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.

*

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.

*

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.

 *

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.

*

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.

*

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.

 *

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

This feels like about the right time to stop …

L … is for Layout

L[1]  is for layout. In this case I am using layout, but for the purpose of explanation, it could also be described as presentation, or format. However you’d like to consider it by name, it is a massive area to cover, so I’ll touch on it with a few basic points.

I self-publish my novels and poetry anthologies as eBooks, so it is fitting that I refer to my own particular layout in the body of this post.

An eBook is no less a book because it is in digital format, so it should have a similar general appearance to the printed page, and it should contain the appropriate supplementary information.

Do you require a fair grasp of e-pub formatting?

I’m not an authority on it, but I have a reasonable knowledge of the task. I formatted both my novels, and my five poetry anthologies. It isn’t easy, and if I’m being honest, it can raise the heart-rate at times, but it is rewarding.

There is a feeling of accomplishment when you download the book to your Kindle or other e-reader and know that you have been responsible for every aspect of the production.

In self-publishing, there is a greater requirement for self-promotion, and this should be taken into consideration at the formatting stage.

How does an author promote within an eBook?

My own method is twofold. First, I wait until I have at least two 5* reviews before I update and include them. Secondly, I promote my other writing within the endnotes. There are obviously no reviews at initial publishing; the scary stage.

My layout is: Title, copyright, acknowledgements, reviews (in brief), contents, and then the story. After the story: Epilogue, a word from the author, about the author, also by the author, and contact details.

I don’t believe in pushing the ‘author’ information until after the story is read, because initially, it’s the story the reader is buying into. If by the end of the story, they like the writing, then they will take more interest in the endnotes.

Considerations when formatting for e-publishing?

1. Line spacing is a key factor. Too little space creates blocks of text that fill the screen. Too much space creates too much white space. Both achieve one thing; an uncomfortable reading experience. I use 1.15 spacing.

2. Fancy fonts can create issues, and the procedure is complicated enough. Stick with a standard font that will do the job; Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman. I use Times New Roman, headers size 14, regular text size 12.

3. Throughout the process, it is a good idea to keep the number of fonts and styles, to a minimum. This maintains a better reading experience. I tend to use bold capitals for chapter headings, or supplementary headings, regular text for the story, and italics for emphasis, or when dealing with telephone dialogue.

4. Paragraph indents should be less than for the written page. An indent on an e-reader is much more pronounced and can spoil the reader’s enjoyment. Standard indent is approximately 1.27cm. I reduce this to 0.25cm.

5. A line break, should be used after sections of supplementary information (copyright, reviews, etc.), or it all becomes a constant stream of text.

6. A line break, should be used at the end of each chapter to avoid the beginning of a fresh chapter occurring part-way down the screen.

7. An asterisk (centre-aligned), is useful to create a natural break between scenes, and this ‘educates’, or guides the human reader, just like signposting within the text.

8. Placing all the author info at the back of the book provides the human reader with more of a sample of the story, before deciding to make a purchase.

This is only an introduction to a challenging, but rewarding task.

Please note, that the procedure for formatting poetry is even more ‘challenging’.

Once again, thank you for reading my post, and if you have any queries, I respond to all comments.

See you tomorrow for ‘M’.