No. No, you absolutely do not. So why am I here? Because while you don’t need an editor, they’re nice to have. The list of things that you don’t really need in life is pretty long. You don’t need a pillow to sleep or utensils to eat. You don’t need a table saw to build a house. You don’t even need a toothbrush to clean your teeth (I’ve read that chewing twigs is an alternative). But all those tools sure make things easier on you! The same goes for editing.
So do you really need an editor? And what kind of editing do you need? Hopefully, I can help you decide where to invest your editing budget.
It all starts with understanding what you need. Every author is going to be different. You all have different strengths. While some have a solid foundation in grammar, others may have a natural knack for syntax; they might be able to skip a professional proofread. And if you’d rather yank out your own molars than change anything about your story, then it wouldn’t make any sense to hire a content editor. Unless, that is, you want to pay for advice you plan to ignore, in which case, maybe just light the money on fire. Or hire me. I’m a mother and am used to being ignored. Getting paid for it would be a happy change!
Here are a few ways to cut some editing corners:
If you’re wanting to pass on content/story edits, grab a beta reader or three. A good beta reader will tell you if your story is boring or if your characters are unlikable. They might not pick up on the more subtle things a content editor would, like theme, symbolism, and story/character/relationship arcs, but they should be able to tell you if the story is entertaining. A quick Google search will pull up a bajillion beta questionnaires that can help you direct their feedback to elements you’re most unsure of. Don’t have them fixing your commas, though. At least not until the bigger issues are addressed. A step up from a beta reader would be a critique partner. A CP that you click with, who doesn’t smother you with false praise, and who knows the fundamentals of storytelling is invaluable, but they’re almost as hard to find as unicorns.
Copy edits are where you probably should invest in editing. Your brain that you plucked that great story from is amazing. So amazing that it doesn’t need to read what you actually wrote to know what you meant. It’ll make sense of confusing passages and insert missing words or punctuation for you when you read. Unfortunately, your readers don’t get that access to your brain. This is the stage that a fresh set of eyes is most useful. A good copy editor is going to catch your errors and improve your prose. They’ll help you convey your story clearly, correctly, and cohesively. They’ll tell you if you have inclusion issues that need to be addressed (insensitive word choices, lack of diversity, virtue signaling). And they’ll do light fact checking (can your character really get from Miami to Phoenix by plane in three hours?). If you just can’t afford it, then set your manuscript aside for two or three weeks. When you come back to it, your brain won’t be as “helpful,” and you’ll be able to see issues a little more easily.
What about proofreading? You’ve paid for copy edits. . .do you still need a proofreader? Maybe. If the other rounds of edits have been extensive, new errors (probably minor, like extra spaces or double punctuation) could have been introduced to the copy. But a good copy editor will have caught the vast majority of errors. If you’re wanting to skip the proofread, the same advice about taking a short break before coming back with fresh eyes applies. And run spellcheck. No, seriously, run spellcheck.
So, you don’t absolutely need an editor. You can do this on your own. It probably won’t be as polished and professional as you want it to be, but it’s completely up to you to decide if the investment is worthwhile. I believe it is. If you decide you want professional edits, though, check out my Services page!
I hope this helps!