Edits Away!

Posted: May 24, 2011 in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

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:


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:


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:


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:


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!

  1. @kamajowa says:

    Great blog Derek, as always. Making me feel like it is a good use of resources to pay someone to edit. I appreciate all of your great advice.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly . I’d never publish anything it hasn’t been professionally edited and proofread. Sometimes, as I discovered, you also must hire more than one editor… 🙂

  3. kmapjr says:

    Nice article, one to put in the think tank! Thanks

  4. My common comment about editing is: think of it as reliving, not repeating. Repeating is dull and lifeless, but reliving offers the author the opportunity not only to experience again, but to reflect. Reflect, as in make sure all the best choices were made and nothing was left undone.

    Yes, it’s cheesey. And no.. it doesn’t help the task of 100k words or more spread like a spoiled honey glaze all your computer screen,but hey- at least it’s bad honey and not good arsenic.

    Good luck!

  5. I, sadly, fit into the DIY edit camp, largely because I REFUSE to spend that $500+ to have it done. If think if you prepare yourself mentally for the fact that not one, not two, but probably SIX full edits (with good feedback from a trusted Beta reader or two) is what it’s going to require to trudge through things, then I think you have the right idea. If you don’t have the patience, time, or Vodka on hand to do that, then hire yourself an editor.

    I agree with Ravetide’s perspective. I find it actually makes it easier to get through the rough draft knowing I’m going to review, relive, and reinvent all of the stuff that I know doesn’t work when I go back and edit.

    Quick side note: one of the biggest compliments I get regarding my books is how polished they are. So it CAN be done…but I cannot tell a lie: it’s incredibly draining.

    Great post, Derek!

    • Derek Blass says:

      With respect to content, I agree. I do it myself. However, I’m not a professional editor, so punctuation, grammar, compound words, etc. are not my forte. Thus, paying a sum for a professional editor is very sensible, in my opinion. If you want a referral to one that charges a bit less than that, and is very fast and thorough, let me know, Steve 🙂

      • Renee Y. Lewis says:

        Great post Derek. I would definitely like a referral. I plan to hire an editor but since it’s my first novel I have no idea who to chose.

  6. caro ayre says:

    I have similar issues with editing, but much as I hate it doing it, right now I wish I had time to get stuck into some. Summer has arrived with a vengeance and swallowed up my editing time.

  7. Andy Szpuk says:

    It’s the proof-reading I can’t stand. Those typos that crawl into the MS from nowhere drive me nuts.

  8. Good post. For me, editing is like life. Cutting away the unnecessary baggage is cathartic.

  9. D.A.Cairns says:

    That’s gold Derek. So true, I completely get it especially the D.I.Y. references. My latest blog post compared home renovations to writing. Excellent advice from you.

  10. tariencole says:

    I’ve pretty much discovered my editing limit here in my current jaunt. Two complete rewrites without a new project between burns me out on editing. I can do one in a month without a problem.

    And yeah, I’m one of *those* grammar nerds who gives unpaid edits for people I beta-read for. 😛 I even have an opinion on the Oxford Comma. So given enough passes, I can do the job myself. But it does take setting the manuscript aside and letting it ‘simmer’ on a shelf someplace until I detach emotionally from it. Preferably by writing something else with different characters, so I can come back to the old material fresh.

  11. L. Roy Aiken says:

    If I had the disposable income, I *might* hire an editor, if only to see how she or he interprets my work. I dunno, though. I do well enough on my own. I actually enjoy the whole practice of “mixing,” as I like to imagine the process — moving the sliders on a 24-channel mixing board like I’m engineering the most magnificent album you ever heard, deleting a passage here, adding a portentous fillip there, shading nuance on a character, minding the backbeat. But then, I’m weird. I like to play all the instruments on my albums.

  12. Very good advice! It’s all right to use alright some times, by the way. 🙂

  13. Thank you very much. Great article

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