Let's talk about when you need and editor and what type of editor you need. First, I want to provide a little insight as how I personally write, edit, and revise. My style doesn't work for everyone. All writer's have their own style, but for new writers, my example should help you to discover what's right for you. I'll follow it up with the "when & type" of editors. (For the record, I'm only briefly scanning over this blog and not taking much time to edit, so there will probably be mistakes. Sue me.)

What follows is partially for short story writers and definitely for novel writers. Even though a short story needs revisions and editing, followed by utilizing a proofreading editor or copy edited (see descriptions at end of article), a short story may not need substantive editing.

At conventions, book signings and via e-mail, I frequently get asked by new writers about finding an editor for their short story or novel. Many other authors get asked the same question. Many new writers have only performed a round of spellcheck and minor revisions, then think it's ready for an agent or publisher. This is a waste of the writer's money and the editor's time if sending work at this early stage. There's a lot more work that needs to be done before sending the manuscript to an editor or agent.

Many times, authors get asked to proofread or copy edit someone's work. It is rare that an author will edit a new writer's work unless that author also edits for a living, or for secondary income, such as author P.N. Elrod. She's an amazing editor, but she's tough and won't cut you any slack.

The reason most authors don't edit someone's work is because an author's time is generally taken up just working on his or her own story/novel. Most of us aren't trying to be rude or snobbish. It takes a lot of time to write, revise, edit, revise some more, edit again, revise some more, etc. to have a manuscript as polished as possible for submission. Then, when it is accepted, something always seems to come back for editing or approving edits another editor has made or suggested. Believe me, no one is perfect. I see mistakes in publications from major authors with a major publishing house. We're human.

BUT! Computers and programs aren't perfect either. I generally will use my spellcheck on MS Word when I have finished a story just to do a cursory edit. It doesn't get everything correct. There are times that a homonym or homophone slips past. There are times I may have typed "an" while meaning to type "and". Spellcheck sees the word as correctly spelled, but it overlooks the fact I used the incorrect word. Plus, I write a lot of stories with fantastic names and locations, so spellcheck generally thinks I have a million misspelled words. After that, I generally go through and make revisions.

BTW, I suggest turning off the automatic spellcheck and corrections as you sit before the monitor. Those little squiggly red lines popping up as you write your story tend to be a distraction to most writers and ruin creative flow. Do your editing after you have finished the story or a chapter--not as you write. If a writer takes time to stop and go back and correct every little mistake that is red-lined, he/she is breaking concentration and interrupting train of thought. Just write and teach yourself control and, for some, overcome OCD by not editing while writing. It's not an easy thing to do.

After I am satisfied with those edits and revisions, I import the story into Grammarly. Not a bad program but, once again, it has problems recognizing certain things, especially with my bizarre names and locations. My main gripe is there are several times that the program believes I am using the wrong word in a sentence and I am definitely using the correct word exactly how I want to use it. Yet, for the most part, it will find a few things that MS Word spellcheck didn't find, thus (hopefully) improving my writing.

Although I like Grammarly, another annoying issue is that if a file is saved and exported back to MS Word, it screws up the paragraph formatting. I find it easier to just copy and paste the corrected file back into Word and save the file with an updated name (i.e. Example_rev1.docx)

For me, after I have been staring at the glow of a computer screen, I prefer to print my work out to do the major edits with a pen in hand. I usually put on some instrumental music to relieve stress--generally a soundtrack or performance that is related to the genre I am writing such as Basil Poledouris' excellent Conan soundtrack when I write a story full of action or fighting. Some writers prefer doing it all on the computer, which is fine. Whatever works best for you.

When you think you're close to your final edit before submitting your work, I suggest Reading Aloud. Why? Because the eyes and brain tend to overlook simple mistakes after having pored through the manuscript 20 times or more. Reading aloud will normally allow a writer to catch oversights. There are times I read something aloud and think to myself I must've been smoking banana peels.

A lot of top writers and editors suggest to step away from the story for a day, week, or more so when the writer reads the work once again, he/she has a fresh perspective.

Some even edit their work by reading the story backward. By this I mean that each sentence, from the last to the first, is read in order.

If you can find good and willing beta readers, do so. I don't mean someone who will approve of whatever you wrote because you're their child, spouse, significant other, etc. (unless they are willing to be brutally honest with you.). Find beta readers who will give constructive criticism and in a timely manner. Hopefully, they will catch more than just incorrect punctuation or misspelled words. They will notify you of pacing issues, continuity problems, confusing characters/sentences/plot and anything else that you might have thought was freaking awesome and the reader isn't thrilled about.

Then it's time to revise and edit some more. After that's accomplished, then the author can consider sending the work off to a professional editor. First of all, find an editor that works with the genre you are submitting. Editor A might be a great Romance and Literary Fiction, but Editor B specializes in Speculative Fiction. Editor A is probably not going to be the best choice for your Horror story. It's wise to choose an editor that enjoys the genre/style of writing being submitted.

Remember, these suggestions are for writing fiction and non-fiction, not for copywriters or technical writers. Though there are some similarities, editing has to be approached a bit differently for advertising or technical manuals.

Proofreading: The quickest and lightest form of editing is proofreading, where the editor corrects minor mistakes such as word usage, spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, style, etc.

Copy Editing: This isn't the same as a copywriter, which is a writer that creates advertising. Copy editing is basically a more in-depth and detailed version of proofreading.

Substantive/Developmental Editing: This is the most intense version of editing, looking at the story as a whole for style, grammar, structure and so forth. It generally resorts to removing entire sentences or paragraphs, moving portions of the story around and rewrites.

It might be difficult for an author to let go of their baby and cut entire sections or rearrange the story, but that's why an editor was hired. Unless you have a very good argument for keeping the story the way it is, give the editor's suggestions a shot. Save it as version Example_2.com or something similar and keep the original, just in case. Odds are, once the revisions are made, the author will read over it again and discover that the editor has helped improve the story and the baby needed room to grow and develop.

The manuscript should now be ready to submit.

There have been many times when I reviewed books that authors relied only on their spellcheck and their own eyes that have glossed over portions of their manuscript. They have the book published and it's filled with errors and typos. The pacing suffers and the characters are one or two-dimensional. Cliches abound and the dialogue is garbage. No matter if you have an English degree or are a natural-born storyteller, have someone who is qualified to go over your work. You might be surprised at some simple little mistake that changes the entire story. It could make the difference on whether your story sells or not.

Word of advice, if you are self-publishing, look over your work once your file has been converted by POD publishers (i.e. CreateSpace, LuLu, Kindle. etc.) Although the programs do a good job, for the most part, there are times that your copy goes beyond the boundary and words will be cut off, or the print is much smaller on the page than you anticipated, sentences & paragraphs that looked fine in your program now have widows and orphans or other issues that make your publication look amateurish.

Shameless self-promotion time. Wings of Mercury is at the printers. It's a mere $6.00 (not including s/h). The website will be able to take pre-orders/orders soon. It should be available for purchase for my October appearances. See my calendar at the bottom of my Goodreads page or the bottom of my author page on Amazon.

Also available for pre-order, Alban Lake Publishing's City in the Ice . The Lovecraftian themed anthology includes one of my stories and is due out November 1, 2018.
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Published on September 06, 2018 11:18 • 67 views • Tags: alban, beginning, city, copy, editing, ice, mercury, proof, substantive, wings, writing

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