As a novelist-do you use an editor? Writing without one is like home schooling your children. It can work, if you treat it seriously.A professional editor is an expense many self published authors try to do without. Personally, I had n assessment for my first three manuscripts then, going on what I had seen them do, continued on my own. However, I always use beta readers and have outside help with proof reading.
Recent discussions on editing have alerted me to the detail required for the job. A good editor considers characterisation, structure, plot, continuity and style, giving an assessment of whether the story captures and holds the imagination of a reader and suggests cutting unnecessary waffle to keep the action tight. People who add nothing to the story have to be eliminated or merged. Points of View should be adhered to whether they be first person, third person or omniscient narrator as a multitude of voices clamouring to be heard can spoil a good story. The balance of internal thought, dialogue and description should be kept and characters should act consistently. Can the reader differentiate between them or will they get Millie and Maisie confused?
A professional editor will also ask who the book is intended for and, while for most of us it is just something we want to write, if we want to be commercial we should listen to advice. I intend to learn more about editing as I believe it could be even more important than marketing!
I used to get very angry when self published novels were dismissed as rubbish. I knew a number of authors who wrote books that were better than some traditionally published works but recently I have come across the kind of book that makes me rethink my attitude.
It is too easy to pay for your work to be printed and feel that wonderful sense of achievement when you hold it in your hands, but then it goes out into the world and the spelling errors that you missed and the gaps in the plot and the overwriting and the poor grammar are pointed out by readers and reviewers and you realise there is more to producing a book that just getting your ideas down on paper.
How many edits are enough? How many eyes saw your manuscript before it was published? How much experience have you had? Did you read it out loud? Did you show it to anyone skilled in assessing your work?
Time and again we self publishers are told to use an editor and still we think checking and proof reading it ourselves is good enough. Yet we know our characters – the reader doesn’t. We are not writing for ourselves, we are writing for an audience. It is important that they have a firm idea of the participants in the story and if we use too many they can get confused. Multiple viewpoints are irritating but so many writers use them.
After seven novels I am still learning my craft and encourage all authors to treat writing as a skill that is not naturally picked up at school but, like all skills, needs a period of apprenticeship before being confident that what you have produced is good enough to offer to the world.
Thinking it was about time I wrote something about the writing process I asked myself what is it that helps a writer to do their own first edit?
We all try to spot spelling, punctuation and continuity errors before we send our work off but I don’t think everyone reads their written work out loud. I suppose it is easy with poetry but perhaps some folk think reading prose is boring and makes them doubt the worth of what they have written.
When we read in a familiar writing group we often find mistakes and correct them as we go along. Also, we get feed back as to whether the dialogue actually fits the character or the period, but if you do not belong to a group, what do you do? You could record yourself reading or just shut yourself away and try not to feel stupid! You don’t have to be an actor – if no-one else is listening just think of it as an alternative editing method. I believe you’ll find it useful.
Of course, nothing is as helpful as another pair of eyes!
Being an editor/publisher as well as a novelist means I get the opportunity to select and revise as well as create. At the moment I am choosing poems for the second anthology by four local writers and they have come up with some very good work that is more serious than the rest of the verses I had selected.
I think, maybe , that this book will turn out very different from ‘Honey and Humbug’ our first anthology, which made people chuckle and is now out of print as all 100 copies were snapped up in a few months. I did not ISBN it as I was warned that not many people bought poetry books and, actually, a lot of them were given away as presents. It did prove that our efforts were appreciated and hence the new book.I do sometimes include a poem or two in my talks to the WI so my copy is very precious.
I am now researching local printers to find the most reasonable way of producing the anthology as I do not want to use Print on Demand.
In the middle of editing the poetry anthology. Poems from four very different writers and I am wondering whether to keep the two different set ups. Some are written from the left margin and some centred. I quite like the variety but I’ll have to talk with my designer. I’d also like a border of some sort. I looked at some on line and I think I have found one I like but should it be the same on every page? Also, I have changed some of the punctuation and am tempted to restore the originals as they are how the author intended. I only found one spelling error in twenty poems. Now to get it all in order for October, when I am hoping we can make some sales.