Monday, November 26, 2012

So, Define Editing…

I’m reading a book a friend recommended… and I’ve been a little temped to ask if he recommended it because he knows the author personally. I haven’t. I don’t want to be disrespectful, but there have been several things that have really bugged me about it, and it got me thinking.

I’m pretty sure it was self published…
Well would you look what you find when you search 'bad book' teehee

And I don’t say that to put down all self-published books. I have a lot of friends who are doing it right—going through all the steps and publishing really professional products. I just think there are features of THIS particular book that could not have made it through an actual publishing system.

See, the STORY is pretty good… and there aren’t grammatical and typo-type errors (or they are very rare—I noticed a ‘wrong word’ but those are the ones I find hardest to catch, too).

But what it seems to be missing… and what I can’t actually expect my friend to have noticed… is it hasn’t been edited by someone in the industry.

There is a lot of passive language.  Helping verbs.  This is normal for speaking when we ‘are describing’ something. It is a natural thing to do. And it is a no-no.

The sentences have a lot of qualifiers (which I probably most especially notice because I have to work so hard to limit these in my own writing—it is just how I talk, so they creep in.

The VOICE of it… it is written in third person but SOUNDS like first person, if that makes sense. I think, in fact, a lot of those qualifiers wouldn’t bug me as much if it were first person. Then I could attribute it to narrator quirk, rather than thinking the NARRATOR (meaning the author) ought to know better.

I will be eager to see if the plotting still is good when I’m further in, as that’s another thing that I think a good editor helps with. In fact, I think that is sort of the first level.

I have a confession.

Fitting, possibly, since confessions is part of my blog title.  I am toying with the idea of self-publishing a couple of books. I don’t plan on doing it right away. Like I said, I am honestly just toying at the moment. But my primary reason for WAITING is financial. Professional editors cost money and I’m not going to put my stuff out there without it.

Here is just a SAMPLING of the things my editors have helped with for my Gardening series:

Contrary to fantasies, super-editor actually has to be HIRED

You really need to move the body forward. A lot. It should show up in the first few chapters. (I moved the body… in fact rewrote most of the beginning)

“Wouldn’t she know this if they’ve been friends all this time?” (had to give a ‘why not’—clarify the relationship)

“Where did her dad go? Is he at the party like she thought?” (add the sentence to clarify)

See… there are a thousand things we take for granted… that WE know, because it is our story, that a reader might get pulled out of the story wondering… I’ve also had a reader point out the coincidence epidemic (in my 2nd book).  This is a good time to point out unlikable heroes and deus ex machina, too.

Is it going to slow?
Is it going too fast?
Has a character shown up who is never introduced?
Is a subplot dropped off the face of the earth?
Is the motivation realistic?
Is the villain canned?


“Sweet Surprise, per first book.” (I inadvertently renamed a place)

“The Fish Market is actually a restaurant. NOT a fish market.” (fact checker extraordinaire…)

And then there is the language, voice stuff and only after THAT the proofreading.

I've had FABULOUS experiences with my editors but the process has made it crystal clear to me that I need not just a person, but a TEAM to make sure my process is fabulous. So until I have money to hire one, I am going to keep running the traditional paces.


Jessica Bell said...

I'm lucky in that I have a team of people who help me edit my self-pubbed stuff for free. Plus being an editor myself has its advantages, but to tell you the truth, it's VERY hard to edit your own work. I can do it if I've been distant from the story for about a year. But who can wait that long? LOL

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Freelance editors can be pricy, but it depends on what you're looking for. Developmental editors and global edits are more expensive. If you get a manuscript to the point where you only need basic line editing, that's not very expensive and I can give you some names!

I know what you mean about the pro editors, though--worth their weight in gold.

Old Kitty said...

I know nothing of course! LOL! But I believe very personally that a professional seasoned and experienced editor may only make one's book sparkle to beyond shining!

Take care

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have a team in place before my publisher's editor even sees my manuscript. (And I'm sure she's really grateful for that.)

SA Larsenッ said...

I never would have understood this post before I signed with my agent. She's an editorial agent and has the best eyes! It's amazing what she sees in the guts of my story that I missed. But once she mentions it, I'm like "Duh, of course that would make the story so much better!"

Carol Kilgore said...

My editor and proofreader are worth their weights in gold. I'm most thankful to have them.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Second what Elizabeth said - it depends on the level of editing needed. But everyone who self-publishes NEEDS an editor.

Tamara Narayan said...

I've started reading a self-published book and had to stop because I was editing in my head. I wouldn't dare put out my work without professional help. It's just too important.

Johanna Garth said...

I agree, but not sure if books that are published by big 6 always have all the bugs fixed. I've read some real clunkers lately with typos, which seem like a no-brainer, passive language and plot holes galore.

LTM said...

well, you know, these are all valid concerns and very true questions. We've got such a great team of critters and betas, though. I mean, I'm not going to dissuade you against hiring a professional. Hey! OMG! I just remembered Richard's first cousin Jessica wants to do book editing! She's very qualified--master's from Berkley, did magazine editing for years. Email me~ xoxo <3

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm with you. I plan to self publish, but I plan to hire a professional editor, not a writer who wants to make money on the side and claims they're a freelance editor. I have great beta readers and a CP who do that for free. I believe in professional quality editing. And you're right, it doesn't come cheap.

I've read some amazing SP books lately. None acknowledge their editors. I have a hard time believing they got to that level without a professional editor.

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

I self published my short story and I loved the experience of doing so. I'm going to self-publish more in the future. I have this pornographic fantasy story I'm writing that I get fan mail from occasionally (it's posted for free on site that shall not be named so ppl won't track me down as the pervert that I am).

However, my point in saying this is that when it's done...I'm going to republish/self-publish it with a sexy cover featuring sweaty abs or something like that. It'll be fun and give it a second life.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

"Define editing" is really what it's all about. There's the copy editor, what a lot of people pay for, which is someone who catches typos, misspelled words, grammar snafus, and then there's the content editor-- you get it for free when you're with a publisher-- and that's what is priceless! Like you say, once you experience it you realize what you're missing without it.

Tina said...

Still figuring out this whole publishing thing. It's a good thing I've got plenty of time to ponder and decide considering the book is far from done. Thanks, though for the great advice!
Tina @ Life is Good

Helena said...

Having been both published and self-published, I can tell you that self-publishing ain't for wusses. Ultimately, even if you have lots of readers and hypercritical siblings who are "just trying to help," the final manuscript is all on your shoulders and there are SO many dinky mistakes that can slip right by you. Since I tend to be critical of my own writing, I catch most problems, but of course not all.

Tamara said...

I truly miss my chimera critiques team, they were awesome. I agree that even self-published books need professional editing. I've read so many that I KNOW I could've edited and made better, and I'm not even a professional.

I agree with you that if I ever go the self-published route, and editor will be a must.