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Editing is Hard

“Editing is hard.”

One of my editing clients said this to me the other day – yes even after I’m done tearing apart their manuscripts clients do still speak to me.

My internal voice said “No sh** Sherlock,” but externally I smiled and nodded and agreed.  But it made me realised that this is news to some people.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that writing is easy, that you just scribble a few lines and that’s it, you can self-publish and everything will be great, best seller, right.  Wrong.

You can write a novel in 30 days (see NaNoWriMo), I’ve done it.  Normally I can write a novel in two months – well that is 60 days of work, not always every day for sixty days on a trot because I have a life and two jobs.  But if I had sixty days on full-time writing, I could do it in 60 days, hell full time I would write it in 30 days.  But it wouldn’t by any means be publication ready.

That’s where editing comes in.

Writing is the quick part, editing takes forever, and sometimes it feels like it’ll never end.

Let me give you the example of my last completed novel, Shades of Aether.  This is my first steampunk novel, and I wrote it in about 60 (non-consecutive) evenings.  Then I reread it – the first self-edit.  With that, I picked up any obvious inconsistencies, made any changes I thought necessary, in this case, I upped the level of steampunk in the text. Then I booked it in for an edit.  My editor couldn’t do it immediately, so I have time for another read through to find a few more typos, tweaks, and corrections.  Then it went off to my editor.

Let me underline that – it went off to an editor. At no point did I think that could ever get a book complete for publication on my own.

So it went off to edit, that’s another four weeks gone – though I think in this case it was five weeks.  Then it came back with loads of questions that I hadn’t even thought about, so I had to do some major edits after that to ensure that I answered all those questions for the reader.  Having the facts in my head are no use if I can’t get them onto the page.

So that was another couple of months of rethinking and rewriting, editing and tweaking. And it wasn’t easy.  Some of the questions and queries that had been raised really stretched me, forced me to re-imagine my ending completely.

Then – guess what – more editing.  Yes, I sent it off for another professional edit, because to a certain extent I had a new book.  That one is due back to me any day now, but even then, I’ll still have to edit it, then reread it.  So there’s another couple of months gone by.

Once that is done, then there is the last stage – proofreading.  More time, more money, because proofreading, like editing, cannot really be done by the writer.

Writing the full novel is only the beginning.  Once it’s done all the hard work really starts, that is editing.  So don’t underestimate how much time and effort editing takes, but it’s well worth it.  Editing is the only way that you will ever get a publication ready book.

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How Not To Piss Off An Editor – Part 2

editingHere is another in my infrequent series (here’s the first one if you want to see it) of how you can help yourself when it comes to not annoying your editor.  These tips are not any magic wand, but if you do follow this advice you are much more likely to form a good connection with your editor.

Read

Read your own work.  Now I’m the first to admit that this has problems because you will end up reading what you think is there rather than what actually is there, but this is hugely important.  Especially when it comes to dialogue.  If you want to know does your dialogue flow – read it aloud, say it yourself.  If you can’t stand the sound of your own voice, then either get someone else to read it to you or get a PDF reader that can.  I use Adobe (the free download – I can’t afford the full version), it has a built in reader.  It’s monotonous tone to listen to, and you have to figure out the tricks to get it to work properly (no curly apostrophes or speech marks) but it sure makes your own mistakes jump out at you.

Spellcheck

Run a spellcheck.  I received a manuscript with five spelling mistakes in four lines a few weeks ago.  It wasn’t a great piece of writing to begin with, but when I get words like dam spelt damn, I realise that the author hasn’t just failed to check their own work, they’ve failed to show any respect for the reader – or the editor and don’t forget in this case they were paying for my services.  But here is the thing that spell check won’t always tell you – you might spell the word right, but it could be the wrong word, homophones are a nightmare for this.  Also, for example, I often see a lot of confusion over there and their or where and were.  These are irritating typos, everyone does them as they type, but they can be found.  If the grammar check on the word processing package you use isn’t up to much, try Grammarly.  I find that this particular grammar-nazi can be a bit of a pain when it comes to colloquialisms and modern usage, but it picks up the little things that the author’s eye will miss.

Consistency – Names

In the last part of this, I rattled on about formatting consistency.  If you follow this blog you’ll also have seen me talking about names.  One of the things I mention there is to not be afraid of changing names.  In my latest WIP, I had to change the names of five different characters – one character got changed twice.  The reason for that was that all the names were starting with either the same letter or containing the same sounds.  So you see I do understand why an author would change a character’s name which is one possibility for why sometimes as an editor I get an odd name jumping out and sitting there wondering who on earth this character is only to realised that it’s a Rose by some other name that didn’t smell so sweet.  The worst I ever had was one scene containing one boy and one girl and seven names.  Ugh!

As I say, no magic wand, but avoid what pitfalls you can then the editor can concentrate on the import parts of helping make the work better.

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Books to Remember

Earlier this week, I went to a writers club dinner and some strange topics of conversation came up, though, not surprisingly, books we had read was one of those topics.  During this I was rather surprised by two of the shared memories.

The first was the kind of guilty pleasure moment.  One of the ladies said she remembered the first Mills and Boon book she had ever read, but to my shame and everyone else’s amusement, I said not only do I remember the first Mills and Boon book I ever read, but I still have it!

At the dinner I didn’t immediately remember the title, but it did come to me within a couple of minutes.  “Impossible Bargain”, sadly I was able to tell the story of it much more easily, even though I read it when I was about 16/17.

Well just to prove that I do still have the book, here’s a picture.  “Impossible Bargain” by Patricia Wilson. The code on the back is 8802.  For those who don’t recognise the coding system, that means it was part of the Mills and Boon offering from February 1988, which means I was actually 18 years old when I read it.

Impossible Bargain

Is that old to start reading romances?  If feels like I was younger and given what else I’d lived with by that age, I’m surprised I was that old before I started on the M&B.  To be honest, I was a bit of swotting teenager and most of what I read back then was text books.  Boring, but there you go.

This wasn’t the only memory we shared.  I actually said there were two books which I remember from my childhood, that virtually no one I’ve ever meet remembers and until very recently I was beginning to think I’d imagined the pair of them, but surprisingly someone at the table actually remembered reading them too.  “Fattypuffs and Thinifers” and “Bottersnikes and Gumbles”.

Recently I found a copy of Bottersnikes on Amazon.com, but it was $75 before international posting.  But as I was searching the internet to get the pictures below, I was somewhat surprised to suddenly find both books available on Amazon.co.uk.

Bottersnikes and Fattypuffs

Guess what?  I’ve put my order in for copies of both.  Have a horrible suspicion that I’m going to be disappointed when I re-read them, I’m not seven anymore after all, but it’s a piece of my childhood coming back in a way.

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