I Hate Editing But Love Editors
If you’ve read more than a couple of my blogs on my website, The Back Road Café, you’ll know that I make mistakes when I write and don’t find them all when I edit. The other day someone commented on one of my blogs and it motivated me to go back and see what I had written. There were several mistakes in the blog: typos, missing commas, and a whole missing word (more mistakes than usual!). It’s embarrassing, but I’m hardly unique in lacking the ability to edit my own work. The writer who can accurately edit their own work is very rare, and most writers who claim they can are sadly mistaken. And with a weekly blog I simply don’t have the time and money to have each one professionally edited. So, I live with the embarrassment and hope readers come back (so far most do).
But living with embarrassment is not acceptable with my books. A book full of errors is a bad book. Editing is crucial.
My editing process goes something like this: When I’m done with the first draft, I read it on the screen making changes as I go along. I then print it out and read the hard copy making changes on the page. When I’m done with that, I make the corrections on screen and print out another copy. That copy goes to my wife. She makes comments and corrections on the hard copy. Inevitably at this point I become defensive and angry. She ignores me. I make her changes on the screen and print out another copy. We read that copy aloud, making changes as we go along. Then it’s back to the screen. I am now on the fourth draft and that’s the draft that goes to a professional editor. It’s at that point the real fun begins.
In The Woman in White Marble the editor found and fixed all the typos, misspellings, and grammar screwups, but she also found a huge hole in the plot. The fix took a long time, necessitating structural changes, a lot of rewriting, and obviously a fifth draft. That fifth draft went back to the editor and we started again.
The Girl in the Silver Mask went through the same procedure, but with that book the editor and I really had a tug of war. Close to 10,000 words went. The book is only 67,000 words long, so 10,000 was a lot! Some of them were easy to delete, I knew they would go when I was writing them (so why didn’t I delete before being told to?!). However, some were precious to me and it was hard letting go of them. Nonetheless, she was right. They had to go. More importantly we disagreed on the flow of the plot. I agonized over the restructuring—some of my best humorous episodes died in the process! When I was making further significant changes to the sixth draft I said, out loud, if I make any more big changes the book will no longer be my book. Some of her grammatical changes actually changed the personality of my protagonist. I fought back. I compromised. I negotiated. Thankfully, eventually the editor and I came to a common mind, but I have to say, the first draft and the sixth are very different books.
I loathe the editing process. Once I hand that second draft to my wife I really want to be done with the book and move on to the next project. But here’s the thing. Both books are significantly better because a professional editor had her way with them. That’s why I didn’t just tell the editor to stuff it. Obviously, I didn’t make all the changes she recommended, but believe me, I made most of them.
So why am I going on about this? Here’s why: I joined an author’s group I found on Facebook. It’s group in which writers share ideas with and ask questions of each other. I’d say most people in the group are self-published independent authors, using several different methods, but many are traditionally published. One of the most frequent questions is about editing—should I or should I not employ a professional editor to edit my book? I’m surprised by the number of people who think it is not necessary. I don’t often comment on people’s questions, but I always do if their about editing.
If you have contracted with a traditional publisher, the publisher may have your book edited, but, unfortunately, many publishers no long do and leave the editing to the author. If you have self-published, you really have no choice.
I always tell writers that if they publish a poorly edited book, either self-published or traditionally published, it reflects badly on them and their book. And it’s less likely someone will recommend a poorly edited book to their friends. If you want to be taken seriously, you must have your book edited professionally.
Here’s what I think needs to be addressed in an edit:
Basic Premise and Tone;
Point of View;
Structure, Plot and Pace;
Punctuation and Grammar.
And when all that is completed, the book should be proofread one last time before you sign off on it and it goes to print and/or to digital.
So, to all you authors out there, please have your books edited. It’s no fun and it costs, but if you want your book to be taken seriously it must be done. And to all you editors, I think you people are great. I hate working with you, I’ll argue and fuss, but if your good at your job, I will also trust you.
Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger