Thursday, 5 November 2015

Authoring 101: Editing



I want to preface this post with a simple fact. I struggle with this whole words-on-paper bullshit. I have had significant learning delays my whole life that would have made my whole life easier if I’d been dyslexic but I’m not. I lose words, they just vanish and somethings…but this isn’t about what I can and can’t do.

What I can’t do is edit my own work.

I think one of the better deals with people who have struggled with reading and writing for many different reasons is that we will never be confident in our own abilities. No, it’s not a great thing, but in this area of writing, it’s brilliant because we will never think we are above and beyond editing.

In the last year or so I have seen a rapped decline in well edited work from some of the top authors of our genre. People who I loved to read have become an “I really want to but I’m scared it’s going to be full of holes” because it’s like they have gotten to a point where they believe they are doing it well and are either skipping editing or are getting people who shouldn’t be editing to do the job for them.

If your work comes back to you without one thing marked you need to look for a second option and I’m not talking about this in a way to be mean, but even if you are an editor yourself, you need to put on two different hats if you are even able to edit your own work, and quite honestly I have only known one person who has been able to say they do and walked away with a book that proves that.

Like I say I’m not trying to be mean, but it’s like a hearing about a fight your kid has been involved in at school and trying not to side with yours. You’re going to and you won’t see certain things because you are just too close.

Now there are a few different types of editing.

A Manuscript editor as far as I’ve been able to work out looks for plot holes, missing scenes or ones that just don’t need to be there. Generally they do an over hall that has nothing to do with the individual work but with the overall.

These types of editors cost a lot of money and like I’ve mentioned in a post before can easily be skipped with a good beta reader.

They can also be incorporated into a good editor, but be warned some editors can’t see this in people’s work, they are truly about the word and not so much the overall, not in a way you might think.

He's an example, one of my editors is the second type of editor, it’s why I have so many regrets about my first book. Not because of the editor, but because of myself (believe me that an editor made me look like a good compared to how I was before). But, and let’s just call him ‘he’, because he worked on about four or five stories together, doing small parts of each book rather than reading the whole thing.

This isn’t to say what he was doing was bad, but it proves that he isn’t a manuscript editor, he’d never be able to tell me if I was missing things. Hell, sometimes he took paragraphs out of my books because he didn’t think they were needed, but in fact they were the most important parts of the story. They just didn’t seem necessary where they stood.

On the other hand, I have an editor who reads my stories completely before ‘he’ even starts to edit. He gets an overall feel for the story and then goes in and starts making it better. This type of editor will pull apart a whole chapter and tell me to re-write it because it just didn’t fit. He would give me advice on how I could improve a character or a chapter and why because those types of editors get invested in a whole story and they are more likely on the manuscript editor side of things.

Then you have Line Editing. These editors just deal with grammar, sentence structure and overall paragraphs placement. From the example above, can you understand what the first one is?

The second editor does both of these two parts of my works and it’s the second most annoying face of editing because they come at you with “this sentence makes no sense” or “weird” or “Awkward” and you’re looking at a sentence that make perfect sense, I tell you! Trying to figure out how the hell you’re meant to make it make more sense. 

It’s this stage you’ll find you have to fight with, not only yourself (and I tell you abuses your screen and walk away until you’ve calmed down and then work it out they aren’t saying this to be mean). It’s these editors that you have to deal with age differences, with cultural differences and different speak pattern. I have yet to find an editor who will change the way I speak in dialogue, but they will do all types of up with a metal cutter. But in the end they are generally correct because they aren’t there to make you happy.

And this is a big note which is why I make it a new paragraph. Editors of any kind aren’t there to make your life easy they are there to make your book translate over different countries and cultures. They are there to make it read smooth no matter what age the person reading it is. And they are there to make sure you haven’t put in things that just don’t need to be there. Things that could be tweaked slightly and read a shit load better.

They are there so that in the end you look like you know exactly what you’re fucking doing and that you can do it perfectly.

On the other hand, though things work against you.

In the end, it’s YOUR book and an editor can’t take anything out or change anything about your book without your say so. They can do this even less when your self-published, but please don’t let that get to your head, if an editor tells you to take out or change something think deeply about it and then decide if it’s something that matters of note.

Examples. In one of my books (it hasn’t come out yet so I can’t link, sorry) I wrote that the MC spat a glob of spit out to lubricate the other MC, my editor told me it wasn’t sexy and that I should change it. But it was real, so I had a choice. Leave the realness of this happening or change it up to something that sounded a little more romantic.

I decided to change it, because in the end it didn’t hurt the story for me to do that. For them to sit there.

I had another story who told me I couldn’t call my cowboys just that because they were in Australia and we don’t call them that, but that I should call them Jackaroos instead, only that isn’t right a cowboy isn’t a joke so I fought that – not that it was hard, as I myself had to look it up because I honestly didn’t know. Anyway, it would have made less sense for them to be Aussies and called jackaroos then it would be to be the same and be called cowboys.

There’s also the little facts. I’m an Aussie so and so I will often get notes asking if what I’ve written was a mistake or a cultural thing because despite our country becoming more Americanized I refuse to allow my books to be written in anything other than what I know and what I know and AM proudly is an Australian.

This is not a dig at others, it’s a choice I made before publishing and hell ALL of my stories if places somewhere are in Australia it be weird if I tried to make then anything but.

But I’d digress

The next stage is generally Proofing. This is when someone comes in and makes sure nothing is missing. This generally happens after 2-4 rounds editing depending on the story itself and how complete it is. Really, if you write it to be complex your editor needs to take just as much care in keeping and help you create even more of an air to it.

Anyway, I hate proofing, they are the ones that go in and pick each word out and then make sure it’s right and then put it back in. They cause me the most stress sometimes (depending on how good the edits have been) as they can fuck up your story BIG TIME by changed two simple words.

They are also a very important part just don’t skip reading it a last time before you let it pass. They might annoy me, but they are necessary, they are your final stage before you allow your work to be put out into public to get scrutinized by the world.

Anyway, I hope I answered some question you had if you wish to know more of have specific questions for me don’t hesitate to contact me. I love a good chat.

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