E is for Editing

Hello, and welcome to the April A-Z Blogging Challenge! Over the first 26 days of April, we will explore aspects of writing and marketing books – authors, feel free to weigh in, and readers, feel free to observe and ask questions!

-M

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You knew we’d get here eventually, right? Right?

Right. So here we are, and this post could be pretty short. If you DO need to read and dash, here’s the condensed version:

  1. Editing is a thing that needs to happen
  2. You should edit the crap out of your own work (in all senses)
  3. You can’t do all of your own editing

If you’ve got a bit more time, we can go through all of these points a bit more thoroughly.

Editing is a thing that needs to happen. You’re really proud of your manuscript, and I get that. It is a thing of beauty and grace, and I am super happy that you’ve completed it, and I’m proud of you. Finishing a manuscript is not easy! It is really, really hard work and you deserve a cup of tea (or a glass of wine). In fact, please don’t think that we’re passing any sort of judgment on your manuscript by saying it needs editing, because we aren’t. You could write the most beautiful novel in the world and there would inevitably be a few typos and one or two paragraphs to move around in editing – but in point of fact, the most beautiful novels in the world got that way because of editing. Editing takes your glorious concept and distills it, rearranges it, takes out the jarring bits.

Editing takes your manuscript from, well, a manuscript, to a novel. You don’t even have to take my word for it – just set your manuscript aside for a few weeks and then look back over it. You’ll notice some areas you want to flesh out, some sentences you might not actually use. You might shift a plot point earlier or later. Editing is like washing a car – you’d never assume there was something wrong with the car because you needed to wash it.

You should edit the crap out of your own work. Edit like mad! Edit until your fingertips hurt! (Or your red pen has run out of ink!) It will hurt. It will be exhausting. You will realize how much you need to change and you will think, “I cannot cope, I must go take a nap.” But as with writing discipline, you must forge ahead. Edit, copyedit, edit some more, shriek in frustration, keep editing. Then send the manuscript to your beta readers. Then have a nap.

You can’t do all of your own editing. Every once in a while, a seasoned writer will say that they don’t need an editor anymore. This is usually a sign to run for the hills (or at least wait for reviews on their next book before buying it). The truth of the matter is, while you will undeniably get better at writing as you continue to do it, putting together a novel is DIFFICULT. Copy-editing ten words? Not so big a deal, but what about a hundred thousand of them? Checking a 1,000 word story for continuity? Again, hardly as difficult as a novel. And there’s so much more an editor can bring you – perspective, suggestions about moving bits here and there, showing you where you made a leap and they couldn’t follow. You’re too close to your work to see everything. Please, please, find a beta reader (or ten) and an editor.

One last piece of advice… If you hire an editor, stick to a few basic rules for one. First, make sure it’s clear from their website (or first email) exactly what they do and how much it costs. It’s a very good sign if they link to a professional organization for standard rates and so on. It’s ideal if they have references online. Do a web search on their name and see what comes up on sites like AbsoluteWrite and Preditors & Editors.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment!

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