Friday, August 23, 2013

Editing...GOTTA HAVE IT!

This picture has nothing to do with the article...I just love the Oregon Coast.

Sometimes, a little can say a lot.
Okay, so that was pretty vague, but here is the gist of where I am going today: if you want to be taken seriously as an author…get an editor. One of the greatest plagues in the indie scene is the poorly edited manuscript. Now I’m not saying that you need to shell out $5000 for some professional service. What I am saying is that there are people out there who love the long, torturous process of painstakingly picking through your story to make it as clean as possible before the public gets hold of it.
You are going to have critics; that is part of the deal when you toss your hat into this arena. Don’t put yourself on a tee or hang from a string like a piƱata inviting the public to take free swings. Whether it is something as simple as hitting the spell check button after you have read through it, or going to some of your fellow writers and asking for editing referrals, you need some help with that last bit of polishing.
There are some helpful programs out there, but you can’t rely on them completely. For one, they might suggest corrections that do NOT need to be made. However, they can be helpful as long as you are careful. One of the best things that you can do is read your story out loud. By doing so, (preferably with somebody to listen) you can catch some of your awkward phrasing, or the repetitious use of a single word nine times in the span of two sentences.
One of the best things that you can do is read some of your indie brethren and sistren (that made up word is a perfect example of why you need a human eye…yes, it is made up, but it is a wee bit of a joke). Find out who reads clean and who reads like a poorly constructed junior high creative writing assignment. Peruse the reviews. You would be surprised (or perhaps not) how often poor editing is mentioned. Then ask them who does their editing. Most indie authors use indie editors. Those folks are trying to scratch out a living as well and love being recommended. (I am blessed to have a pair of very prolific writers as clients. Both are very generous with their compliments AND their referrals.) I am always learning, and like anything, I continue to discover rules that I was not aware of before. I usually have four or five tabs up for various grammar sites. So is my work perfect? Nope. But if I am picking out ten or twenty errors per page, then YOUR work looks better by at least that much.
I will admit here that I am dipping my toe into Grammarly. I have found it to be pretty good. It still lacks a human element which allows it to over sanitize work and offer “fixes” that are not needed. However, it still beats just going to print without some clean-up work being performed. You simply can’t beat the human factor. I have not decided if I will continue using them…I am about to run a test with one of my older projects where I take the original rough and edit it (making notes on my fixes) and run the same document through Grammarly. So…we will see…
Even after editing, it is possible that you will have an error or two make it out there. Undoubtedly, somebody will discover it and mention it. That is reality. Even “professional” services let one slip here and there; but one or two in a book is a lot better than five or six per page! You have to live by the axiom that nobody is perfect.
The bottom line is that if you want to be taken seriously…get another set of eyes to check your work. I could go an about the new “role” of the editor in the indie scene, but that is a post for another time.


  1. editing, yes it makes an arse to read if not done well, no matter how good the story is.... dont forget us avid fans turned Beta readers, we often know the story lines better than you for continuity errors, not just grammar!

    1. And that is what makes you my number one Beta reader! I can't begin to express what it means to have somebody like you to take that first look and give me the "what's what" after. (Just a few days till DEAD: Reborn comes your way!)

  2. I'm happy to hear I'm not the only editor who usually has five tabs up when editing. Autocrit is actually one of my favorite editing tools. I pay for my subscription because I use it so much, but there is a free version. I would kiss the toes of any author who ran their work through it before submitting. I do so with my own writing.

    And I always have the dictionary up, occasionally someone will slip in an antiquated word I had not heard of. And the other day an author's typo turned out to be a real word, just not the one they wanted (skirled-meaning to play the bagpipes or wail like the bagpipes). Who knew?

    I also always have a window open for Grammar Girl, just in case I need to check a rule to be sure I'm right. And if the author doesn't believe me, I can send them the link. (Sadly, that happens.)

    Editing really is an essential component of writing. Especially if you want return customers.

    Great post, Todd.


    1. Thanks Stacey,

      And yes, I think Grammar Girl is one of the tabs ALWAYS up on my screen. And I am learning something new ALL the time. Just a few months ago, I discovered the difference between fiancee, and fiance. Who knew there was a male and female difference in the spelling? Not this guy, I can promise you that.

  3. I'm actually sitting here speechless as I read Stacey's comment. I can't imagine, as a writer, sending my work off to an editor to have it edited, then actually arguing with the editor once the work was done.
    I'm sure, humans being human, that there are writers out there with just enough hubris that believe that every golden pearl that drops from their, keyboard? should be left untouched. But if that is the case, why bother with an editor at all? Someone to pat them on the back and tell them that they wasted their time sending it to them, the book was perfect in every way, form and fashion? Nobody is perfect.
    I will say thank you to Stacey for dropping the names of the software. It gives me something to look into and maybe making Todd's future work a wee bit easier. If I can find it and if it's affordable. For now, I'm taking the tidbits of hints he's given me in the past and applying them to the manuscripts that I still have before resubmitting them.
    Good post.