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I Hate Editing but Love Editors

If you’ve read more than a couple of my blogs in Café Talk, you know that I make mistakes when I write and don’t find them all when I edit. I just don’t see them all when I reread what I’ve written. The other day someone commented on my piece called Dinosaur Footprints and Alternative Facts and it motivated me to go back and see what I had written. There are several mistakes in the blog: typos, missing commas, and a whole missing word (more mistakes than usual). It’s embarrassing, but I’m hardly unique in lacking the ability to edit my own work. The writer who can accurately edit their own work is very rare, and most writers who claim they can are sadly mistaken. And with a weekly blog I simply don’t have the time and money to have each one professionally edited. So, I live with the embarrassment and hope readers come back (to date most do!).

But living with my embarrassment is not acceptable with my books. A book full of errors is really not a good thing. Editing is crucial.

My editing process goes something like this: When I’m done with the first draft I read it on the screen making changes. I then print it out and read the hard copy making changes. When I’m done with that I make the corrections on screen and print out another copy. That copy goes to my wife. She comments and corrects on the hard copy. Inevitably at this point I become defensive and angry. She ignores me. I make her changes on the screen and print out another copy. We read this one aloud, making changes as we go along. Then it’s back to the screen. I am now on the fourth draft and that’s the draft that goes to a professional editor. It’s at this point the real fun begins.

In The Woman in White Marble the editor, of course, found and fixed all those typos, misspellings, grammar screwups, but she also found a huge hole in my plot. The fix took a long time, structural changes, and obviously a fifth draft. That fifth draft went back to the editor and we started again.

The Girl in the Silver Mask went through the same procedure, but with this book the editor and I really had a tug of war. Close to 10,000 words went. The book is only 67,000 words long, so 10,000 was a lot! Some of them were easy to delete, I knew they would go when I was writing them (so why did I write them?!). But some were precious to me. Nonetheless, she was right. They had to go. But more importantly we disagreed on the flow of the action! I agonized over the restructuring—some of my best humorous episodes died in the process! When I was making further significant changes to the sixth draft I said, out loud!, if I make any more big changes the book will no longer be my book. Some of her grammatical changes actually changed the personality of my protagonist. I fought back. I compromised. I negotiated. Thankfully, eventually the editor and I came to a common mind, but I have to say, the first draft and the sixth are very different books.

I loathe the editing process. Once I hand that second draft to my wife I really want to be done with the book and move on to the next project. But here’s the thing. Both books are significantly better because a professional editor had her way with them. That’s why I didn’t just tell the editor to stuff it. Obviously, I didn’t make all the changes she recommended, but believe you me, I made most of them.

So why am I going on about this? Here’s why: I joined an author’s group I access through Facebook. The group is not for plugging our books and if you do, the moderator will remind you about the rules. Instead it is group where writers share ideas and mostly ask questions of each other. I’d say the vast majority of people in the group are self-published independent authors, using a number of different methods. One of the of the most frequent questions is about editing—should I or should I not employ a professional editor to edit my book? I’m surprised by the number of people who think it is not necessary. I don’t often comment on people’s questions, but always do about editing.

One of the downsides of self-publishing is the lack of professional editing. If a book published by a traditional publishing house has a few mistakes in it, people don’t damn the whole of traditional publishing. However, when a self-published book contains errors it is not uncommon to hear people condemn the entire self-publishing industry. It may not be fair, but I’d say people just have to suck it up. That’s the way it is. I always tell writers that if they publish a poorly edited book it reflects and hurts other self-published authors. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to have your book edited.

Here’s what I think needs to be addressed in an edit:

  • Title and Cover Copy;
  • Opening;
  • Basic Premise and Tone;
  • Point of View;
  • Structure, Plot and Pace;
  • Setting;
  • Characterization;
  • Dialogue;
  • Punctuation and Grammar.

And when all that is completed, the book should be proofread one last time before you sign off on it and it goes to print.

Apparently, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, and so on thought it was a good idea to have their books professionally edited. It seems a bit much to think my books don’t.

So to all you authors out there, please have your books edited. If you don’t, it makes me look bad. And to all you editors out there, you people are great. I hate working with you, and I’ll argue and fuss, but thanks.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger

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