Off to the Fair

editingToday my dear hubby and I will be at the Lane County Fair from 11 to 5 PST with a bunch of other authors signing books (if you’re in the neighborhood, drop by and get a copy of Titanic Deception), and you can bet they all know the worth of a good edit!

While I’ll miss being away from my desk today, I know it will be here when I get back. And yes, I’m taking some hard copy to edit during the slow times to keep me busy. What?

Getting to the Point: Editing

Anyway, my point is that editing is important to every book. Whether you’re promoting it at the fair, on Amazon, or in your local bookstore, your readers expect it to be the best it can be in every way. They’re the ones plunking down their hard-earned  cash for it. How do you feel when you buy a book and it’s full of misspelled words, incorrectly used words, or the story falls flat because there’s a big fat plot hole you could drive a truck through? Exactly. So don’t give that to your readers! You know it drives you nuts. And even if it doesn’t… even if you’re one of those rare, mythical readers we all fantasize about that loves everything they read, there’s a lot of readers who don’t have any qualms about ripping an author to shreds over every editorial mistake. Don’t believe me? I randomly picked books on Amazon by searching genres and looked at one star reviews. Check out these quotes:

This book was awful. First there was the multitude of grammatical errors and misspelled words which makes me wonder if there was even an editing process at all for the book.

Unbelievable: illiterate, gruesomely unrealistic, with inconsistencies on every page – how could this piece of work ever have been published? Was it even read by an editor?

Interesting enough story but the typographical and grammar mistakes were too numerous to enjoy the story.

As you can see, readers aren’t shy about expressing their feelings. Don’t let this be said of your story.

(We’ll also be at the fair on Friday, July 26 from 3-9 and on Saturday, July 27 from 5-9. If you need to get in touch with me, please use the contact form here on the site and I’ll be checking emails again as soon as I get home.)

Get Thee to an Editor

get thee to an editorPesky errors got you down? Tired of hearing you’re using ‘reign’ instead of ‘rein’? Does trying to figure out the difference between the two leave your head in a tizzy? Get thee to an editor.

Do you love the word ‘that’? Do you capitalize your dialogue tags and don’t know why? Get thee to an editor.

Got a hole in your plot big enough for a Mac truck? Are your scenes lacking panache? Are your descriptions falling flat? Get thee to an editor.

When you’ve done all you can on your own, it’s time to get some help. Go ahead and send your baby out to your beta readers… they can give you some good advice. They may not all agree, however, and you’ll need to pick and choose what will work and what won’t. Still, when you’re done reworking the story for the tenth or hundredth time… it’s good to have eyes on it that know what to look for.

What can a professional editor do?

  • Help you find the glaring issues in your story
  • Fix timeline problems others may have missed
  • Get rid of the annoying errors readers will be sure to mention in their reviews
  • Tighten your writing
  • Polish that manuscript and make it shine
  • Make you look good

Doesn’t that sound worth it? Especially that last one. Your book is your baby. You’re putting it out there for the world to see. You want it looking all pretty and clean, not all messy, right?

And what does the editor get out of it? The satisfaction of helping an author and some money to pay the bills. Do we like it when we’re mentioned in the acknowledgements? Sure. We appreciate your thanks. Do we demand it? No. We’re happy even if you don’t mention us in public. We’re happy because we were able to help you get your book ready for the public. That’s what makes us tick. What makes us get up in the morning. We don’t necessarily need the accolades. We just like what we do.

So if we like it so much, why don’t we do it for free?

Well, sometimes we do. Most of the time, however, we need to pay bills. We need to feed the kids, just like you. Editors understand that it’s hard to spread the money around sometimes. We have the same problems. It comes down to what’s important. If someone wants to go on a vacation, they’ll save up for it. If they want Prada shoes, they’ll save up for them. If they want a 125 gallon fish tank, they’ll save up for it. If they want editing, they’ll save up for it (or take advantage of a payment plan). Whatever becomes important, we find the means to do. Is your book important? Then you should do what you can to present it in the best way possible. This includes good editing and a good cover.  Can just anyone edit or do a cover? No. Some do not possess the skills to do these things. Some are not the right fit for each author. But when you find that fit, it’s worth the price.

Going Mad?

You have toiled over your manuscript for weeks, months, maybe even years. You’ve written and rewritten more times than you can count. You’ve removed scenes and sentences you’ve loved in the effort to make your book ready to publish. Finally, you’ve sent it off to an editor for polishing. It is rather like sending your baby off to preschool… you stand tearfully at the curb as your child is taken away on the school bus. Away from you. Out of your hands.

Then the editor reads it and sends you suggestions for changes. Again you painstakingly go through your manuscript sentence by sentence, word by word. Is that comma really justified? Should I combine those two sentences to make it flow better?

Finally, you think everything is done. It is formatted for an ebook or print. You see the latest version. Is that a typo?? How did we miss that? How many times have you and your editor read through this labor of love and yet you are still seeing errors?

Are you starting to feel like you want to bang your head against the wall because it would feel better than going through your manuscript yet again? You’re not alone.

Any author who cares about the quality of the book they publish goes through this. Yes, it is maddening. Yes, it makes you want to tear it all up into little bits and flush it down the toilet before you jump off the nearest cliff. Yes, you may reconsider your life’s work and decide it would be better to devote your life to swallowing all the alcohol your system can stand. Could this be why Hemingway killed himself?

Take a deep breath. It may seem endless. It may seem like no matter what you do, you can’t find every single typo or error that managed to creep into the manuscript while everyone was sleeping. This is where it pays to have a good editor, or publisher or agent there to hold your hand, wipe your literary brow and tell you it will be okay. Sometimes I find myself like the birth doula I used to be, except I’m reassuring my authors over email or the phone that it will all be okay. If I could, I’d give them a real hug when they are feeling like it will never end.

Before you decide to commit yourself into the nearest mental health facility and give up writing forever, take a look at that dreaded bit of writing again. You may be tired and weary, but the end is in sight. If you are so sick of the sight of your work that you don’t ever want to see it again, chances are you are so close to your goal that you can’t see the forest for the trees. (Yes, I know that is trite and overused, but it seemed appropriate here.) Deep breath. Cup of tea (or other favorite beverage). It is worth that last close look.

Forgive my pregnancy analogy here, but I used to be very deeply involved in the childbirth field. Mothers go through pregnancy, getting bigger and clumsier. I know. I’ve been there many times. By the end of pregnancy, all you care about is getting that baby out of your belly and into your arms. It hurts. You feel awkward. Your ankles have disappeared. All of these inconvenient details help a mother prepare her mind for labor and that first initial separation with her baby when he or she leaves her body and becomes a separate person.

Likewise, all this detail-oriented editing and proofing over and over prepares you as the author to let your book go out to the public. Writing a book has often been compared to giving birth, but the analogy holds true. By the time you’ve vetted it so much, you’re ready to hurl the damn thing out the window and let it fall where it may. Having a trusted editor, agent or publisher can help ease this transition for you and make you feel better about the process. You don’t have to go through it alone.

Once your book makes its debut, it will be the better for all of this hard work. It will be crisp, well-written, and as error-free as you can make it. You can feel good that your book, even if you self-publish, is as high quality as it can be.

So, when you feel you are truly losing it and that you’ll be physically sick if you have to look at even one more page of your manuscript again, keep that big picture in mind. As a birth doula, sometimes I had to remind mothers of their goal at the end; that all this pain was going to result in a sweet little baby in their arms. The pain sometimes made them forget. As an editor, I sometimes have to remind my authors that at the end of all this pain, they will get a wonderful book that they will be proud to see on the shelves.

That end result is worth it.

Why Do I Edit?

I have been asked why I wanted to be an editor occasionally over the years. The truth is… I can’t help it. I unconsciously edit everything I read. My family will tell you my outrage when I find an error in a book we’ve purchased. I point out errors in signs, handouts and menus. I can’t help it. I’ve always been this way.

I’m nice enough not to point out these errors to the parties involved, but it irks me to no end. When I was in high school, I used to correct the handouts I got from my creative writing teacher and hand them back to him. When I graduated, I gave him a special gift: his own personal spelling dictionary. LOL

So, how could I be anything else than an editor? Yes, I write. Yes, I draw and paint. But deepest down, in my heart of hearts, I am an editor.

So, take the opportunity to have me in your corner. I am happy to work on your manuscripts and get them ship shape.

Copyediting

Copyediting consists of more than proofreading. An experienced copyeditor can usually get through 5 to 10 pages per hour doing basic editing. If more substantial copyediting is needed, they may only get through 2 to 5 pages per hour. This is how much attention each page, each paragraph and each sentence gets.

A copyeditor will usually read the manuscript or article first. This gives them a good idea of the writer’s voice and where the text is going. Then they will go through more slowly correcting consistency, flow, redundancy and word usage. They may have a lot of questions for you about various aspects of your text. These are not attempts to criticize you or make you feel like you don’t know how to write; the editor wants to help you make your writing all it can be. It is their job to make you shine. When the editing is done, your writing should be clear, concise and your story should flow nicely. They will help you clarify anything that came across as confusing and help you liven up anything that could lose the reader’s interest.

Depending on the type of material being edited, the copyeditor may also double check facts for accuracy so your material is up to date and correct in its information.

If you want your book or article published, it is in your best interest to budget in an editor who can really polish it up for you.

With the current state of the publishing industry, it is a good thing to get the editing done before you submit your manuscript. Many agents don’t have time to edit because they don’t get paid unless they sell the book. In turn, many publishers don’t want to waste time and money on editing when they could be printing and selling. Getting your material edited before you submit it is the best way to get your writing past the slush pile on their desks.

Luckily, there are many freelance editors out there willing to look over your manuscript. Fees will vary, so pick one you can afford and that you feel you can work with. The relationship between an editor and a writer should not be full of tension. It is important to find someone you can get along with.