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 …

That’s write … innit ?

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I can now report that I’m pleased with my new editing tool – Grammarly. Proofreading is hard to do accurately on your own work, and if you pay for it to be done by somebody else, you will pay dearly. Grammarly I’ve decided is better than a ‘halfway house’.

As my graphic would suggest, it gives you four main areas of back-up; Punctuation, Grammar, Spelling and Synonyms. In the programme synonyms are referred to as ‘enhancements’.

Like all wonder tools, it has it’s drawbacks, but even when taking them into consideration, I would still recommend the tool for the independent publisher. If, like me, you are publishing eBooks on Amazon or another site then you may allow eagerness to take over, just when you should be considering the reader. Yes, remember those nice people that you want to spend money on your hard work – well, they’ll be expecting a well-written, well-presented book. We can’t blame them can we, because it’s what we would want too.

I’ve just spent two weeks with Grammarly and used it on both of my e-published novels. At one end of the scale I was delighted with my spelling, but at the other end, I was dismayed at my grammar. Nothing more to be said there.

Until recently, I didn’t realise how many proofreading programmes were out there. There are those you can use free, and there are those you pay for – and like all things in life; you get what you pay for. I read the profile, pricing, and reviews on three different systems before opting for Grammarly. It’s affordable, easy to download, and easy to use. It does have the need to connect to the Internet – and keeping your browser clear of excess cache files is a good idea, because that will allow the system to run smoothly.

Write the document, open Grammarly and watch those numbers accumulate; Grammar, Spelling, Enhancements. It will tell you when it’s completed the check.

It’s still a good idea to insert the ‘suggested’ amendments manually. There is an option to click and let the system change the punctuation, but occasionally there is a suggestion to drop a comma within a word. On odd occasions, the programme will suggest that there is no punctuation at the end of a sentence. When the system is wrong, you will see clearly that there is punctuation.

Apart from that, it might not recognise a word that you abbreviate within dialogue, like, thinkin’, or nothin’, for example. It will give the option to ‘add to dictionary’. Place names are another favourite for non-recognition, as I found out with both my books. Click to ‘add to dictionary’, and off you go again.

A nice touch, if you’re like me and were last taught grammar and punctuation a long time ago, is an option for a short, or long explanation with the suggested amendments. I’ve found that the short explanation is usually enough for my needs.

Was I satisfied with one session of ‘filtering’ my novels with this proofreading system? No, I wasn’t. I went through both books twice, and the fact that the system brought up the same things (place names, etc.,) as the first time, gave me confidence in the method. My books may still not meet the strict criteria of the purist, but I’m happy that I’ve done all in my power to improve them – except pay out excessive money.

If you’re interested in trying it, there is an optional free trial period. As an example, I used the Grammarly system on this piece of writing and it highlighted the need for inserting a comma on two occasions. The programme also highlighted my examples; ‘thinkin’ and ‘nothin’.

Link:   http://www.grammarly.co.uk/