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Author Life 6 – Editing

In this weeks edition of author life, I’ll be discussing the wonderful world of editing. It’s quite apt that editing is this week’s topic, as that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month. It’s also why I’m late delivering this next segment in my author life series.

Editing

The first book you’ll ever write can be both the hardest and the easiest for different reasons. When you’re new to writing it takes time to improve your craft. Your first manuscript may never get published but that’s OK because by writing it, you’re improving all the time.

On the other hand, it’s easier as there are no deadlines to contend with. You’re not multi-tasking either. Writing is a business, and if you want to make a success of it I recommend you produce more than one book. It’s not uncommon for me to be editing one book, writing another while plotting my next book at the same time. Then there’s the time involved in book launches, marketing, social media, blogging and the boring bits like doing your accounts. When you’re starting out, you don’t have to worry about deadlines, you can set your writing time aside to suit yourself. Having said that, it was difficult juggling working in the police while writing and bringing up a young family. But enough about me, time to explain the editing process.

Feedback

It’s not really ‘The End’ when you type those two words on the bottom of your manuscript, it’s the beginning. Because now you’ve got to go back and edit your work. If you’ve got the time, let it rest a little. Even putting it aside for a week can make such a difference as you return to your work with a fresh pair of eyes. Everyone approaches editing differently, but I recommend you don’t edit as you write. They are left and right side of your brain activities, so keep writing and worry about editing later. I usually write a few thousand words then self-edit it the following day before I write some more. This process of editing and writing works well as I refresh myself with the story then give myself permission to write new words without worrying too much about the quality as I know I’ll fix them the next day. Self-editing is a very important part of the process and it’s important to go with what works for you. A lot of authors swear by beta readers and writing groups. I don’t use them, as books are so subjective. What one person may enjoy, the other may deem problematic, so the only person’s advice that I really value is that of my editor. It’s not to say that I don’t value my readers – they are at the heart of everything I write. But after several years of feedback, I trust my in-built sense of their reading preferences and deliver accordingly.

Editors

So who do you NOT listen to for advice? By all means pass your work onto family, friends and work colleagues, just don’t expect an honest assessment of your work. The thing is, they won’t want to hurt your feelings. Are they your target market? Do they read a lot of books in that particular genre? We all need constructive criticism, otherwise we will never improve. There are some authors who work really well with their other halves. Very few members of my family read my work, and certainly not before it’s been edited. Regardless of who you ask for advice (or not) you will have to work with an editor at some point. Self publishing my first book was a real eye-opener as I had to pay for editors myself. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some fantastic editors through my publishers since then, so much so that I sometimes hear their voice advising me as I write. (Did I just admit to that?!) A professional editor knows the industry inside out. If you are paying for it yourself, please only work with recommended professionals who have worked with successful authors in the past. It’s not good enough to hire someone who is ‘good at English’. They must have experience in the industry and be able to advise accordingly.

Schedule

Self-edit: Keep going over your manuscript until you are sick to the teeth of it. Read it out loud, play out each part. It helps with dialogue no end. MS Word has this nifty feature which reads your work back to you. It’s great when you’re fatigued and can pick up spelling mistakes quicker than reading it yourself. I have blogged previously about recommended writing tools, and I find Grammarly an invaluable resource at this stage.

Structural / developmental editor: These editors look at the big picture – your novel as a whole and how it works. Does the plot make sense? Are the characters rich and varied? What works and what doesn’t? Their advice is invaluable, but you may need to develop a thick hide. They’re not there to make you feel better about your writing, it’s their job to help you improve. Expect to be editing for a few weeks.

Copyeditor: They go over your words with a fine tooth comb, focusing on grammar, punctuation and spelling. Some really good copyeditors will also point out flaws in continuity and such things as name changes and date errors. After the structural edit, chapters can often be chopped and changed, and in the case of my most recent novel, a character you’ve killed off can be brought back to life. This is when errors creep in. It should take a few days to work through your copyedit once they return your manuscript to you.

Proofreader: It’s their job to read the book as a reader would, catching any errors which have slipped through the net. There shouldn’t be any structural changes at this point, and fixing any lingering errors should only take you a day or two.

When you’re working against a deadline, editing can be all consuming. Very little gets done in my home as I put everything into it. My advice is to listen to your editor, and if there’s something you don’t agree with, don’t be afraid to bring it up. It could be a key piece of writing which could benefit with a change in direction. ‘Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings,’ as Stephen King says. Good communication is key. Your editor wants the same as you – to make your book the very best it can be.

That’s all for this week. If you enjoyed my post please give it a like. Comments welcome. Please note the small print: My advice is solely as a result of my personal opinions and experiences, and my willingness to #payitforward. Please don’t hold me responsible for any problems you may encounter during your writing journey. Images (except mine) are courtesy of stocksnap.

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