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 …

The Lyin’, the Which? and the Word-robe

Glasses and penThe Lyin’ – can otherwise be known as denial, delusion, or any one of several other descriptions. It’s how we deceive ourselves about any aspect of our prospective book.
I love that idea for a cover, we the author might think. Remember, unless we’re honest and open to outside influence and the opinion of those with more experience, a badly designed, or even inappropriate cover is a death-sentence for a book.

Until last year I was one of the worst offenders in this category, because I’m an artist, so who’s going to know better than me? Let’s see … oh yes, a book cover designer. I paid for three of my covers to be designed professionally and my books captured more interest – and damn me if they didn’t start selling more.

We can do the same with the writing. As the author who produced the wonderful story, we can truly appreciate how good it is – can’t we? We let relatives or friends read it and they suggest publishing, because they are so amazed at our talent … yeah, whatever.

DO NOT listen to friends or relatives; unless they are qualified to give an objective opinion.

That is an area where I’m pretty well protected. My wife and son don’t read fiction, and since leaving my military career in 1992 I’ve never had an acquaintance I would promote to the title of ‘friend’. The closest folk to me are those I’ve met on sites and blogs. I will give special mention here to Paul Ruddock, because we’ve actually met, and he really is a nice guy. We met at the Self-Publishing Conference earlier this year – an eye-opener.

The Which? – refers to how we can learn about the craft of presentation? Read, read, and then read some more. When you’ve finished … well read more. Don’t depend solely on one writer and one genre, but do consider reading authors who are already established. For example: Wilbur Smith, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Sue Moorcroft or any other author who is already a name and publishes in the conventional (paperback/top publishing house) system.

I would suggest that if you are a fellow Indie author it is a good idea to read those established authors in eBook format. Why? Quite simply because it lets you see what the book layout should look like and how paragraphs are dealt with. You’ll see for example that dialogue has a certain discipline. Dialogue is indented, just like fresh paragraphs are indented.

What else is there? Oh yes! Punctuation. You are not going to see more than one exclamation mark!!! You are not going to see an ellipsis of more than three full stops … or are you ….. “When do you use double quotes?” and ‘Why would you change to single quotes?’

The Word-robe – ah yes, and to make it easy straight away, I’ll rename it. For the sake of argument let’s call it a … Dictionary and Thesaurus. We must all learn to expand our vocabulary so that we don’t depend on the same word being used continually in a book, if there are alternatives.

Let’s look at moving from point A to point B:
He walked, jogged, ran, sprinted, hurled, fell, staggered, strolled, minced, and with a few drinks your character will probably invent some others for you.

Remember, don’t use a big word or obscure word when a straightforward, smaller word will work just as well.

I’d like to suggest checking out ‘Resources for Writers’ on my main menu. A decent, simple-to-follow book on punctuation and grammar is an investment. If I had to suggest three books to have close at hand they would be:
Any good, standard-sized Dictionary and Thesaurus
On Writing by Stephen King
The Writer’s abc Checklist by Lorraine Moore & Maureen Vincent-Northam

I do realise that I might sometimes come across as being hard-nosed in my opinions, but it’s hard to inject humour and be taken seriously when writing about something you care about.
Please keep in mind that your name, brand, credibility as a writer and integrity as a person are on the line when you publish. Don’t go ahead too quickly and above all don’t be greedy when you set a price if you are an unknown.

Why am I so passionate when I’m ‘only’ an Indie author? I started working seriously at this craft in 2007 and I want to help my peers to avoid mistakes I made in the learning process. I want to help others to find the shortcuts I had to learn about through hard work.

As always, I thank you for sticking with me through this blog, article, rant, outburst, tutorial or however you’d like to refer to it.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.