I love history. Specifically from the 30s and 40s. For instance, in those days, if someone became ill at the picture show (the movies); the opera (a concert), or any other public function, it was not uncommon for someone to cry out, “Is there a doctor in the house?” Most people at that time did not know CPR and certainly were not encouraged to perform the duties that were the express domain of an expert. So, why should that be any different today when it’s time to edit your book? You are a writer. You are not a doctor. Editors, in the literary sense, are your book’s lifeline. Their job is to ‘doctor up’ as it were, your manuscript, and ensure that it is in tip top shape before anyone else sees it. One of the funniest yet on point commercials I’ve seen in the last few years is the one when the man is on the phone with his doctor. He is holding a scalpel, and the doctor is about to walk him through the process of a self-surgery, for lack of a better term. How’s that for a frightening prospect! You would never do such a thing to your own body, endangering your health, not to mention inflicting needless pain. Keep these thoughts in mind before you pick up that red pen (or turn on Track Changes).
Similarly, if you found out you had the bird flu, you would not immediately run to the nearest pharmacy and attempt to self-medicate. Instead, your common sense would send you directly to a specialist in search of a permanent and accurate cure.
The inclination to self-edit is tempting but no matter how many times you’ve read Strunk and White, perused through the Chicago Manual of Style, or corrected your kid’s school paper, you should never consider yourself efficiently equipped to edit your own work.
At my job we have a four-eye rule: once we write an article we send it off to a colleague so they can eyeball it, too. Inevitably they will find something you missed or just never thought about that can make the work even better.
In addition to saving you from misspellings and incorrect syntax, an editor saves time. When I wrote my first book I self-edited (OMG!) I bet I re-edited that thing 100 times! Once I got an editor for my second book all I had to do was review her edits, agree or disagree, accept the changes and I was done. ONCE. You have no idea what a relief it is to be free of those restless nights that always led me to pop up in bed and say ‘Did I remember to remove that extra period????”
Take my advice: spare yourself the agony and get an editor.