Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Editing for Indie Authors - Part 1 Self-Editing
I've been writing for many years, first as a journalist writing for business magazines, then a non-fiction book on hiking, and in my last incarnation, I've write novels and screenplays. I've been lucky enough to have critique partners and beta readers along the way, but at every step I had, or hired, a professional consultant, or editor before my words were published.
The main thing that came from these readers is a fresh eye on the manuscript that is so important. Just because you had it in your head, doesn't mean you got it on the page in a logical way. You can read your article, script or novel a hundred times, and you just won't see that it doesn't make sense on the page. It came from your imagination, so of course it's clear on the page. To YOU, maybe, but not to the person who isn't in your head. A beta reader is the LEAST you should have before you put your baby out there for the world to see.
An example: I recently had a screenplay read by a consultant, and he didn't even realize who the killer really was. Not because he didn't read the script well enough, but because I thought I'd put all of the subtle clues out there for the world to see. Turns out, you'd have to be a genius to realize what I'd made WAY too subtle.
No writer can be completely objective about their own work. This is why you should have your friends, critique groups, writers groups read and give feedback along the way. But you need to be able to self-edit first.
You must be able to evaluate structure and plot, along with pacing, characterization and theme. Do you know when you are telling and not showing? Is your dialogue "on the nose?" Writing is a craft that needs to be practiced, learned and polished.
Writing is rewriting. How many times have you heard that phrase? After the story is on the page, now it's time to go back and read for basic mechanics of grammar, spelling, structure. Is there enough conflict? Does that scene really move the story forward? If you've ever read any books on writing, or read novels regularly (which I'd hope you do read, if you want to be a writer), you know what to look for. Yes, it's your job to look for these flaws in your writing. You should only show your novel to a beta reader or critique partner after you've polished it to a eyeball burning shine.
Your beta readers are only your first step in the editing process, but they should be pampered and spoiled by only having to read the best you have to offer. Even though you may not agree with their feedback, be polite and take a deep breath. Give it a day or two and you'll realize they are only trying to help your novel be better.
Now it's time to evaluate the feedback, do a bit more editing on your own, then HIRE the best editor your wallet can afford.
To be continued... (Part 2, what to expect from your editor, and for your money)
at 4:10 PM