It's that time of year again. Since I'm writing a series in which one volume is released each fall, the prior winter brings on the editing work. I've have three people in my critique group read through my most recently submitted manuscript. Everyone has their own editing style. Some readers look out for the grammar, others look out for the conflict, climax, and "What is the point of this scene?" While others focus on dialog, sentence structure, and "talking heads." It's really necessary to have several readers take a look at your work. One person will give you one opinion. Multiple readers will provide a well-rounded overview of your work, whether specific technicalities or a broad range of opinions, your work can only become stronger.
Recently I returned to a manuscript that I wrote a number of years ago. As I read through the first chapter, I saw some flaws--things that I wouldn't have noticed, or believed were there, when I penned those first words. In my mind, the story is exciting, compelling, and worth publishing consideration. Then I realized something else. Writing is about finding your voice; editing is about losing your ego.
I have to set aside all my preconceived notions about the value of my story to see what lies beyond the intention. If the reader doesn't feel drawn into the story as I was when writing it, I haven't done my job. And that's the hard part--creating a work that others can grasp the full story and value it for what it is, not what it is meant to be.
Through my editing company (www.precisioneditinggroup.com), I see many manuscripts that contain the same beginning mistakes I made. It's very difficult as a writer to see past your own work. It's all there in your head. As you self-edit, whatever is lacking on the page is filled in by your mind. The trick is to differentiate between the two and make sure your story is fully developed.
If you've only let family members or close friends read your work, you need to take the next step . . . approach a creative writing teacher, a fellow writer whom you respect, or enter a writing contest that provides judging feedback. But don't stop at one or two readers. Secure at least three or four readers to take a look at your work. Even if you are part of a critique group, chances are they know your work inside and out. You might consider asking someone outside the close-knit group for a second opinion.
Or if you've taken those routes and still can't get an agent or editor's attention, think about hiring a professional editing company. There are many to choose from, and they range in expertise and price. But I believe receiving a completely unbiased and open critique can be the key to setting you on the road to publication.