion tab stops, random page breaks, weirded-out formatting, random bolded text, and things that look like the equivalent of words vomited all over a page? Neither do I.

Essentially, getting any editor to fix things that you as an author should take responsibility for—like neat formatting, ensuring that there are no major contradictions or obvious continuity errors in the story, and anything else that is in your power as the author to put right at this point—is a waste of the editor’s time and your money.

When you do your best for your book, then I too can do my best for your book. I can work on making the words flow and sparkle and jump into the reader’s consciousness, rather than fixing things that an author is more than capable of putting right if she gives her work the time and attention it deserves.

So, like I said, keep your first draft to yourself. By the time it’s your hundredth draft (yes, I’m using hyperbole here), and you’re certain there is no way on this Earth that you can possibly do any more with it, then, and only then, are you ready to find an editor.