The Importance of Editing

Quite a mundane title for something SO VERY crucial. Yes, I said it. You cannot be an author without having an editor.

I’ve read a lot of books lately – I check every one that comes into the store. We have a lot of very talented authors here in STL, and every book has something to offer. But. Roughly half of them could be better. A LOT better.

Some have beautiful descriptions; but there are too many. Some have a unique storyline; but there are so many grammatical errors that a reader would quickly become frustrated. Some use bizarre, unusual words that, while correct, are so obscure that even a reader with an extensive vocabulary has to stop to look them up. And of course, some are just very, very poorly written.

Let me tell you how I edit my books:

I write, naturally, and keep track of timelines and plot lines via notes. Usually the notes are handwritten on scraps of paper, which I often lose, but simply the act of writing them down (usually) assures that I remember them.

After I’ve stopped for period of time, I re-read the last few paragraphs to get myself back on track. I skim from beginning to stopping point, just to refresh my memory of the overall story. And I’m anal enough to make most corrections as I go along.

When the ms is finished, I send it off to beta readers – these are the folks who you know will give you honest feedback. Not your mom. Unless your mom is like mine. 😉 These readers will tell you if they find a plot hole big enough to drive a truck through, they’ll tell you if your dialog is believable – or not. They’ll ask questions, and make you think – and possibly rewrite a chapter; or ten.

Then it goes to my editor. A professional. Yes, it costs money. Writing is fun, writing is a calling, writing is an obsession – writing is also a business. You do have to spend some money. Suck it up.

Only after the ms comes back from my editor do I go over it again. Most of her changes, I accept. Some, I don’t. My point is that it’s YOUR book, so check everything as much as you feel comfortable. Or until you get bored with the whole thing.

Yes, I found errors. There will always be errors. But there’s a HUGE difference between a typo and a well, a boo-boo. If you know how to spell, how to punctuate, how to use grammar, that’s 75% of the battle. But you aren’t perfect, and neither am I – there will still be mistakes. But not misteaks. Get it?

At the same time, you don’t want to obsess over the entire book. Learn to accept those mistakes, correct as you can, and move on. An author could certainly postpone publication for months or years trying to make it “perfect.” Ain’t gonna happen. Deal with it.

It doesn’t matter how you edit – do what works for you. Maybe you write till you drop, then go back and fix things. That’s okay, too. But please, please edit! I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to pick up a book – that, more’s the pity, has already been published – and read the back, thinking, “Wow, this sounds great!” only to discover that you can’t get past page 15 because it’s just so horrible.