Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Editing

I spend more time with a red pen in my hand writing in margins with other people's work than my own works in progress.  Most writers ask what I charge for my services.  Free to most or a low fee.  It doesn't get any cheaper.

Why am I doing this?  Don't I know I could earn some serious $$ doing this?  I am not a book doctor.  I am not attached to any publishing house. I do this because writing is a craft and an art form. I believe in nurturing arts and crafts.  Yes, I could be earning money.  New novelists are a dime a dozen, no slur intended.  Everyone wants to be the next Diana Gabaldon, J.K. Rowlings, or Dan Brown who makes millions.  The reality is they probably will not be.

My reason is two-fold altruistic and it help me learn.  Most mistakes writers make is purely grammatical, while others are more style or just not looking at the problems in their work. 

As a writer, your novel becomes your baby.  You write it for nine months, you nurture it, edit it, and tweak it.  You feed it your creativity by the spoonfuls and then someone like me comes along and rips it to shreds. I put ugly red welts on it like a sadist with a whip. I'm hurting your child and any self-respecting mother will fight to the death to protect their child, right?

Wrong!  This is a piece of fiction.  Yes, you've written every word. It may need some help to come to life.  Every mother wants their child to be the best and sometimes it takes clear unbiased eyes to see.  That's what an editor is. A personal trainer and a teacher.  Slim down the fatty areas, show you another way to look at things, and make it the best.

I'll ask rhetorical questions you regard as stupid because it's right there in black ink.  Or so you think.  I read stories as a lover of reading. I have eclectic tastes where my consumption is.  I'll read everything and anything.

But think...if I am having to ask questions, something is not clear.  I'll make comments like "nice imagery, why, and don't tell show." I want you to succeed.  I want to become invested in your character and your story.

While most editors will prefer to tackle a whole novel at a time, I choose the first three chapters. By that time, I will know how much time will be involved in helping you tighten up your novel, to make it a page turner, and possibly even make it sell able.  Usually an author will make the same mistakes over and over again throughout their novel.  By the first three chapters, you are set in your ways.

I use my own writing as a marker.  Having said the last, I am not perfect.  As I edit I see mistakes in my own works.

I have a contract with each writer and it goes something like this...
1) This is only my opinion-take it leave it.
2) I cannot guarantee publication
3) I might make you angry by my slice and dice techniques
4) I will not rewrite your novel-that's your job.
5) I will ask rhetorical questions- I do not expect an answer they are asked to have you take another look at a section.
6) I will read you chapters line by line and as a whole, which means reading it twice. Once for context and once for errors and suggestions.

I can't count how many authors I've made angry by slicing and dicing their babies.  Many do not return.  Those that do stay on until the end learn how to edit their own work. That is really my purpose.

Keep writing and love the Lord.
Jo

2 comments:

Zan Marie said...

I love slice and dice! I just won a chapter critique in one of the blogfests I've entered and the critiquer was the first to read my baby that didn't have a prior knowledge of my story. It was enlightening and I'm loving the red flags. Bring it on is my mantra. I have to learn how to do this some time or all these hours are wasted. ; )

S.P. Bowers said...

You're amazing to do this for people. Any who don't appreciate it should go and leave room for the rest of us who want to learn.

I think giving critiques is an important part of learning to write. It helps you see your work more objectively.