The editing stage

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Courtsey of mlpfanart.wikia.com

So you’ve written your masterpiece and, after a great deal of thinking, have decided to self-publish. You’ve looked at all of the options and decided which way you want to go. Chances are you’ll be needing an editor. So let’s have a look at how you go about finding one and what they offer.

Why you need an editor

How long have you spent writing your book? Months? Years? However long you’ve spent writing and editing, chances are you’ll get to a stage where you just can’t see the clumsy sentences or plot holes.
It’s because you’re too close to your work. It’s like a form of burnout. You spent hours writing it, hours editing it, hours trying to perfect it and then, inevitably, you get sick of looking at it. Once you’ve edited the work yourself and honed it as much as you can, there will still be parts that you’ve missed.

An editor is a skilled, fresh pair of eyes who can not only spot those mistakes and clumsy sentences, but can point out where your plot has taken a wrong turn, what works and what doesn’t, and offer some advice on fixing it.
A good editor will help you to make your book the best it can be.

Finding an editor

It can be a good idea to find an editor who doesn’t know you. That way they are completely unbiased, it won’t hurt quite so much when they offer criticism and you can maintain a professional relationship.

There are loads of freelance editors out there in the world. You can Google them, check out forums or ask around. You might have friends who have self-published and can recommend someone, or you can do as I did and put out something on social media. I asked on Twitter for recommendations and had editors respond to me.

The great thing about independent editors is that they can offer that personal touch and are a little cheaper than corporate editing companies. Still, editing comes at a price and why shouldn’t it? Someone is going to spend hours poring over your manuscript and working out the problems that maybe you didn’t know how to fix, or spotting the issues you didn’t even know were there. That’s hard work and they deserve to be paid a fair price.

Always shop around. Even if you know in your gut which editor you’re going to go with, it is worth getting a few quotes and having a good think. If you’re lucky, you can find an editor who specialises in your genre. Some editors offer a trial, which is definitely worth taking up. Once you get the trial results, see if you agree with their recommendations and like how they work before you go to the next stage.

Types of edit

Developmental/content

This edit looks at your plot and characters. Is there enough character development, do they work well, are there any plot holes, where can the plot be tightened? This edit is all about making your story strong and should be taken before going onto the line edit.

Line
A line edit looks at sentence structure, your tone, and grammar. A good editor will not change your voice, but strength and improve it. This edit is all about making your story shine and should be done as a final stage before proofing and publishing.

Copy
Copyediting is more of a corporate and journalism style of editing which checks facts, flow and style, often against a style guide. Chances are you won’t need this type of edit for your book but in case you do, there are freelances who specialise in copy editing.

Things I have learned so far

Finding an editor for your manuscript can be scary and it is a learning curve to begin with. Do your research and go with your gut. Trust yourself, learn and have fun. Remember, this is an exciting part of the process. You’re one step closer to being published.

A couple of weeks ago I received my manuscript back from my editor. Apart from the obvious things (editing hurts), here are a couple of other things I’ve learned and come to terms with since reading the my editors comments.

  • That I’m not as good as editing as I thought I was – as such I’ve learned some new things about grammar and things such as filtering (the new bane of my life and something that has made me scrutinise the Terry Pratchett book I’m currently reading).
  • That my novella is nowhere near as ready as I thought for publication (and I didn’t think it was that ready in the first place).

As such, I’m going almost back to the drawing board with my novella and I’m taking another look at the novel that I thought was finished, done and dusted, and ready for submission. So hiring a freelance editor has not only taught me a lot and saved me from making a fool of myself in front of the whole internet, friends and family, it’s also potentially helped me land that publishing deal (fingers crossed!).

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3 responses to “The editing stage

  1. Great post and insights. Thanks so much for sharing this. What is “filtering”? I’ve not heard that term before. And Terry Pratchett does or does not do it?

    • Thanks M.J!
      Sorry, I should have defined filtering. It’s basically when you put something between the character and the reader, so the reader begins to look at the character rather than through the character, and it means you start telling instead of showing.
      Filtering words include ‘saw’, ‘heard’, ‘felt’, ‘thought’ (which I use all the time and I’m not sure how to stop using it to be honest), ‘looked’ (again, I use all the time), ‘seemed’, ‘realised’. There are loads, a quick search will bring up longer lists. Using some is considered ok, but using loads is apparently a no-no.
      All writers do it a certain extent. Now that I know what it is, I keep seeing it! The latest Terry Pratchett book has some but not much…still trying to work out how he does that. But apparently J K Rowling had loads of filtering words in Harry Potter (I haven’t read it). It didn’t seem to do her any harm!

      • Cool, thanks for this explanation. It’s something my fellow workshop writers have been pointing out in my work.

        It seems like if you have an opportunity to show something without the extra verb, you should. But it might also come down to stylistic choice. There may be very good reasons for keeping them in sometimes. It’s one of those stylistic choices based on context, I think.

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