Don't do it alone.
Yes, writing is a solitary effort. With fingers poised above the keyboard—pen or pencil in hand—you work alone to get what you want to say into words. But if you're writing is meant to be published, working with an editor is an important, and necessary, step in making it the best it can be.
As you write you'll make changes to each of the sentences you write. You might find a sentence works better at the end of a paragraph than in the middle. You may decide you don’t need that sentence at all. You'll reorder chapters and paragraphs. You'll fix things, changes things, and you'll miss things. Even if you’re a highly organized, detailed writer.
It can also be difficult to see your writing or manuscript as others might.
An editor can help.
Four levels of editing:
1) developmental editing
2) line editing
Depending on your writing ability and where you are with your book, you may need all, or at least one of the first three levels of editing listed.
Proofreading is last on the list, and it should not be ignored. Every book needs to be proofread. And it's best to hire someone who'll be seeing the book for the first time. You (and your editor) have been reading, correcting, and modifying your book for weeks, months, years maybe. It will be difficult to see typos and small mistakes at this stage.
Here's what each level brings to your writing:
1) Developmental Editing
This is done early on. If you’re questioning the direction of your book or struggling with how to pull it all together, a developmental editor can help. Here, the editor can help you plan and organize what you want to write. If you've already done a bit of writing, a developmental editor will look for gaps. They'll note cumbersome transitions ... maybe suggest a chapter placed early in the book would work better toward the end. Or suggest you cut it altogether and replace it with something else.
Developmental editing considers the book as a whole.
2) Line Editing
Line editing focuses on the style and flow of your writing. A line edit will tighten awkward phrases, eliminate jargon, and optimize flow. Have you used clichés where your own writing would be more effective?
Line editing brings out the best in your writing style.
Copyediting focuses on the technical side of your writing with a close look at grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and formatting issues.
Copyediting puts the polish on your writing.
This is the final step before you publish. Here, the proofreader checks for spelling errors, missing punctuation, and minor errors.
Ideally, there will be few corrections at this stage.
Writing and rewriting can be rewarding, tiring ,and frustrating. But when you arrange that troublesome sentence into something concise, something that says exactly what you’re trying to say, you know it was worth all the back and forth.
A thoughtful editor can help you become a better writer.
Reviewing the changes an editor suggests will help you look more closely at what you’ve written. Oftentimes an editor might make a comment about something you might have caught on your own with a more focused reading, but that can be difficult.
Working with an editor is like an athlete working with a trainer. It's a learning experience that will sharpen your skill, make you a better writer, and help you write the best book possible.