Does a Writer Need an Editor? – Need vs. Want

types-738846Does a Writer Need an Editor

Harper Rose

As a writer and freelance editor with over ten years in the business, I’ve been asked to answer the following burning question on the tip of so many indie writers’ tongues:

Why do you need an editor?

Well, I’m about to give you a controversial answer—you don’t.
As an author, no, you don’t need an editor. There is nothing requisite about having an editor, despite what popular opinion might suggest. No one will take away your keyboard, pen or other badges off your writer sash. No one will picket the release of your works because you didn’t use one. No one will jam editorial business cards down your throat until you surrender.

Yet, around 90% of writers I’ve encountered, whether writing fiction or non-fiction, have insisted that you need an editor, even though in truth, they don’t actually need one.

Are you confused yet?

You should be.

See, the issue with writers is the mental concept of requirements to write:

  • I need to have an original idea. (True—plagiarism is a hairy beast.)
  • I need to be able to convey that idea in a style that is uniquely my own. (True—don’t sound like someone else.)
  • I need to have an editor to review my story. (False)

Why is this false? Because, you see, if you approach writing in this way, it becomes a checklist that works toward surface results, rather than a journey toward strengthening your craft from the inside out. An editor becomes the brains behind your own operation, removing your power from your own work.

So, do I or don’t I need an editor?

No, you don’t need one. However, you should want one.

Isn’t it the same thing?

No, not at all.

See, needing an editor suggests that you don’t have any desire to expand upon your knowledge of language, construction, or style. Need, in and of itself, outlines absolute necessities, such as breathing, blinking, eating and drinking. You depend on these things for survival. A writer doesn’t depend on an editor for career survival. Asking whether you “need” an editor is akin to asking whether you “need” to go to school. No, you don’t technically “need” to go to school, but education even at its most rudimentary level enhances a person, doesn’t it?

What many fail to understand is that writing is designed to be a continuous process, a circular journey around different points of experience. It is not meant to be linear timeline followed dutifully until the end is reached and everything is “learned.” If you approach the craft in this way, you will miss the entire point of it:

The learning.

Coming to a point of wanting an editor means you’ve decided to surrender yourself to the learning experience. In a world where editors have editors, doesn’t it make sense, then, to say that everyone is continually learning?

You may or may not be at this point yet—you may even believe you don’t “need” an editor because of status or sales statistics.

That’s just fine. Honestly!

However, I ask you to take a look at this screen capture from Amazon’s website and tell me whether someone who works for an international mega company could’ve benefitted from an editor or not.

Could they?


What about you? Can you benefit from the advice of someone else?
That’s up to you.


12032412_10100449010780834_883267243_nHarper is a brilliant author you’ve never heard of, kitten claw-sharp editor (AKA Grammar Nazi), Superwife and award-winning mother living in the expensive and overcrowded state of New Jersey. She is fluent in Spanglish and Sarcasm and enjoys watching Arrow, Psych and The X-Files repeatedly. You can find her either in the grocery store buying cat food and diapers, hovering near her Keurig coffee brewer or shaking her fist at the heavens in front of her computer. Occasionally, you may spot her on the beach or out shopping (when she actually has money to spare). However, you should avoid approaching her at such times as she is likely enjoying a rare moment of relaxation and can become moody if interrupted. If you decide to engage her during any one of these activities, approach with caution and a sizable cup of Starbucks in hand to avoid any ill effects.


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