Monday, August 29, 2011

The thing about editing...

I know, I know-- I talk about editing a lot. Could be because I'm an editor, could be because it's so important. I fully acknowledge that I'm OCD about it. I cannot turn off the inner editor and too many times that ruins what might be a perfectly fine story for me. Little things like a miss-used word, too many adverbs or a lack of "flow" send me into howls of despair. And more often than not, result in me not finishing the story or book or novella. I just can't do it. I like to think I'm not the only one who has this problem. It might be genetic because my sister and my kids pick up on it too.

But I'm fully ready to admit that I do not know everything. (Well, no one KNOWS everything, even those who like to think they do.) And I too, can benefit from editing. I know this. My critique partner points it out. And if I hadn't already know it, it was recently proven to me. A facebook friend took my Friday flash, "A Whore Named Josie" and edited it for me. He managed to cut out those 150 words that I thought were absolutely essential. Did I agree with all of it? No, of course not. But I did agree with most of it and even learned a thing or three. He did what good editors do-- he took my story and made it shine. I liked it so much that I sent him another story of mine to edit and he sent me one of his. (Because the writing world should totally operate on a bartering for services basis, if you ask me.) This time? I liked most of it, rewrote the story and we were both happy with the outcome.

That's how your relationship with a good editor should work. They aren't out to rewrite your story themselves (hell, I do NOT have time for that!), they want to make suggestions and help you rewrite your story into one you are both proud to have worked on. They will find your diamond in the rough and help you polish it. Please remember this when hiring or dealing with an editor.

Sure I know that's money you could spend on other things. But working with an editor before you publish should not be optional. I just told you that even editors (who are trained to catch mistakes, plot holes and sloppy writing) need editors. No one can catch all of their own mistakes. And beta readers are great, but they are not a substitute for an editor. I'm always amazed at the things that beta readers did not catch. Publishing your book with a clean, mistake free, polished manuscript will gain you respect from your readers and other writers. Hurriedly putting something out just because you can too often results in your book not being all that it can be. You will lose readers and respect. No one wants that. And no one wants that for you.

So barter the services, spend the money or beg-- but get that book, story, novella-- edited. Because you're worth it. And so is your manuscript.


PS- if an editor sends you a request for a rewrite on a submission or suggested editorial changes, try to realize that we are doing our job, not judging your work or being mean or insulting you. We want the same thing you do-- for your work to shine.


Blaze McRob said...

So well spoken, my friend and Editor. I would never think of putting out "Satan's Toybox: Demonic Dolls" without a great editor to work her magic. I am a "flow" person. That's how I read. As an editor, that is mostly what I would catch: sure, some of the obvious stuff, but flow is my baby. You catch flow plus the other things readers are looking for. I'm a pretty clean writer, but you pointed out some major mistakes in a short story of mine. I changed all of them. You polished my gritty horror tale. Thank you.


pamatthews said...

I will freely admit editng is not my favorite thing to do or my forte so I'm happy there are those who love this work. I suffer from roaming comma disease, one I've tried many prescriptions for without actual healing happening. Although, I am getting better.

It is important to have your work edited, especially if you don't want it thrown back at you with wretched comments when you are serious about writing and submitting. Honestly, I wish I had someone who edited all my work besides me.

I will give an example of what an editor should not do, and when I passed his final project around a writing site for guidance, pretty much everyone agreed with the editor except me. That was discouraging but also told me the author does have the final word in their work and no matter how many agree you have to figure out how badly you want the work published even if you don't agree.

I submitted a story for an anthology which was to be published through Martins Press. A really prestigious item to put on my resume. The story was accepted and returned to me with all the editorial changes, or should I say the editor rewrote my story, chaning things to mean something entirely different and I could either accept the changes or pull my story.

I asked if I could make changes to his changes and he said no. The book was sold on his editorial touch in gathering stories together to make a solid anthology. My thought at this point was he got 20 or 30 stories for free and changed them to suit his style, which I personally didn't like. So in the end I declined the project, second guessed myself for a while and then told myself if the story never got published I was happy because the story was non-fiction and no one had the right to change my life without my say.

I've also had situations where an editor asked for changes and we were able to have conversation about the edits, which I eventually did if it made the story stronger.

I suppose in the end a writer and an editor need to be on the same page. As the writer you have to build trust in the editor who is working for you and not against you. That your project is as important to them as it is to you.

Trust is a hard thing when you're placing your baby in someone else's hand, but also we as writers need to be aware we have become blind to what are babies may have done while we weren't paying attention.

Thanks for this, I think more people should embrace editing as a positive note to their writing and not with the idea that all changes in a manuscript are bad. Of course everyone needs anxiety meds when the edits begin. :-)

Patricia/E. A. Irwin

Anonymous said...

Your edits are great Stacey! You catch the stuff that I have no idea about and I am very thankful that I know you. I just wish I had know you sooner, lol :)

Spot said...

Blaze- Thank you for your praise! I think its a hard thing for any writer to do-- to step back from their work and look at it with a more critical eye. So we are all lucky to have editiors!

EA~ I think trust between a writer and editor is crucial. I would never try to change an author's voice or meaning. And the changes I suggest are always up for discussion. Editors should not be dictators.

Jason~ Thanks dear. You are always a pleasure to work with!


Anonymous said...

Great post. As far as line edits, I consider myself fortunate that I teach high school English (which means I know enough rules to be accepted by the majority of readers, but can still break a few every now and then).

For the big stuff, I fully believe in editors. I put down a fair chunk of change for an excellent editor for my book. He actually required a second look to make sure I understood his suggestions before I could use his name. But at the same time, he was almost constantly saying, "These are only my suggestions. Ultimately, it's your book." To be honest, I trusted him enough that sometimes I just wanted him to tell me what to do :) It was an amazing experience.

So I say "Go editors!"

Paul D. Dail A horror writer's not necessarily horrific blog

Anonymous said...

Oh, and interesting on the Flash Fiction. It's been a great (and very difficult) exercise from me, but I feel like I've really learned about tightening up scenes.

I went to submit one for an e-zine, thinking I might add some stuff back in now that I could go over 1000, but I ended up not putting anything back. Granted, some of that has to do with my limited schedule right now, but part of me thought it was maybe better as it is.

Paul D. Dail A horror writer's not necessarily horrific blog

Spot said...

Paul~ I do the same thing. I always have authors send the final MS back to me for one last proofread. You wouldn't believe the things I still catch.

The Friday Flashes are fun and they were a lesson in brevity for me. Very hard at first, but it did get easier.

Good luck with the submission!