So, the Kickstarter for WILD CARD's sequel UNVEILED is going rather nicely. As of this post we are just $42 from 50% funded. WHEN we hit 50% I will post a video of myself eating/playing with fire, but only backers will be able to see it! If you've not checked it out, I encourage you to do so and consider backing it. I'll wait. *whistles* Tell your friends. Anyway, I wanted to comment on something here. Recently I was having a conversation with someone looking into self-publishing. She said that she had workshopped her novel and felt she was ready to hit the button.
WHOA! *tire screech, record scratch* Hang on there. It is my humble opinion (take it for what you will) that there is a huge difference between a workshopped manuscript and a professionally edited book.
For those who might not know what I'm talking about, workshopping is where you share your work with other authors (sometimes those who are already published in any myriad of ways) and polish your stories based on feedback they give. Workshops are great for craft-honing. You can speak your common language with other authors and get a sense for how your work holds up under scrutiny.
Workshops come in a variety of types, too. Some are personal gatherings in someone's living room. Others are special events at a local bookstore. There are also sites like Book Country. Hell, some are just unofficial online groups that email work back and forth.
As I said, workshops are fabulous for speaking writer-ese and a terrific place to dip your toe in if you've never had your work read by others.
However...workshops are no substitute for a professional edit.
I don't just say this as a freelancer, either. I say this as a fallible member of the human race who makes typos and develops emotional attachments to her stories.
A professional editor is a completely cold set of eyes. While your editor should be passionate about your project, she should also be able to be unapologetically ruthless with her critique. She needs to navigate your plot holes and stake a bright orange flag in each of them. Your editor is the one who says, "this confused me because you jumped from here to this conclusion without any sort of discernible arc."
One of the problems with us as writers is that we know how the story ends. We have it in our head. We know all the little inferences and nuances. And while that meaningful pop of an eyebrow on page 49 screams volumes to us that Jake really did kill Freddy, if your editor gets to the end and is still wondering why it's so obvious that Jake was the murderer....well, you've got a problem. Your readers won't follow your logic train with any more ease.
You need another set of totally objective eyes.
For me--and again, your mileage may vary--workshops are like Beta Readers 2.0. They are there for valuable opinion and storycraft critique, but not editing. You are the one implementing their feedback and even then you are still hobbled by your emotional attachment and the fact that you know this story inside and out.
You need someone else. Another level of scrutiny.
Now, some people are blessed with the ability to self-edit their books within an inch of their lives and they are amazing in that regard. But most of us mere mortals need help.
Workshops are great. Use them. It's not either-or. Workshop your book to make it the best it can be. THEN get thee to an editor to punch it up even more.