Saturday, May 16, 2020

Thoughts on Editing

So here we are in May 2020, already. To celebrate spring, we also have a brand-new logo, thanks to Connie Vines. Our Round Robin topic for the month is on editing. All books go through multiple edits. What have you learned are your problems, and what irks you about editing? Some writers tackle it with gusto, some writers sigh and get on with it, and other writers (unfortunately) seem to think they don’t need it.

Hey guys, sorry to have to tell you – but you do. It is a fact that every author who wishes to produce a professional product needs editing. It doesn’t matter how great the story is. The author is cheating his or her audience if they do not put out their best work, and that includes paying attention to the editing. Editing is so much more than weeding out typos, so let’s take a look at the different types of editor an author needs.

Firstly, there are the Developmental Editors who have eagle eyes for plot holes, weak characterization and will find the problems with any and every aspect of the story. They look at the structure, pacing, timelines and presentation of a book.

Next come the grammar police. These are the Copy Editors who look for consistency in your writing from the use of commas and exclamation marks to quotation marks and spelling.

Want someone extra picky? That would be the Line Editors who go through work, just as their title says, line by line. They look at word choices, sentence construction and the meaning of each sentence. A Line Editor will likely suggest how you can tighten your writing to make it flow better, which makes it easier for the reader to follow.

Last, but not least, is the Proofreader. A good proofreader will pick up on spelling mistakes and typos in general. They should also notice if an author has inadvertently changed a character’s hair or eye colour. Yes, despite everything, this still happens. If there is a reason for it, say a green-eyed girl wearing blue contacts, that’s fine but the reader needs to know that reason, which is fine. However, if there is no explanation then this would be an error for the author to correct.

Many new authors still rely on good friends, family members, or beta readers, but these are not editors. The best these good folks can do, unless they are professional authors themselves, is offer feedback. What they liked or didn’t like about your story, what worked for them or not. They may like your least favourite character and vice versa. They may make suggestions that make an author cringe that they had missed that particular point. When I wrote Shell Shocked, one of my beta readers pointed out that the dog didn’t enter the story until the mid-point in the book. As it happened, she was right, so I had to introduce the dog, who was an essential element, much sooner in the book. 

One of my biggest problems in every book I write is crutch words. These need not necessarily be the same words for each book, but they are there. In one book, my hero’s face could have frozen with all the grinning he did. In another, my heroine had a bad habit of sighing. But, hey, this is what first, second, third and however many drafts are required, are for.

In that first heady rush to get the words on the page, I tend to use past tense as in had, was, were. When I start my editing process these are the first words I weed out and re-write the sentence they appear in. There are times when they are necessary and nothing else will do.

It doesn’t matter how many edits my work has, what always annoys is me that when I get my print copy, I invariably find an error. Never mind all the good stuff, I just have a nose for that wrong word or missing period. So far I haven’t found one on any of my first pages, unlike the ‘heard of cattle’ and ‘he tossed his reigns over the hitching post’ I have come across. I once mentioned this to a Harlequin editor I met at a workshop. She just laughed and said we’re all human and errors will always occur. I should take heart from that but, being a nit-picking Virgo, my errors will always bug me.

I hope you’ll join me in visiting the following authors to see how they feel about editing.