We are all editors!

Blog on editing - image
Are we really all editors?
Yes, really. Let’s look at a few examples.
A handwritten or typed note. An informal letter. An official form. A poem, short story or a novel.

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What do they all have in common?
If we were honest, we rarely get across the intended or perhaps the necessary information at the first attempt, irrespective of the category of our ‘writing’. This means that when we change a part of our original document, we are editing.
Books have been written about editing. With that in mind, please remember that my aim is merely to draw attention to the importance of editing and hopefully highlight some of the prime issues for the unwary.

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What is editing?
An accepted definition is any, ‘change made before the final copy is ready for submission’. With particular regard to the indie writer, I would suggest that the final copy could be some way off, so please don’t believe that you write, you edit, you publish.

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Let’s extend our simplified look at editing to include drafts.
Each time you amend the document you are working on the next draft. For example if you’ve written a story and you go through it to edit, the end result is the second draft. If you go through and edit again, then that one becomes the third draft and so on.
You write a story and are happy with the general feel of the manuscript. You have your first draft. We’ll say for the sake of argument that like me, you don’t have a team of editors. You have a long road ahead of you if you intend to edit the work yourself. There is a variety of issues to watch out for, but they cannot all be searched out at once. It takes a slow, systematic approach whereby each aspect of editing is tackled separately.
Look at my next question and ask yourself if you could check for all of the issues listed – and deal with all of them at the same time.

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What are we looking to amend?
Incorrect syntax (assembly or structure of sentences), punctuation, grammar, spelling (for a particular market), unnecessary word usage and incorrect word usage. We must also check for: incorrect use of capitalisation and efficient use of dialogue tags.
Those items are the basics, because if we are writing a short story or novel we have to be aware of many other issues. We must check continuity, facts, weights, measures, cliche, dialect, slang, racism, sexism, and more.
What about sentence length, paragraph length, section breaks, page breaks, headings, sub-headings and suchlike?
These are items I would classify under formatting. Having said that though, I would keep a wary eye on sentence and paragraph length while writing.

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What’s the difference between editing and formatting?
To my way of thinking, the main difference is that editing is the nitty gritty of our manuscript, whereas formatting is more to do with presentation. For example, when e-publishing we should keep in mind that the average paragraph should be smaller than it would be for a traditionally published book.
In December 2014, I stopped reading a book on my Kindle because the average paragraph was taking up two or three screens. If that occurs it becomes a block of text to the reader.

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I have no doubt that there will be those who visit, read this post and have their own opinions on editing. If you are one such person, please leave a comment. The more we discuss the topic, the more benefit it will have for each and every one of us.
My intention is to produce a topic heading in my main menu in which I’ll list a variety of the issues pertaining to self-publishing. I mean e-publishing as opposed to paper publishing. Under that topic I will build a selection of issues to watch out for and a simple guide with regard to how I deal with those issues.

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What can you expect to see in my self-publishing menu?
Editing (of course), formatting, use of numbers, use of capitals, continuity, simple research and also dialogue.
Before I close I’d like to thank Michael Roberts from our Indie Author Review Exchange on Facebook. Why? It was thanks to Michael that I put this post together and I will go on with the other projects mentioned above.
Michael asked in the Facebook thread if I had any trusted editors. Unfortunately the answer is no. I paid for an editor once, but it is an expense few of us can afford. I decided after my first novel to build my own system, which I must admit has been refined with each book I’ve produced.

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Why don’t I pay for an editor?
Let’s see … should I pay for a line editor, a copy editor or a proof-reader? Each of those is different and each could be paid for separately but still not produce the best result to meet the author’s needs and budget.
Finding a good editor is like finding a good anything. You must consider cost, time, means of contact, whether or not you accept suggestions and many more factors.

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Have I paid for anything to help with my editing?
Yes, I pay for a programme called Grammarly, which like all such things has a few glitches, but it helps me speed up the editing process and draws my attention to some classic issues. It is an essential part of my editing system, but I still make the suggested amendments manually, I never click on the automatic adjustment. Like I said, there are glitches.

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This feels like about the right time to stop …

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12 comments on “We are all editors!

  1. A great post. I will divide my editing as you suggest. I was too eager on my last work and missed so much.
    Do you ever have a friend look over it?
    Looking forward to reading more from your self-publishing menu

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sharon. Yes, I have a friend who reads through when I’ve reached the final stages, but whatever else I do, my final edit is done in an otherwise quiet room with no distractions. I read it aloud line by line, still with red pen in hand.
      I’ll get to work on the new menu in the next few evenings and I’ll hopefully have something set up by the weekend.

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  2. I look forward to more posts like this…very informative.
    The editing process can be–should be–a long one. No cutting corners if one wants to produce a quality product.
    I purchased Grammarly a while back after you told me you used it. I’ve found it to be a helpful program, but nothing replaces the reading aloud with red pen in hand.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Kathy. Yes, the first couple of times you read aloud it can make you a bit self-conscious, but when you realise the issues that you find it makes sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So many great ways to edit! The most important advice I know is not to skimp on revisions, rewrites and edits. The most common mistake indie writers make is to jump in too fast and publish before a manuscript is ready for public view.
    I also have several very trusted beta readers, with editing skills, and a system that works with reciprocation.

    A couple of last tips, learn what works for you…some people love hard copy revisions/edits, by working from print outs with the proverbial red pen. Reading aloud, as mentioned above, is invaluable to hearing how things sound, especially good advice for dialogue, we often say things differently to how we write them, see how dialogue flows as you read it. Get someone, not family or close friends, to read, and give honest feedback, beta readers. Spend lots of time on edits. I also find keeping a wordcount tally, a record of number of words added or subtracted each day I edit a specific work, helps me to stay motivated. Read lots of articles, check out pinterest boards, for editing tips, there are lots out there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lisa for making such a valuable contribution. I don’t suffer from the issue of family or close friends. I’ve only used the beta reader idea on the project I’m working on right now, so we’ll see how that all works out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. HI Tom. I agree that editing is a complex, time-consuming task that covers far more than spelling errors. My system is: I write one day and then the next, go over the previous day’s writing to correct any glaring problems. I then write on further by at least 500 words, but aim for 1000. Realistically, I usually progress my manuscript by around 1500 new words at a sitting, but can cull/change most to none of that on the following edit. Every few chapters, I go back to the start and read as far as I have got to make sure I am keeping control of continuity, that it flows etc.Once I have a complete draft, I begin again with screen revisions. I then have four people with eagle eyes who read (voluntarily) and spot spellings, inconsistencies etc. After a further revision based on that feedback, I work from a paper copy – double spaced. I tend to use a pencil at this point – personal preference after far too many years wielding a red pen! I tend to read dialogue aloud if it doesn’t sit right, but keep that technique for the parts I know have problems.
    I had Strong as Death professionally edited in the autumn. I wish I’d done it before. It was expensive and took extensive research to finally choose an editor, but what I learned, I will apply to my next manuscript, which I hope to self publish in the spring. The main things I valued from this particular edit weren’t the grammatical/spelling issues, but structural, and I learned a lot. It also highlighted and ‘dead ends/red herrings’ or unanswered questions.
    My trouble is knowing when to stop, as I always want things to be perfect. But, of course, as soon as you hit the publish button, there it is, the great glaring mistake you missed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Julia. If I’m not mistaken the dead ends/red herrings syndrome is the same as the ‘chewing gum on the mantel’. If something is mentioned then it is mentioned for a reason. In other words don’t say that there was for example, ‘chewing gum …’ unless it will mean something later in the story. If it is simply a meaningless piece of imagery – get rid of it.
      In one of my edits when I’m working line by line I watch out for dates, times, etc and note them. I then do a check to ensure that the appropriate item/meeting/event actually takes place. I think that’s one of the reasons I tend to use dates and times in my stories, so that the reader is confident that they can trace events.
      Prior to telling anybody that I’ve published anything I download it myself and read it through, and although not foolproof, it works to find the odd issue. I have up until now always had that one person to read for me and fortunately she is not family – but unfortunately she lives thousands of miles away so all contact is across many time zones.
      I’ll see how the multi-person beta reader thing works with my present project. By the way if you’d like to have a look at it, please let me know. Check out ‘A Life of Choice’ in the main menu.
      Till later my friend. 🙂

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  5. Ha-ha, we blogged about the same subject on the same day 🙂 Great minds think alike? A very comprehensive post, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Ramona. I’ve been over to read your post and it makes many good points, although as you’ll see from how I operate, I don’t agree with spending vast sums of money on an editor. I have own system which is time-consuming, involves somebody else proofreading and also use of my punctuation/grammar/style programme. I also of course write in excess of five drafts and at various stages read the entire manuscript aloud.
      It’s not foolproof, but things are going well so far. I can see where all your other commentators are coming from, but I don’t earn enough to spend it on professional editing. I do however spend a lot on professional covers.
      Until next time.

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  6. I Thank you Tom got taking the time to talk about editing……I can see the pros and con’s of hiring an editor. I will keep at it using your system and most importantly, taking my time. It is amazing how much you can learn from one person but you take the time to answer as many questions as you can. That makes you a very special man in the art of writing.

    Thank You for listening
    Michael Roberts

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    • Thank you Michael and I can tell from your interest and sincerity that you’ll spend the necessary time and effort on the task. I will in the near future produce a simplified breakdown of my system. Okay, it may not be for everybody, but as much as I’m seeing a few of my books selling, I cannot afford the cost of a professional editor. I have had a proofreader who has helped me since my first novel and if possible I’ll now try to engage others to help.
      I’ll be here if you have any issues that you think I might be able to help with, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

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