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If you’re anything like me, you may have found yourself writing deep into a scene, going strong, when suddenly you stop, set your pen down, and think, I have no idea what I’m talking about!

That’s when you reach for the laptop. It’s right there on your desk, plugged in, online, waiting for you to tickle it’s keys. It opens a window to the world and it’s vast information. Even today I’m amazed at what one can learn online. When is earth capitalized? – it’s on there. Do commas go before or after quotes? – on there. What’s the proper use of hyphens – it’s there too. And that’s just grammar. What about online dictionaries and thesauruses (or, for that matter, how to spell thesauruses – oh yeah, it’s there, I looked it up)? Wikipedia? Google Maps??

I remember the time before internet very well. Back then, if I knew I was going to be writing a story or scene that presented tricky challenges about technology, or geography, or some other specialized area of knowledge, I would pack up my writing tools (pens, notepad, paperback dictionary and thesaurus) and head off for a day of writing at the local library. Usually, ahead of time, I would try to anticipate what types of reference material I would be needing and get that gathered together first. But inevitably, due to the mysterious process of the story writing itself, other questions would crop up I hadn’t anticipated, and off I’d go down the lonely carpeted corridors between bookshelves, searching out the data my story demanded. *Sigh*….the good old days.

But I would never trade my internet connection for a truckload of backpacks, dictionaries and pens, or even for the best library in the world (be cool – I’m not dissing libraries). As far as I’m concerned, my writing has become much better due to the information that’s become readily available through the internet, and I’m also a less lazy writer than before. Yeah, that’s right! I said less lazy. Let’s not get crazy here.

Think about it – say you were working on a scene, at night, back in the days before internet. You get to a point that demands accuracy about whatever-it-might-be, something like “what year was the Constitution ratified?” I mean, you have to know that in order to continue, because based on that info, other things will be affected. It’s a road block that you can’t clear without knowing the facts first. What are you going to do? The library is closed. Will you stop writing and wait until you can go research the facts tomorrow, or will you do what I would’ve done (did do) – just change the story so that you can skip the need for further research altogether?

Okay – I have to admit, that’s the beauty of writing fiction – the option of doing that. Let’s all give props to the non-fiction authors. But really, good fiction demands good research also, despite some evidence to the contrary –  we all know the ones who seem to be able to make up any-damn-thing, no matter how ridiculous, implausible, or unsubstantiated, and they still make bank. But I digress.

I’m talking about us mere mortals: me, and I assume you if you’re reading this humble blog. I know that internet access has made my writing better, more accurate not only in grammatical ways, but more accurate in conveying setting, moving plot forward, not to mention creating believability by understanding concepts better. Most valuable, above all, is that because it’s right there, at your fingertips, it need not even break the flow of your writing. I’ve accessed crucial data and got right back to writing before in under 30 seconds. And that, my friends, is the power of the internet.

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I thought it might be useful to any other authors out there – who happen to stumble across this blog – if I wrote a bit about how I found an editor.

Initially, I did some general word searches through Google. That took me directly to the personal websites of editors – but the rates most of them were charging were a bit shocking to me and my wallet (my wallet actually shriveled a bit when I read their rates – I added a couple more dollars to it to calm it back down).  That’s not to say their services are not worth what they charge – I’m just saying that for authors like me who don’t have a trust fund at their disposal, price is an unavoidable factor to consider.  I had hundreds to spend, not thousands.

I eventually hit upon the idea of searching those contracting sites like Guru and Elance for editors. I didn’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before – seemed like the perfect platform, because not only can you set your own price for the job before posting it, you can also search for similar completed jobs and see the price range that is typically paid. Another convenience is that you can take time to survey the skill sets, experience, and feedback of any contractors who respond to your posting.

Eventually I chose to go with Odesk.com, because I liked the readability of their site – not confusing like some of their competitor’s sites. I also liked that they allow you to contact directly any contractors you want to hire with a job offer, without having to post it publicly.

Because of how I’m made, it took me two tries to eventually follow-through with contracting an editor on Odesk (follow-through has not always been my biggest strength). I found an editor I liked (his name is Eric Benevides – and I highly recommend his services), but things came up, I got distracted, and 6 months went by before it occurred to me that I really needed to get this book edited! Like right now!

When I went back to Odesk 6 months later, I realized I hadn’t book-marked Eric’s profile page. I tried searching for his name, but he never came up in the search (I later found out that I had misspelled his name – like I said, I really needed an editor!). But that actually turned out to be a good thing, because in the interim I was able to do what I really recommend that other authors do if they use a freelance service – test your editor with a one-to-two chapter sample edit.

Because I was starting from scratch in my search, I read through some editor profiles, found the ones that accepted fixed-price jobs (some only accept hourly billing) and whose skills I was interested in, then selected two and hired them for a sample edit. This was great because it’s inexpensive ($15 to $20 tops), and you get to see the style of the editor and whether or not you are compatible with them (for me it was immediately obvious once I received their edits whether I could work with the editor or not).

Later I actually hired Eric for a test edit as well (after I found him again), and he passed with flying colors. Then it was a simple matter to draw up a job offer for the whole shebang, send it to him for approval, then send off the file and relax! Congratulations! You’ve just hired an editor! A round for everyone!!

For me, that’s the amazing thing about this field – it conforms so seamlessly with the digital world, and location doesn’t matter. Especially if, like me, you intend to self publish to the ebook formats only. Your work can be available for sale worldwide, 24/7, and you can hire an editor from anywhere in the world, send the work off to them in an instant and for free via email, receive the edit back in the same way, and dispense payment all without getting up from your writing chair (or hammock, or barcalounger, or wherever your lazy ass likes to drop itself).

In two weeks I had the novel back, edited in Word with the original text preserved, the edits in red. Then the next job starts for you, the writer, as you go through the edits and either accept them or reject them. What I found was that I was surprised with a lot of the recommended edits at first, but after inspection, realized that the editor was dead on in his corrections 99% of the time. I learned a lot about writing by going through Eric’s edits, and I thought I knew how to write already – it was humbling, but so worth it.

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