Editing (and keeping your sanity)

Hey everyone! My novel Lineage, is finally completed! My release date is set for next Tuesday, September 18th and I'm very excited, but that's not the topic of this post. Nope, the topic today is editing.

I wanted to touch on this ugly cousin to writing since it's fresh in my mind from staring at my computer for 7 hours last Sunday. There are a few things I wanted to muse on, some helpful, some maybe not- you be the judge. Here we go:

First off, editing is a necessary monster. It's got to be done. You CAN NOT publish your book without editing it first. I mean, you can but for the love of everything holy, don't! I've seen way too many self published books that are so grammatically injured they need a walker, two canes, and a wheelchair just to read them. This will kill your book. Period. No one will read past the sample if they see Jame's walked down to the channel and stopped his motion. He wanted to cross it's birth but couldn't bear to wet his feet, so he looked to his left and then his right but couldn't find away to cross- OH MY GOD PLEASE STOP!

You must edit.

Secondly, I've heard a lot of authors say they're their own editors. That's fine. If you're a competent editor. Spell check and your wife reading through it isn't going to cut it. Even if your grammar and punctuation is perfect you may not see that you repeated a word three times in two paragraphs.

The solution?

Hire a professional editor. Now, once again we run into a quandary because there are people out there charging an arm and a leg for editing when their only backing is a big red A that they got in 9th grade English.

The solution to the solution?

Get a recommendation from another credible author. Ask who they use. I approached Scott Nicholson about editing and he referred me to Neal Hock . Neal's been great and he's affordable. Check him out. Tell him I sent you.

Now onto the real deal. The actual process of editing. I'll run you through my typical process:

After the first draft is written my wife reads through it. (Yeah I know I just made fun of this exact thing a few inches above but just hear me out). She's very critical and actually quite adept at editing (although she's better at formatting but don't tell her I said that). Then I read through it and change anything that doesn't fit or seems out of place. Then it's off to Neal for the real tear-down.

This is where it gets hairy, folks. Having a professional read and critique your work is daunting. You have to keep an open mind when you get your copy back. I'll repeat myself- YOU HAVE TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND. We are not all Cormac McCarthy who can tell such a story, he doesn't have to use proper punctuation. If you read the first sentence of your editor's notes and it doesn't say that you've just created the next great American novel, don't lock you mind up with self-serving BS that feeds your ego. Forget your ego. It doesn't exist in editing world. You are ego-less; an empty shell of a writer who is looking for the path of redemption, and that is- making your work better.

Someone who's edited hundreds of books, read thousands, and perhaps even written a few, will have a different point of view than you do. That's fine. Actually, that's great! Listen to what your editor has to say, really absorb it. If at the center of your creative being, a revision just seems irrevocably wrong, then keep it the way it was. You are still the creator, you have some pull here. All I'm saying is open your mind to the possibility that your book can be rearranged and tightened, even if it's cutting five thousand words or more from the middle that you think cannot be altered a bit. 

Lastly but not leastly (Umm, I think I just made that word up) don't hurry through your changes. Really read your story and absorb it. Read it as a reader and see if it flows. Maybe you have a penchant for similes as I do (I cut a bunch from my novel the third go-around.) Perhaps you love a word so much you use it a hundred twenty times throughout your work (if you see a word a few times while you're reading, highlight it and hit the search function.) Maybe adverbs are growing on your manuscript like fungus on a month old piece of salami (I cut these more than anything in my novel.)

All in all, I basically want to say that editing can be an exhilarating process. You get to discover new things about your story. You get to make it better and iron out the bumps that the readers will inevitably notice. You'll be exhausted but blissful when you realize that you've made one of your passions even better. Trust me. You've already done the hard part of writing the book. Now you need to do what's sometimes even harder and take a knife to it. :)


I'm sure there's about a million typos and errors in this post. Don't care. It's my blog as I think J.A. Konrath said. :)