Thursday, September 8, 2011

Editing Yet Again

I have pretty faithfully posted every Wednesday for the last six months. For me this is a major milestone. Normally, life bumps me this way and that, and I get side tracked.  Yesterday I posted twice which is very unusual. (One was a funny and the other a triumph) and three times in as many days. So I sit here this evening after tweeting, facebooking, goodreading and wonder...what in the devil am I going to blog about today.
I decided I'd comment once again on when I am editing other authors. I spend half my time researching and helping other authors on almost a daily basis. Whether it's to listen to their frustration because of this or that, or actual questions about writing scenes and plots. I don't know a single author who enjoys editing...even teachers do not like it. I've been both student and teacher over the years. I believe in relationship building.  Handing your baby to a stranger is daunting. Some issues I've run into while editing others...

1. Judgement calls on what is written- Yes, the novel is yours, but sometimes other eyes can see what you can not.  Here's the clincher for any editing relationship...experience of one over another. At this point in time I have edited 256 books and novels...even going so far as co-authoring. As a novice writer there is a lot of things which are unknown. But don't feel bad, even old biddies like me don't-know-it-all!

2. I honestly feel bad about scribbling all over your baby and calling it ugly. It is not something I particularly enjoy doing, but I'm so darn good at it.  But the author has to remember editing is hard choices. Redundancy (over use of words), continuity (eyes are brown here and blue six chapters later), pacing (where you story bogs down or the pace is breakneck speed and it become unenjoyable), one dimensional characters, telling a story versus showing a story, drawing a reader in, and the grammar/typos. A million other things goes into an editorial reading.  When I draw long strikeout lines through passages is not fun. This is micro and macro editing, and for me, it is basically how I edit all books which come my way except when I function as a beta reader.

3. I know authors who have hired educators as editors.  Unless the editor is also an author...every sentence will be textbook correct including dialogue.  Now, I'm not talking about basic grammar here (comma splices, period/colon/semi colon misuse) Perfect sentence dialogue is one of my pet peeves. Who actually speaks in perfect English? Who doesn't use slang here and there? Or contractions? There are idiosyncrasies in dialog, dialects even if it's a couple of words here and there which distinguish one character from another. They make your character come to life.

4. I often hear an author say they are afraid of using outside editing because they are afraid someone will steal their idea for a novel. While this idea may make for great movies, it honestly doesn't happen too often. Besides, the majority of authors are struggling with their own fantasies of grandeur and having a hard time selling the novels they have already written especially in the self-published arena. Pirating is a different story that mainly happens when you have a breakout novel which most novice author's are not. Oh no, I just called your baby ugly again. <sigh> I apologize.

5. A word or two about descriptions.  Is it important to the scene that every stick of furniture be known to the reader at this precise time in the novel or could it be piece mealed along? A lot of times I will scribble "Is all this necessary now?" in the margins. Descriptions are great, don't get me wrong. I love descriptions which spice up a scene, but paragraphs?? What purpose is it serving, remember every word serves a purpose of telling the story.

6. Honesty and the punch in the gut. I've always been upfront and honest in my critiques.  Growing a thick outer skin is essential to any author.  My editing and comments are not directed at you directly, but your story. Never take it personally. I know the first reaction is anger, rejection, probably some despair and possibly depression about seeing all the red or green on the pages. I tend to use colors to correct...red for typos, grammar and out right errors, green for comments, and yellow highlighter when I change sequencing of what was written. This is something I used to do for my youngest child to help her see what I was explaining to her. My youngest is considered high functioning mentally retarded. I'm not saying the authors are the same as my daughter, but it's a habit for me.

7. Ultimately, the decision to make changes I suggest is yours as the author. It is your novel and I never forget it. I don't want it.  I have enough struggles with my own prolific writing schedule. I edit others as a break from my own writing. Figuring out how to make something beautiful is what I strive for even if it a horror scene for one of my zombie novels. I know hard to believe horror as something beautiful, but the way the words meld and marry on the page is an orchestrated endeavor. Whether I spend hours upon hours pouring over another author's work or my own, it is time well spent in my mind.

As always keep writing and loving the Lord.

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