Editors are a lot—of money, of work to find, of time to work with, of emotional effort. So it’s tempting to look at something like ProWritingAid or Grammarly and think “Thank god! This is it! No human interaction!” But it’s not the same, and I doubt it ever will be. I’m not saying don’t use them at all, I’m saying, don’t only use them.
I know, handing over your book baby to a total stranger and waiting on pins and needles for them to point out what’s wrong is no fun. Whether you’re in the developmental editing stage or line editing, you’re going to get comments, lots of them. Until now, you are the only one to have read your book, and maybe a friend or family member who has told you how wonderful it is and what a genius you are.
Now you are looking at your options: run it through an AI program and get ‘private’ feedback to fix and move forward, maybe even straight to publishing or, research, hire and work with a real life human editor. A person who will take a professional look at your work and objectively point out areas that need work, someone who might (will) not tell you it’s perfect and you are going to be a bestseller tomorrow. Someone who will see your work for how it fits in the publishing industry and share that insight with you, whatever that reality may be.
No one likes to be told their story needs work, but if we want to improve we all have to hear that. No story is perfect (or even great) from the get-go and we cannot make it better on our own. We need other, real, live people to help us on the journey from draft to publication. We must suck up the anxiety, fear, whatever, and put the manuscript in front of those who can help us.
When a local, in-person, writing group offered free first page critiques, I stood in line waiting my turn in full-on panic mode. That page was NOT ready for an editor, but I’m glad I put it out there for the professional critique.
For me, that was a milestone. I told myself, If I can manage to do this in person, I sure as heck can work with someone online when I (and my story) are better prepared.
These days, I love seeing my story pop up with a bunch of comment notifications from my editors—I trust them and know they want the best for my work. All stories need this. It can take time to find the right people, and some ups and downs, but you have to put yourself and your work out there or it will never get better. You can still use those AI programs, but think of them as a preliminary tool, not a final step.