Editing (and why you need an Editor)
I am blogging a lot later tonight because I spend my day time editing Dissolution of Peace. Though I finally went through all my editors notes, I am not finished. My editors made nearly 3,000 line by line comments on my manuscript and also provided me with four full pages of comments and suggestions. I still have 70 to correct, but I made the decision to fix what was easiest first. The points of story and character, I’ll go back and review. It was a lot of work just to correct those other 2930 comments, but many of those were punctuation mistakes, grammar mistakes, and typos.
Grammar is a touchy issue with me. It is also a pit fall of mine. I’m not afraid to mention that. But I do become incredibly grouchy when grammar mistakes are pointed out to me, especially in social settings. And while a few simple mistakes may not ruin a story for a reader, major slip ups will. And a pile of minor slip ups can make a mountain that becomes distracting. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, and for that reason I dreaded reading these comments.
But if grammar bothered me, I was more worried that the editor would have listed a huge amount of plot problems. Or tell me he hated the story line all together. Thankfully I didn’t get that. There were even some plot points I was worried about that my editor made no comments on.
But in the end my editor caught 3,000 mistakes (in his opinion) that my three beta readers missed. That is 3000 things that were not brought to my attention before I hired an editor. And this is exactly why you need to hire an editor, especially for your longer projects. I don’t hire an editor for my short stories, it doesn’t make financial sense to me. But I will hire an editor for all of my novellas and novels.
Beta readers help you find those plot mistakes, story flow problems, and gauge overall reader enjoyment. Editors break out the find tooth comb and check for all the little mistakes (and even some big ones). Think of Beta readers as sand paper, they smooth out the story. And Editors are polish, they make the story shine.
There are some things you have to look for when you hire an editor:
First, do they have any editing experience. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they have edited. Don’t be afraid to ask other writers for recommendations. And do a search for information about that editor. Check out their website and other people’s posts about them. Ask for references. Remember you are hiring them.
See if you can get a sample. Many editors will provide a small sample of their work. Some won’t but I’d suggest they do. Even if it is just a few pages. If not, but you know they are a good editor. Find out what you get for the money you are paying. Some editors charge a lot of money just to give you a summary of thoughts. While others will offer line by line edits. Always ask if it includes proofreading. Some editors don’t consider proofreading part of editing. It is semantics if you ask me, but that is why you should always check.
Find out a deadline. Make sure the editor gives you a timeline. Don’t dump hundreds of dollars on an editor that plans to take an excessive amount of time on your manuscript. You may have to pay more if you want a rush on your edits, and you may pay less if you allow the editor some extra time. Again, establish that up front.
Last find out if your editor will continue to help you if you fail to understand his notes. Some editors charge for the markups and a separate fee if you want further opinion later. Others are willing to help you through the whole process up to publication for no extra charge.
Tips for handling editor markups:
Just like when you get feedback from Beta Readers, the feedback from an editor does not mean you have to change something. There were a number of suggestions my editor made, that I won’t be changing. Most of these are a simple matter of opinion. But, remember you are hiring an editor to provide you a professional opinion. So if you are not sure you agree with an editor remark, look it up for yourself. For example, my editor marked that “sickbay” should be “sick bay”. I won’t be changing that because my research shows that many naval traditions refer to it as one word, sickbay. So I will keep it that way. My editor is not wrong for marking that, I just prefer it the one way. The plus side is that by him pointing it out, I realized that in some parts of my manuscript I had it as two words. So for consistency I fixed that.
That being said, never ignore an editor’s comments. They marked it for a reason. Good editors will also explain why they marked it that way. Mine did. I was also able to research it myself. I learned from it and now I know a lot more than I did in the beginning. There were a few times I thought I had done something right, but when I went and looked it up I was wrong. Don’t ignore a comment, learn from it even if you don’t change it.
Next, bit of advice is not to be overwhelmed. It is pretty scary when you see all those red markups on your manuscript. At first I didn’t really want to move forward on the edits. I was intimidated by the volume of notes. But I told me self I’d start working my way down. Anything that required extra thought I would skip. I would fix all the typos, punctuation, and grammar errors and other simple fixes. That got the ball rolling. And soon you realize that you repeat a lot of mistakes. For me, punctuation at the end of dialogue was a pit fall for me. That was probably the number one punctuation fix for me. A few spelling errors.
And a lot of repeated words. When I started to find out my editor was marking repeated words, I was a bit mad. I didn’t see the importance in it. I thought it was something trivial and a matter of opinion. But when I got back my manuscript I found that my characters “smile” a lot. They “stated” everything. And they “look” all over the place. And a lot of the time I used all three of those words as a filler. Something a simple “said” would work for. Or sometimes the sentence could be removed with no effect on the story.
My last tip for handling big project edits is not to read while you edit. If I had reread my entire novel while working on the edits it would have taking far longer. I simply went from comment to comment and corrected what was wrong. I only read the area of the comment to get the context. It helped me power through those thousands of comments leaving the real meat of the edit there. I will now read through the novel and as I hit the comments left behind I can decide how to best correct those.
I don’t need an editor.
If you are writing a novel (or even a novella) you are wrong. You may plan to publish the traditional way, or you may plan to self publish. Either way you need an editor.
If I was submitting my manuscript to an editor at a publishing house, I’d have just submitted them a manuscript with 3,000 errors on it. That is 3000 things the publisher will notice. I think my current manuscript would have a better chance of being picked up simply because I correct so many errors.
If I self published my manuscript, it would have went to readers with 3,000 mistakes on it. That could very well add up to low sales. And the number one way a self published author gets (or loses) sales is word of mouth. There is rarely a large marketing budget for the self published author. So hiring an editor is the best way to invest what little money you have available to improve your work.
Every writer needs an editor. At least one.
Who did I use?
I am sure you wonder who I used for my editor. I used Robert Wilson, editor for Nightscape Press. Robert is a self published author of multiple top rated novels and novellas, including the only Vampire novel I have truly enjoyed: Shining in Crimson. Robert was also an editor for Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology and is a freelance editor. His rates are reasonable (you can contact him about that). His work is very in-depth. He even took time to look up facts about how military ranks are capitalized, since this was his first story that dealt with so many ranks. I think that speaks volumes right there. He took the time to make sure he has it right. He provided me broad notes and line by line edits/proofreading. As I mentioned he took the time to point out repeated words. He did this by highlighting them a different color than the comments, and that was really helpful. It made them stand out and I really saw how much I was using some words. Overall, I highly recommend him. And I will use him again (provided he can stand working with such a needy writer again).