Edddiiitttingg…UGH. Let’s get this out of the way. I hate the editing process so much, I dragged my feet to write this blog post. Who wants to edit when you can create? Move onto the next story, your next scene, new characters!
To bring us back to the home building analogy, editing is sanding the drywall joints on a ceiling, or cutting 400 tiles to lay a new floor, or masking off an entire room before you paint it (and dontcha hate when the paint gets under the tape despite your prep??) I thought hard to come up with something redeeming about this process–and drew a blank. While I don’t have anything redeeming, I do have our first rule:
NO ONE’S GONNA TAKE IT SERIOUSLY IF IT AIN’T EDITED
Seriously, like, who’s giong to take you’re story seriously if you, like, mes up a bunch of things? What editor or agent is going to put their neck on the block for something replete with errors. And, no, your editor or agent isn’t the person to find the mistakes for you. Regardless of how much we dislike the process, truth is that if we ignore it, or half-ass it, things will never look right in the rest of the book. If you don’t sand the joints down, or cut the tiles right, or mask off the room properly, your entire project is going to look like a joke. This leads to our second rule of editing:
IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE RIGHT…THEN MAYBE HAND IT OFF TO A PROFESSIONAL
I am one of the ultimate DIY guys. It comes from a mixture of wanting control over all the details (read–OCD) and being a bit of a cheapskate. Hey, if it saves me some dimes, those will be handy down the road! There comes a time though, where it makes sense to pony up and bring in the big dogs. Point in case, do you know whether to use toward/towards, anyway/anyways, alright/all right? (That’s just a few examples, don’t get your hopes up!) Can you really read your book, the one you just spent a year or more of your life writing, and pick out all the errors? Are you a grammar maven? If you answered no to any of these, thennnn maybe you ought to consider a pro. If you answered yes to all of them, then I think you’ve got a rewarding career in the scintillating field of editing in front of you!
If you’re like me, and you had to Google whether to use alright or all right (it’s all right by the way), and then go back and change all of those damn errors in your entire book, you start to realize that the $500 or so bucks it would take to have someone professionally edit the book may not be that expensive after all.
There’s got to be another side of the coin, right? Sure, sure, sure. Rule number three:
YOU CAN’T RELY ENTIRELY ON THE PROFESSIONAL EDIT
The initial edits should be your own! Those are the edits when you’ll find yourself saying, “Man, that sentence is really awkward,” or, “Whoops! One of my characters died earlier in the story and here they are again!” Funny what you forget when you get 60, 70, and 80 thousand words into a story. As a suggested process, run edits with certain goals. First edit, spelling through your spell checker. This will also eliminate those annoying red squiggly lines (go ahead, do a “define squiggly”). Second edit, grammar, punctuation, etc. Third edit, start digging into the meat of your book. Style, flow, character development. Read sections out loud–or if you have a really patient dog, read the whole damn thing to it. Your readers will read the book “out loud” in their heads, so how it sounds is critical. Speaking of readers, here’s the final rule of this section:
GET TRUSTED, CRITICAL PEOPLE TO READ YOUR MANUSCRIPT
I can’t tell you how valuable the input from my four readers was. There will be aspects of your book that make sense to you, because you’ve been married to the thing for so long, that defy common sense. Your readers should be people that will point these issues out to you. Choose wisely though. You don’t want people that will crush your hopes and aspirations into oblivion. We’re a delicate bunch, and while some of us have thick skin, it still hurts to get scathing feedback. So, save that for all the rejection letters you’ll get from agents and editors!
Kind of like swallowing “cherry” flavored cough medicine, you’ll have to get down to editing at some point. Tastes nasty, we hate to do it, but it’s critical to the health of your story. Consider getting the manuscript as polished as possible, have readers give you their input, and then send it to a professional editor for a final gander. Then we can move onto more exciting things–like getting published!