This week: Observations from the Editor's DeskEdited by: Fyn
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“Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be”~~Mark Twain
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”~~ E. L. Doctorow
"An editor's job, Lars, is to make his writer look good,"~~Rich O'Brien
"The main thing is that you have a good editor - one that believes in you and who will give you the feedback that you need to produce a good book."~~Christopher Darden
So your book is being 'edited.' In other words, your editor is going over your book with a fine-toothed comb to
1. Find all the errors you missed--punctuation, spelling errors, wrong words correctly spelled, run on sentences, repeated words, missing words, et cetera.
2. Discover all the tense mix-ups, continuity, clarity and syntax mistakes.
The reasoning behind this (on one level) is that you do not want typos.
On a greater level, and to my mind, far more importantly, is that the editor wants YOUR book to be the BEST that YOU are capable of making it. Editors know they are looking at your brainchild, your baby. They are also an objective eye that knows even a favored child must be raised with discipline. In other words, the editor is NOT out to change your vision, destroy your work or make it 'theirs.' A well written and edited book will do better than one that is sloppy, full of typos and clear as a pea-souped fog. That only reflects poorly on you and the imprint.
Publishers are interested in one thing. Making money. Your book being the best it can be is to your advantage. The more books sold translates into more money for both you and your publisher.
As an editor I find most writers fit into two categories; those that want to have their book be the best and those who fight every change, suggestion or nuance. I deal with people who are surprised and pleased at suggestions to make a point clearer or how we as editors 'get' what they want to say when, in actuality, they are saying something else. Then there are those who don't want to change a single word, regardless if they are correct or not. I also deal with folks who complain that I've missed errors. It happens. No one is perfect. But I try and I usually catch well over 90% of them.
Suggestion: Don't 'finish' your manuscript and think it is 'finished.' It is not. Now it needs time and then revision. The time is to give you a fresh eye and the ability to distance yourself from it a bit. The revision is to to make it better. Do you repeat words all the time? Have the last five paragraphs started with the same word? Did you use '35' when you should have written out 'thirty-five?' Do you have your quotation marks outside the punctuation? A common and editorially frustrating error to see is along the lines of the following (incorrect) sentence. "Where are you going." he asked as he headed downstairs to make coffee? In a typical 100,000 word manuscript with roughly 75% dialog, that is a ton of corrections to make and very time consuming. Revise, edit, revise and fix.
Suggestion: Spell check your work. It is amazing how many manuscripts we receive that haven't been. Then proof read it. Most writing programs, such as Microsoft Word for example, underline in green where sentences aren't sentences, incomplete phrasing etc. It isn't always right, but most of the time it is. Remember, spell-checkers do not pick up on correctly spelled words that aren't the word you want. (It won't know the difference between 'there,' 'they're,' or 'their.' Then spell check it again.
Suggestion: I know you love your mother, your best friend and your fifth grade teacher. I am sure they are wonderful people. But don't try to tell an editor that they read it, and that the word 'their' is the correct word to use in the following: "Their going to find out that the store wasn't only robbed, but set on fire as well." Had it said "Their finding out that the store was set on fire was a heartbreak." is a different story, except that in that particular sentence, it was written as "There finding out that the store was set on fire was a heartbreak." Worse, the author was absolutely positive they were correct because,"Their mother and teacher said it was!"
Suggestion: Remember, the editor is trying to help you help your book be the best it can be, that they have more experience than you do and that the bottom line is that they want your book to be as marketable as possible so it will sell the most copies it possibly can.
Suggestion on the 'know more than you do' front: An editor is usually far more knowledgeable about current market trends, what is selling and what a good story is than you think you are. Editors do not have time to waste. Their edits are not meant personally, they aren't out to 'get you,' and ARE trying to help you. If they suggest a section needs to be rewritten; rewrite it. They will be more than happy to explain why and what you need to do at that point to make your words clearer, or more concise, or to further the story along.
For example, one manuscript recently spent over 100,000 words leading up to a final battle. This was the ultimate confrontation between good and evil, the 'fate of the world hangs in the balance' sort of thing. That confrontation was resolved in three paragraphs. Not only would that be a letdown to the reader, it didn't give the characters the opportunity to use their skills they spent the book learning, in fact, as it was written, the main character could have beaten the 'bad guy' in the first chapter. It was written as if the author just wanted to get the book finished, had gotten bored with it or ran out of time. If an author is bored with a character or story, it only follows that the reader will be even more so.
For example, someone I know was told that they needed to change the perspective, and go to third person from first. In effect they needed to start over.
They are doing that because they understand that, in the long run, the book will be better that way.
For example, one of my authors (writing an excellent book on an extreme learning experience) had a side story in his book that not only did not further his tale along, but actually detracted from the believability of the author's entire experience thus putting his credulity in question. I suggested taking the majority of that side story out. He did. Bottom line, a gripping book that let the reader empathize with the main character instead of being sorely tempted to negate the import of the entire book.
Editors are not glorified spell checkers, nor are we your enemy. We encourage, we molly-coddle and we kick you in the butt! We listen, we think and we suggest. Sometimes we tell. My publisher comes straight out and tells my authors that I am blunt. I don't have the time not to be. If it is good, I'll tell you. If it isn't, I'll suggest how to fix it. If you need a bit of pushing, I'll push. Because I want your book to be the best you are capable of producing and for it to sell the maximum number of copies possible. All of which results in a win-win scenario for all concerned!
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Nathalya writes:What a wonderful NL! So clear, so intense, yet so simple and straightforward. I absolutely understand that message, it speaks to me as if you had written it to me on purpose. Thank you so much for your good words, and your incredibly motivational sentences. My quote for you:
"Perseverance is what distinguishes the strong from the weak." I will go on with my plans, knowing each day brings me a step closer to my achievement.
Thanks and Happy New Year!
Thank YOU! Would love to know who said your quote!
StephB 2013 Busy Bee says: Fyn - a great newsletter that inspires introspection. Thanks for sharing the info on Janus! It's amazing what we've taken from the Romans.
Yuppers,sure is...and the Greeks and...and...
Brooke - Playing Catch Up! adds:I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on changing things in life and how it would alter where we are today. Everything we do in influences where our life takes us. If we take out a piece of the puzzle, the picture is forever altered. Thanks for such a thought-provoking NL! I wrote about Janus also - great minds think alike! Oh and I'm with you; I don't do the New Years resolution either. Great job, really enjoyed your article.
Thanks *big smile*
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