I previously wrote a piece on why editing is so important, especially for Indie Authors. I believe the general consensus among the writing community is that authors really need to stop publishing unedited or barely edited books.
However, I think there is a bigger problem. Before there was Jackie Chanel, the contemporary romance author, I was (insert real name here) behind the scenes doing editing work. It’s been a positive and negative experience.
I believe the problem lies with authors not understanding an editor’s job or exactly what editing is. Most people that I’ve come in contact with believe that an editor’s job is to correct spelling and grammar. True, but that is not all an editor does. In fact, if that’s all you’re getting for $.02 per word, hit me up because you’re wasting good money.
An editor is going to take your first and second draft and get it to the point where it’s as pretty as a shiny new penny. They are going to expose plot holes, inconsistencies, weak sentences, lack of character development, etc. your editor is make sure that your story is focused and on the right track, not jumping all over the place. They’re going to make the cuts that you’re afraid to. Your editor going to help make your book publishable. Your editor is going to tell you things that your sensitive author ears are not ready to hear. Your editor will read your manuscript with your target reader in mind. Your editor is your literary BFF and the best critique partner you’ll ever find.
I know that mine is.
Pick your jaw up off the floor. I will never understand why people think that because I’m an author that knows the ends and outs of editing and edits other people’s work, that I don’t have my own editor. It’s not that I don’t trust myself to self-edit. I self-edit every chapter. That’s what you’re supposed to do as an author. You correct your typos, spelling errors, sentence structure, get rid of “just, it, and, but, that,” etc, BEFORE sending it to your editor. There’s a word for it that we learned when we wrote our first book report.
It’s okay for readers to believe that editing is just fixing spelling and grammar errors. They aren’t the author. The author should know better.
I use myself as an example for these posts because I cannot speak for everyone, but my editor has the final say in what I publish and what gets scrapped. Maybe that’s why I can’t understand authors who never speak to their editors. I get manuscripts directly from publishers to be edited, sometimes without even giving me the author’s name. So I know that if I don’t know the author, he or she damn sure doesn’t know who I am. That, my friends, is a disservice to everyone.
I have never given anyone an unpublished copy of my work without wanting to know their opinion on what I’ve painstakingly poured my heart into. To just hand it off to a stranger to read, correct, and evaluate…well folks, the very idea feels wrong.
Authors, you have to take control of your own writing. You cannot simply hand your work over to a publisher who sends it to a stranger who then proceeds to markup and “fix” your work. Would you send your precious child anywhere with a complete stranger? Ask questions. Ask who your editor is going to be. Reach out to that person. He or she has been hired by the publisher to edit your book. It’s not their job to reach out to you. Be available if he or she has questions.
Of course, you may not be able to call your editor at 3am with a character in crisis like I’m able to do with mine, but you should be able to ask questions, discuss changes and suggested changes, and seek guidance from your editor. How can you do this if you don’t know who’s putting their hands all over your work?
There are stages in getting a book published. The easiest stage is writing. The hardest is editing. The best advice I can give you when it comes to editing is…
Put your feelings in a jar on a high shelf and run away from them.
The editing phase isn’t about how much you care about your characters. Your editor doesn’t care about your favorite scene. Your editor doesn’t care about “this is how we talk where I’m from.” Your editor cares about plot holes, lazy writing, inconsistencies, a bunch of things that you weren’t even thinking about when you started writing. Don’t be surprised when your first edit comes back and that scene where your main character languishes over the trials and tribulations of her life that goes on for 6 pages, which you though was compelling and perfect, gets cut from the book all together. That’s what editing is. Get used to it.
Writing the first draft of the manuscript is the easy part. But you have to remember, it’s a first draft and IT’S NOT PERFECT. It’s not even publishable. It’s a newborn baby, straight out of the birth canal…covered in slime and grossness that only a professional should touch. When your editor makes or suggest changes, take them to heart. Most importantly, make the change. Step away from your “It’s mine. I wrote it exactly the way I wanted to” feelings and stop handcuffing your editor. They’re not trying to change your story. They’re trying to make it better. If you can’t understand that or refuse to believe that, why are you writing?
If you can’t handle the critique of your manuscript by a professional editor, how are you ever going to handle readers? They’re 100 times more critical than editors.