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Why Is Editing So Damn Important? by Marie Lavender
Why Is Editing So Damn Important?
by Marie Lavender
For those of you who already know the answer to the
question at hand, I applaud you.
But there are a few who might be wondering why, in
fact, one would ever worry about editing. Two schools of thought rally around
this subject. Some of you might be thinking one or both of the following:
needs an editing service? For God’s sake, I could edit the local newspaper in my
sleep. I’ve got this, people!
2.Why should I bother with editing? That doesn't matter! I
wrote this book with my bare hands and I’m hitting ‘publish’ tomorrow!
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It’s true that indie publishing has simplified the
once traditional route to getting our work out to readers. But that’s all the
more reason to take your writing seriously. By overlooking the editing process,
you’re only hurting yourself. Once you decided, “I’m getting published someday!”,
you essentially said goodbye to writing as a hobby. Look, I’m not telling you
to stop enjoying the creative process. Of course not. I think we should all remember why
we got into it, why we still love writing. However, you should see your
manuscript as a potential book.
Notice I said potential?
Before you hit ‘publish’ on that Amazon screen, think carefully about the
ramifications of publishing a book without official edits.
We’re all familiar with bad reviews, right? Not only
have we seen them on book purchase pages, reviews have changed the fate of
restaurants and hotels alike, even something as simple as a pair of shoes.
Words have power. Just as our books can move readers
on an emotional level, enough bad reviews can kill your book’s reputation.
Having said that, a negative review happens now and then. No author, not even a
famous one, is immune. It’s true that you can’t win every reader over. But, wouldn’t
you want to be judged on the merit of your work, the quality of your story,
rather than the editing
mistakes and glaring grammar problems you thought weren’t so relevant?
Take it from me. I’ve been a published author since
2010, and I still jump to catch all the editing issues before I even consider
publishing the book. With my latest book, Directions
of the Heart, I fortunately fixed the mistakes in the proof copy
CreateSpace sent and was still able to meet my deadline before the collection
officially released. And this occurred after numerous rounds of self-editing,
and assistance from outside sources. To date, no one has mentioned any editing
issues in the book's reviews.
But let’s get back to the discussion here.
Consider this. If you decide to go the traditional
route and you skip the editing step, you’re not going to win any points with literary
agencies or publishers to which you send query letters. Once they get a load of
the first few pages of your manuscript, you’ll get a tasteful yet boring form
letter that basically says, “Sorry, but no thanks!”
So…the question you need to ask yourself is:
“How important is the finished product to me?”
I think most writers want to put their best work out
there. Some are even perfectionists about it. Does it irk you when you missed
making a word plural on an email or social media? You want to fix it right
away, yes? But it's not always possible. I feel your pain. Now, why wouldn’t you have the same
reaction with the book that you’d like to show readers?
“I’m ready, Marie. I am hitting ‘publish’ right now!”
Whoa…slow your roll there, cupcake. Have you read
through your manuscript a few times? For example, two or three weeks between
each round? Did you read it aloud or even print it out? Sometimes these
different techniques allow us to see glaring errors we missed before. And I’m
not even touching the idea of having to format
your book for release.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Remember the
eager writer who can’t wait for the world to see his or her work? Ditch that
dream just for the moment. You need to put your editing hat on!
Look, this is when things get gritty, or at least
they should. Think of yourself as the girl who fell for the bad boy. He can do
no wrong, but your family is trying to tell you otherwise. Yet the intelligent
thing to do would be to weigh your options, consider your future with this guy.
Likewise, you’ve got to look at your manuscript with a critical eye, not
rose-colored glasses. Fall out of love with your book for a while. I’m not
asking you to second guess everything, just to be smart. Now is the time to
keep an eye out for plot holes, character confusion (using the same name for
two different secondary characters…yeah, it happens), and, among a thousand
other aspects, making sure you didn’t miss any
Believe me, when you’re finally ready to see them,
they’ll pop out at you. For example, if you want to ensure your characters are
fully developed, answer
these questions. You won’t include every detail in the book, but at least
you’ll know your protagonist much better and be more aware of when those facts
matter within the story.
By now, you’ve probably realized that I’m talking
about self-editing. Mmm-hmm…it’s a thing. Even if you are open to using an
outside source for help (critique
readers, a proofreader
or other editing service), do you really want to hand your hard work over to a
total stranger without perfecting it on your own first? Nah, probably not.
Here are some possible questions to ask yourself
with any work of fiction:
1.Chapter Opening and/or Closing:
Does it hook readers to read more?
Is there a compelling event, subplot, tension or conflict that is causing the
story to evolve?
Are the sequence of events or actions of the characters making sense? Are there
too many minute details that are weighing the story down? In other words, is
the narration too long?
Can readers visualize the character? Is it easy to enter the character’s mind
and feel emotion?
5.Scene: Is it important to the story? Why? Does the
character support the scene? Is it rich in details?
6.Character Building: Is there an internal or external struggle? Is
the character struggle important to the scene or the story? Why? Do you
understand the character’s motivation? If it’s confusing, maybe you should find
Is head hopping occurring? If there is a POV shift, did it elevate the plot or
move the story forward?
8.Transitions (Between chapters or
scenes): Are they occurring seamlessly between
paragraphs? Are they building tension
in the story?
9.Grammar and Word Choice:
Are there repetitive phrases? (Suggestion: Use synonyms. They break up repetitions.)
A critique partner will often help you narrow down many such problem areas. Still, it doesn’t hurt to suss out some of it for yourself.
Okay, let’s say you’ve tackled that as well as
possible on your own. Now comes the dreaded part. Unless you’re a total editing
maven (and even if you’re an editor in real life, I still wouldn’t suggest editing
everything on your own), then self-editing can be a grueling yet necessary
process. Luckily, the internet has provided us with awesome tips. Hallelujah!
I swear by these next two articles from The Write
With my first pass, I use article number one, and
then I read through the manuscript. During round two, I launch into the second
article. This is a more detailed look at the mistakes people often make while
writing. After implementing the article’s suggestions, I read through the book
again. Take decent breaks between each round (you don’t want to be too familiar
with your work). With both articles, utilize the advice but try not to drown
out your unique writing voice. I always do another read-through before anyone
else sees my work. That’s three full rounds of self-editing.
“Marie, this could take a while!”
No kidding. But the best endeavors often do.
Will you catch everything? Nope. But I guarantee it
will be a lot better than where any of us started out with the first draft.
So…hopefully, your work is edited well enough to
hand over to a critique partner or beta
readers. Try to provide a questionnaire to help focus your betas
on what kind of feedback that you’re looking for. It looks something like this,
but you can tailor it to your specific genre.
Perhaps you’re thinking of checking out an editing
service. I’ve worked with a lot of good editors through my publisher. I would advise
you to compare rates. Most
editors charge per word. That can really add up, especially if you have a
novel-length manuscript. Plus, there are different
types of editing. Are you looking for basic copy editing or something more thorough,
like line, content or developmental editing? Word of mouth is usually the best
way to find a good editor. Ask your fellow writers or authors who they used for
their latest book editing.
I hope we’ve established the importance of editing.
Do errors still slip through at times? Even with the professionals? Sure. I’ve
noticed the occasional typo in a big six bestselling novel. The fact is no one
is perfect. But I bet you’ll agree that one or two minor issues would be far
better than a 100,000 word manuscript riddled with errors (which is likely to
cause your reader to toss the book, or their Kindle, out the window).
Editing is too damn important, both for your
professional integrity as a writer, and to avoid making your eyes cross when
you reread your published book. Plus, readers will love you for giving them a
polished product! You can’t lose there. I know you’d prefer them to talk to
their friends about the story and how it makes them feel, rather than get hung
up on all the grammar problems. Right?
I thought so. Despite how much of a pain it can be,
editing is your friend.
Really! ;) Are you still with me?
Okay, we’ll go with whatever makes you comfortable.
In any case, editing is an aspect of the writing process that you can’t afford
to ignore. At least, if you want to survive as an author. A well-edited and published book is certainly something of which you should be proud!
I hope you found some helpful tips here. Have a
great weekend, and, as always, happy reading! :)
Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN
and 21 other books. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART placed in the TOP
10 Books of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2017 on
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog.Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge
Survivor in 2016.March 2016 Empress of the Universe title
- winner of the "Broken Heart" themed contest and the "I Love
You" themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE
MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers' Poll. Nominated in the
TRR Readers' Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015
PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in
the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014
MARSocial's Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January
2014 Reader's Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10
Authors on AuthorsDB.com. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the
Directory of Published Authors.
Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She
been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in
progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has
books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance,
suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction,
fiction, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to
multi-author anthologies. She is working on fully revising and
re-releasing all the works from her backlist. Her current series are The
Heiresses in Love Series,
The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of