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Why Is Editing So Damn Important? by Marie Lavender

For those of you who already know the answer to the question at hand, I applaud you. 

But there are a few who might be wondering why, in fact, one would ever worry about editing. Two schools of thought rally around this subject. Some of you might be thinking one or both of the following:

  1. Who needs an editing service? For God’s sake, I could edit the local newspaper in my sleep. I’ve got this, people!
  2. Why should I bother with editing? That doesn't matter! I wrote this book with my bare hands and I’m hitting ‘publish’ tomorrow!

It’s true that indie publishing has simplified the once traditional route to getting our work out to readers. But that’s all the more reason to take your writing seriously. By overlooking the editing process, you’re only hurting yourself. Once you decided, “I’m getting published someday!”, you essentially said goodbye to writing as a hobby. Look, I’m not telling you to stop enjoying the creative process. Of course not. I think we should all remember why we got into it, why we still love writing. However, you should see your manuscript as a potential book. 

Notice I said potential? Before you hit ‘publish’ on that Amazon screen, think carefully about the ramifications of publishing a book without official edits. 

We’re all familiar with bad reviews, right? Not only have we seen them on book purchase pages, reviews have changed the fate of restaurants and hotels alike, even something as simple as a pair of shoes. 

Words have power. Just as our books can move readers on an emotional level, enough bad reviews can kill your book’s reputation. Having said that, a negative review happens now and then. No author, not even a famous one, is immune. It’s true that you can’t win every reader over. But, wouldn’t you want to be judged on the merit of your work, the quality of your story, rather than the editing mistakes and glaring grammar problems you thought weren’t so relevant?

Take it from me. I’ve been a published author since 2010, and I still jump to catch all the editing issues before I even consider publishing the book. With my latest book, Directions of the Heart, I fortunately fixed the mistakes in the proof copy CreateSpace sent and was still able to meet my deadline before the collection officially released. And this occurred after numerous rounds of self-editing, and assistance from outside sources. To date, no one has mentioned any editing issues in the book's reviews.

But let’s get back to the discussion here.

Consider this. If you decide to go the traditional route and you skip the editing step, you’re not going to win any points with literary agencies or publishers to which you send query letters. Once they get a load of the first few pages of your manuscript, you’ll get a tasteful yet boring form letter that basically says, “Sorry, but no thanks!”

So…the question you need to ask yourself is:

“How important is the finished product to me?”

I think most writers want to put their best work out there. Some are even perfectionists about it. Does it irk you when you missed making a word plural on an email or social media? You want to fix it right away, yes? But it's not always possible. I feel your pain. Now, why wouldn’t you have the same reaction with the book that you’d like to show readers?  

“I’m ready, Marie. I am hitting ‘publish’ right now!”

Whoa…slow your roll there, cupcake. Have you read through your manuscript a few times? For example, two or three weeks between each round? Did you read it aloud or even print it out? Sometimes these different techniques allow us to see glaring errors we missed before. And I’m not even touching the idea of having to format your book for release.

But let’s go back to the beginning. Remember the eager writer who can’t wait for the world to see his or her work? Ditch that dream just for the moment. You need to put your editing hat on! 

Look, this is when things get gritty, or at least they should. Think of yourself as the girl who fell for the bad boy. He can do no wrong, but your family is trying to tell you otherwise. Yet the intelligent thing to do would be to weigh your options, consider your future with this guy. Likewise, you’ve got to look at your manuscript with a critical eye, not rose-colored glasses. Fall out of love with your book for a while. I’m not asking you to second guess everything, just to be smart. Now is the time to keep an eye out for plot holes, character confusion (using the same name for two different secondary characters…yeah, it happens), and, among a thousand other aspects, making sure you didn’t miss any important details. 

Believe me, when you’re finally ready to see them, they’ll pop out at you. For example, if you want to ensure your characters are fully developed, answer these questions. You won’t include every detail in the book, but at least you’ll know your protagonist much better and be more aware of when those facts matter within the story. 

By now, you’ve probably realized that I’m talking about self-editing. Mmm-hmm…it’s a thing. Even if you are open to using an outside source for help (critique partners, beta readers, a proofreader or other editing service), do you really want to hand your hard work over to a total stranger without perfecting it on your own first? Nah, probably not.

Here are some possible questions to ask yourself with any work of fiction:

  1. Chapter Opening and/or Closing: Does it hook readers to read more?
  2. Plot: Is there a compelling event, subplot, tension or conflict that is causing the story to evolve?
  3. Pacing: Are the sequence of events or actions of the characters making sense? Are there too many minute details that are weighing the story down? In other words, is the narration too long?
  4. Character Description: Can readers visualize the character? Is it easy to enter the character’s mind and feel emotion?
  5. Scene:  Is it important to the story? Why? Does the character support the scene? Is it rich in details?
  6. Character Building:  Is there an internal or external struggle? Is the character struggle important to the scene or the story? Why? Do you understand the character’s motivation? If it’s confusing, maybe you should find out why.
  7. Point-of-View: Is head hopping occurring? If there is a POV shift, did it elevate the plot or move the story forward?
  8. Transitions (Between chapters or scenes): Are they occurring seamlessly between paragraphs?  Are they building tension in the story?
  9. Grammar and Word Choice: Are there repetitive phrases? (Suggestion: Use synonyms. They break up repetitions.) 

A critique partner will often help you narrow down many such problem areas. Still, it doesn’t hurt to suss out some of it for yourself.

Okay, let’s say you’ve tackled that as well as possible on your own. Now comes the dreaded part. Unless you’re a total editing maven (and even if you’re an editor in real life, I still wouldn’t suggest editing everything on your own), then self-editing can be a grueling yet necessary process. Luckily, the internet has provided us with awesome tips. Hallelujah!

I swear by these next two articles from The Write Life: 

10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book

25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy

With my first pass, I use article number one, and then I read through the manuscript. During round two, I launch into the second article. This is a more detailed look at the mistakes people often make while writing. After implementing the article’s suggestions, I read through the book again. Take decent breaks between each round (you don’t want to be too familiar with your work). With both articles, utilize the advice but try not to drown out your unique writing voice. I always do another read-through before anyone else sees my work. That’s three full rounds of self-editing.

“Marie, this could take a while!”

No kidding. But the best endeavors often do. 

Will you catch everything? Nope. But I guarantee it will be a lot better than where any of us started out with the first draft.

So…hopefully, your work is edited well enough to hand over to a critique partner or beta readers. Try to provide a questionnaire to help focus your betas on what kind of feedback that you’re looking for. It looks something like this, but you can tailor it to your specific genre.

Perhaps you’re thinking of checking out an editing service. I’ve worked with a lot of good editors through my publisher. I would advise you to compare rates. Most editors charge per word. That can really add up, especially if you have a novel-length manuscript. Plus, there are different types of editing. Are you looking for basic copy editing or something more thorough, like line, content or developmental editing? Word of mouth is usually the best way to find a good editor. Ask your fellow writers or authors who they used for their latest book editing.

I hope we’ve established the importance of editing. Do errors still slip through at times? Even with the professionals? Sure. I’ve noticed the occasional typo in a big six bestselling novel. The fact is no one is perfect. But I bet you’ll agree that one or two minor issues would be far better than a 100,000 word manuscript riddled with errors (which is likely to cause your reader to toss the book, or their Kindle, out the window).

Editing is too damn important, both for your professional integrity as a writer, and to avoid making your eyes cross when you reread your published book. Plus, readers will love you for giving them a polished product! You can’t lose there. I know you’d prefer them to talk to their friends about the story and how it makes them feel, rather than get hung up on all the grammar problems. Right?

I thought so. Despite how much of a pain it can be, editing is your friend.

Really! ;) Are you still with me?

Okay, we’ll go with whatever makes you comfortable. In any case, editing is an aspect of the writing process that you can’t afford to ignore. At least, if you want to survive as an author. A well-edited and published book is certainly something of which you should be proud!

I hope you found some helpful tips here. Have a great weekend, and, as always, happy reading! :)

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Tags: advice, article, authors, behind, editing, helping, life, message, process, readers, More…resources, scenes, self-help, the, tips, writer's, writers, writing

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Tennessee
Applegarth Books Millington, TN
Parnassus Books Nashville, TN
Reading Rock Books Dickson, TN
The Booksellers at Laurelwood Memphis, TN
Union Avenue Books Knoxville, TN
Texas
Blue Willow Bookshop Houston, TX
Book Spot Round Rock, TX
BookPeople Austin, TX
BookWoman Austin, TX
Brazos Bookstore, LLC Houston, TX
Katy Budget Books Houston, TX
Murder By The Book Houston, TX
Paragraphs on Padre Blvd. South Padre Island, TX
The Dock Bookshop Fort Worth, TX
The Twig Book Shop San Antonio, TX
Utah
Back of Beyond Books Moab, UT
Braun Books Cedar City, UT
BYU Bookstore Provo, UT
The King's English Bookshop Salt Lake City, UT
Weller Book Works Salt Lake City, UT
Virginia
One More Page, LLC Arlington, VA
Over the Moon Bookstore & Artisan Gallery Crozet, VA
Prince Books Norfolk, VA
Scrawl Books Reston, VA
Sundial Books Chincoteague, VA
The Fountain Bookstore Richmond, VA
Winchester Book Gallery Winchester, VA
Virgin Islands
Reader's Nook St. Thomas, VI
Undercover Books & Gifts Christiansted, VI
Vermont
Bartleby's Books Wilmington, VT
Book Nook Ludlow, VT
Northshire Bookstore Manchester Center, VT (Multiple Locations)
Norwich Bookstore Norwich, VT
Phoenix Books Burlington, VT 
Essex Junction, VT
The Flying Pig Bookstore Shelburne, VT
The Galaxy Bookshop Hardwick, VT
Vermont Book Shop Middlebury, VT
Village Square Booksellers Bellows Falls, VT
Washington
...and Books, Too! Clarkston, WA
A Book For All Seasons Leavenworth, WA
Ada's Technical Books and Cafe Seattle, WA
Auntie's Bookstore Spokane, WA
Book 'n' Brush Chehalis, WA
Eagle Harbor Book Company Bainbridge Island, WA
Edmonds Bookshop Edmonds, WA
Elliott Bay Book Company Seattle, WA
Garfield Book Company at PLU Tacoma, WA
Inklings Bookshop Yakima, WA
Island Books Mercer Island, WA
King's Books Tacoma, WA
Liberty Bay Books Poulsbo, WA
Lopez Bookshop Lopez Island, WA
Mockingbird Books Seattle, WA
Mostly Books Gig Harbor, WA
Orca Books Inc. Olympia, WA
Port Book and News Port Angeles, WA
Queen Anne Book Company Seattle, WA
Riverwalk Books Limited Chelan, WA
Seattle Mystery Bookshop Seattle, WA
The Secret Garden Bookshop Seattle, WA
The Traveler Bainbridge Island, WA
Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, WA 
Seattle, WA
University Book Store Seattle, WA
Uppercase Bookshop Snohomish, WA
Village Books Bellingham, WA
Vintage Books Vancouver, WA
Watermark Book Company Anacortes, WA
Wisconsin
A Room Of One's Own Bookstore Madison, WI
Apple Blossom Books Oshkosh, WI
Arcadia Books Spring Green, WI
Books & Company Oconomowoc, WI
Boswell Book Company Milwaukee, WI
Chapter 2 Books Hudson, WI
Dragonwings Bookstore Waupaca, WI
Northwind Book & Fiber Spooner, WI
Redbery Books Cable, WI
The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop Fort Atkinson, WI
TribecaGalleryCafe & Books Watertown, WI
West Virginia
Kerri's Korner Bookstore Fairmont, WV
Wyoming
City News & Pipe Shop Cheyenne, WY
Cody Newsstand Cody, WY
Second Story Laramie, WY
Sheridan Stationery Books & Gallery Sheridan, WY
Whistle-Stop Mercantile Douglas, WY
Wind City Books Casper, WY


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Aussie romance

Started by Karen Cogan in BOOKS AND READING Jul 23. 0 Replies

On 13th May 1787, 11 ships and 1300 people left England to found a penal colony in Australia. They landed in January 1788. The Naval officers and their families and the convicts worked to establish the first European settlement of Australia. The…Continue

Tags: clean, and, sweet, romance, Historical

When did that happen?

Started by Karen Cogan in FREE DOWNLOADS Jul 23. 0 Replies

Ever wonder in what time period was the victory at Waterloo? Or when Mary Shelly published Frankenstein? What about a toxic paint color called “Emerald Green" made with arsenic and verdigris that subjected citizens to a chronic exposure to…Continue

Tags: historical, mystery, sweet, and, clean

You're A Dog, Chase

Started by Ronald Robinson in ANNOUNCEMENTS Jul 2. 0 Replies

You're A Dog,Chase! is a colorful and comical picture book that teaches children to be responsible for and take care of their pets with a story line that will have everyone laughing!Tyson is a young boy who lives on a farm and love to play Frisbee…Continue

Tags: Kidlit, Humorous, book, Book, Picture

Points of View - SciFi/Espionage series

Started by Tony Thorne MBE in INTRODUCTIONS & WELCOMES. Last reply by Jordani May 28. 2 Replies

This month eBook One is free. BookS 2, 3 & 4 in this exciting series of near future, artificial intelligence, adventures. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/742997Continue

New killer rats novel out now on Audible USA

Started by Lee Andrew Taylor in FREE DOWNLOADS May 26. 0 Replies

For all you American fans of audio horror books, use the link below to start a FREE trial on Audible.USA & listen to my story about a town under attack by killer rats...Narrated by Dave Neal.S.T.A.R.S. (Scientific testing aimed at a rat’s…Continue

Tags: rats, killer, horror, novels

New killer rats novel out now....

Started by Lee Andrew Taylor in BOOKS AND READING Apr 17. 0 Replies

For a limited time, I am selling the hardback version of my killer rats story - The S.T.A.R.S Project - with 20% off direct from …Continue

Tags: rats, killer, horror, novels

I'm new here

Started by Kenneth Teicher in INTRODUCTIONS & WELCOMES Apr 13. 0 Replies

I began writing about fifteen years ago. After going through the process of attempting to find an agent/publisher for several years I decided to begin self-publishing my work. My wife and I have taken many vacation during many vacations over the…Continue

Hello I am Alex, writer and creator of Kindle Ranker

Started by kindle ranker in INTRODUCTIONS & WELCOMES Mar 16. 0 Replies

For the last few months I have been adding nice features to Kindle Ranker as well as supporting retailers other than Amazon. As of today, you can:Rate a book idea: competitiveness, difficulty, best sellers,…Continue

Tags: marketing, book, selfpublishing

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