Most authors worth their salt* will tell you to hire an editor. It isn’t an insult for one author to say this to another; it’s a lesson. I can edit my own work ten times over and will still glaze over the little errors. Our brains are actually trained to filter out our own writing.
It’s true. Read more about it on Wired.
The article has some good advice on how to catch more of your typos, such as editing in a different font, on a different colored background, or in a different medium. But it’s still hard for our brains to process our own writing.
When you hire an editor, they are a fresh set of eyes. They can provide you with crucial, critical feedback. If you don’t have enough money to hire an editor, you can do several trades with critique partners. The fact remains: you should always have someone else look at your work before you publish it.
Maybe your novel only has thirty typos out of a hundred thousand words. That’s only .03% of your words that are wrong. Surely, that’s not bad, right? A reader who is skimming might not notice it, but seasoned readers and reviewers (some of whom can make or break careers) tend to notice. The more typos they see, the more likely they are to find other things to dislike about your book.
And yes, typos have pulled me out of a story before. In one instance, I actually liked a book until I read a chapter with five typos.
Those five typos made me think, long and hard, about what I was reading. It gave me enough time to reflect on a plot hole, which I was previously overlooking. I also realized that the secondary characters were a little one-dimensional. Those typos broke my immersion. Granted, the book would have been a 3.5 or 3-star book, but after my immersion broke, I realized other flaws, and it cascaded the book down to 2-stars.
We edit to avoid breaking immersion. We edit to make reading our stories as smooth and as easy as possible. We edit to put the best version of our book out there.
That being said, even though you (scientifically) cannot edit yourself, you should read your book over once, twice, three times before sending it to an editor. You want to make sure your story sits right with you. Correct the bigger picture items: the tone, the plot, the characters, the description. Once the bigger things are out of the way, an editor can take over and polish your work into being the best it can be.
And that, my friends, is why we edit.**
*Idiom lesson (because I find idioms fascinating). The first use of “worth one’s salt” was in 1805 in an expedition report to Guinea Bissau. There are other idioms dating earlier–such as worth one’s weight in gold (13th century) and worth one’s while (14th century). If you are worth your salt, you deserve to be paid for the work you do. The word salary is derived from Latin salarium, and sal is the Latin word for salt. Salt has always been essential and considered valuable. The more you know. (Information found from phrases.org.uk)
**While there still may be typos in this blog entry, I wrote it on a black screen with green font (courier, and yes, I’m crazy). I edited it on a white screen with black sans-serif font. Then, I copied it over to wordpress and proofread it one more time on a white screen with a serif font. Each time I read it, I found things to change.