More stuff to read
It doesn’t matter who you are, what genre you write, how old you are, whether you are aspiring, published, or still hiding under your desk quivering at the thought of writing. You need an editor.
I realize that for some readers, this post will sound dreadfully self-serving – me being an editor and all – but honestly boys and girls, I don’t care who you get to edit your manuscript, just get someone.
You see, in addition to writing, editing, blogging, listening to Bruce, chanting, and being bossed around by the resident Cat People, I also review books. Over on Just Heard, Just Read, Just Seen I review (mainly) mainstream books from mainstream publishers, On A Far Away Bookshelf I concentrate on Young Adults (YA), and on the soon to be live Incredible Indies the focus will be Indie authors. In other words, I read a lot. Let me say that again: I read A LOT.
Today, I want to talk to those of you who are Indie and/or self published writers. No, Virginia they are not necessarily the same thing. Some Indies will be published by small, indie publishing houses, while others will take the self publishing route. What’s more, I am a big fan of Indie writers – there are some amazing authors out there who are just not getting the exposure they deserve because of some silly notion that to be a ‘real’ writer, let alone a good one, you must be published by one of the big mainstream publishers. But I digress.
Every day I get books across my desk – the real one and the cyber one – from authors and indie publishing houses asking for reviews. I add the book to my list, load it up on my e-reader/fold back the cover and settle in to read. Let me tell you, boys and girls, there are some very talented writers out there, with some very cool stories to tell. Invariably, though, there comes a point when I think “uh-oh…”
These ‘uh-oh’ moments are generally editing issues. Issues the writer has not noticed for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is knowing the story too well. As writers, we know what is happening and is going to happen, we know what we mean, and we know every little detail about our character and plot. After months of working on the project, we forget other people don’t know those details. We also don’t notice we have used the word ‘angry’ in every sentence on an entire page, or that we have consistently misspelled a word or that our formatting is inconsistent.
We simply don’t see those things. Our friends and beta readers might pick up some of them, but chances are high they will assume they are issues you intend to sort out anyway. A good editor will assume nothing. A good editor will cover your beloved manuscript with all kinds of red marks and comments that will make you wonder why you bothered starting the project in the first place. And a good editor will explain to you that in fact you started because it’s a good story, you are a good writer, and if you just put down the heavy object you are about to throw in her direction you’ll see why.
Correcting grammar, spelling and formatting issues will give your book a better chance of a good reception with readers and publishers – and should be the first thing you address. If you get an editor to look at nothing else, get them to check for these things. It’s not about writing like Shakespeare, it’s about keeping your reader engaged.
Trust me, even the worst spellers out there will notice something wrong with “the cat’s pause were covered in butter” ( I kid you not).
Oh and repeat after me: “I will not rely on spell check”.
When it comes to plot, character, style, genre think of your editor, not as a Big Bad Witch but as your cheerleader. Remember it’s going to look good on her portfolio too – especially if it turns out you really are the next J K Rowling.
Any issues your editor identifies are an opportunity for you to take your writing from good to great. If you have used the same adjective fifty times on one page, maybe you do need to go back and think about what you were trying to get across. Maybe you could expand on a description or perhaps the reader doesn’t need to know every little detail of your character’s morning routine if it doesn’t advance the story.
An editor who just looked at the first 1,000 words of my current WIP had an issue with a joke I had included. She didn’t get it. When I reread it, with that comment in mind, I realized two things: first, most people would be like my editor and not get the joke and secondly, it didn’t add anything to my story anyway. I deleted it.
Sometimes your editor will be wrong, but in examining why you are including the paragraph she wants to kill, you will gain a better understanding of your story and your potential reader.
Nearly every ‘uh-oh’ moment in a book I am reviewing could be resolved with a little judicious editing.
Indie authors are less likely to have access to an ‘in-house editing team’ provided by a publisher, so they need to take matters into their own hands. Start by asking in your writing group for names. Remember google is your friend. Do your homework until you have found someone who is a good fit for you – someone who will be strong enough to tell you the truth but who isn’t going to bully you. Editors are just as susceptible to being wrong as anyone else (but if you tell anyone I said that, I’ll deny it).
Remember the greatest marketing your book will get is not the review I give it or the press release your publishing house sends out; the greatest marketing your book will get is the way readers are talking about it. So, please, do as much as you can to get them talking about your story and not your spelling.