Editing

Editing

I’ve done a lot of editing in the past fourteen years. Both to my own work and others. And I’ve noticed that all authors have their own brand of mistake that they can’t see through. They may even critique it  in other groups, about other authors, without noticing it in themselves. This is normal. It’s not hypocrisy. Writers have blinders on when it comes to their work. It takes a long time to notice these mistakes and train themselves out of them, and a first draft, no matter how long the writer has been writing, will have these weaknesses. They crop up. Especially if the writer is trying to finish something in a certain period of time.

Here’s a few examples: Spelling. Personally I’m terrible at this and rely heavily on spell check and online dictionaries. Missed commas, missed words, repeated words in a few sentences that don’t reinforce a need or emotion in the characterization or plot.

This is why editors exist, grammar Natzi’s, if you wish. Harsh as that sounds.

But editing is more than grammar, more than copy, it even goes further than sentence structure and flow. There’s structure for a novel that comes into play – developmental editing is a term I keep seeing lately. For the best book on novel structure – in my opinion – see Larry Brooks Story Engineering.

What I see some editors miss, especially those not formally trained, is that the author has a voice and a style and a way of saying things that needs to be respected. Something to be noticed. And this style needs to be acknowledged in the editing, and the note taking for changes to be made in a manuscript. It’s not just a matter of deleting, changing, or modifying sentences, paragraphs or whole chapters of a book. Good editors, truly involve the author in the process.

If your editor isn’t doing this, it may be unconscious, or ego, or training, so give him or her a break, let them know. Don’t take everything they do as gospel, but, stay open to their ideas and suggestions. This has some of the same components of a writing group. It takes a certain amount of bravery. And in the case of an editor, you’re often paying for a service. This means you get to define the experience before it starts. So take part.

A good editor is like a good therapist, they take time to find. Look well.

Hug something today, rocks and walls don’t count.

Editing

Editing is a part of writing. It’s more than using a spellchecker, though they are invaluable for people who misspell, but they don’t help with legitimate words that are used wrong or out of context. They don’t help with missing words, usually. If your fingers move faster than your brain or your brain is quicker than your fingers like mine – I won’t say which version – you need to double check your work.

I checked the previous post, twice before I posted it, and still missed something. I went back and fixed it, but it  happens. It happens to everyone. Even professionals. And it can stay in print till a second edition if you’re not lucky enough to catch it. I’m sure a good publisher would help with this, insist on it even. I think.

But editing is more than spelling, it’s the flow of words and the structure of a sentence. It’s word choice and placement on a page. It’s more than just the sentence and the paragraph and the scene on any one page. It can be setting and ambiance or the creepiness of the story coming through. What emotion are you trying to convey in the story, to the reader? Is it related to theme?

Getting the ideas onto the page are important. Editing smooths those ideas and concepts out so that the reader can see them clearer. It’s the weeding out of the garden so only the product you want is visible. Ever write something so clunky that it made no sense to you till you managed to edit the meaning into it. Or smoothing it out made it so much clearer to you, and then the next sentence jumped into place even better because of that.

Here’s a few things that might help:

1) Speak it out loud, if you stumble over the words in a sentence, you might need to rewrite it.

2) Get someone else to look at it. This, at it’s heart is why people do writing groups, fresh eyes point things out to them. Things they didn’t see or were to close to see because it is their work.

Some people just won’t pass up the opportunity to correct you; might as well get something from it if they do.

3) Print it out, the eye sees things differently on paper than a computer monitor.

4) Put the work away for a time, then go back to it, you’ll see things you didn’t.

You’re writing will never be perfect, that’s not what editing is about and it’s not what I mean by this post. But if your world-building and structure and lack of noticeable mistakes – because you went back and edited your work – keep people in your world, you’ve accomplished something magical.

Striving is the goal here, that and progress. Everything you do to improve your writing, will make you a better writer. You may never run a 3 minute mile, that doesn’t mean you have stop exercising.  Then again if you keep adding a foot to each run, another second of speed, every day, then you might reach that goal. And the possibilities to your writing improve just the same way with every word choice, edit, revision or rewrite.

Don’t be afraid to take your work apart, to add flesh, or bones, or even take some of those things away. But, like Larry Brooks says, “Don’t take away structure, all stories need that.”

Edit.

Be Well, be kind. Smile at small children, run away if they cry.