All of the speaking events I do end in a question and answer session. One of the questions that frequently comes up is the whole subject of editing. At a recent historical presentation a lady asked, “How do you handle editing?”
I responded, “What type of editing?”
She remained quiet for a few seconds before saying, “Isn’t editing … editing?”
Many writers aspiring to be authors are unaware that editing is complex. Certainly, it’s not a subject that fits into a short blog. What I can do is give some definitions and advice that might help authors.
Definition – From “Glossary of Publishing Terms” – Editorial Analysis – The process of examining a manuscript to determine the level of edit required and making a record of all matters that will effect the processes (COSTS!) of editing and production.
That means everything. Many novice writers don’t perceive editing as much more than a grammar check. Blaaahhhh! Content. Style. Line composition. Illustration/Art/Pictures. Infringement. Accuracy. All of these items and more will be considered if they’re a factor in producing your book. Yes, grammar is in there too. As costs and competition increase, publishers progressively shed costs of this nature. The author or her/his support system (agent/private editor) are called on to perform the function to some degree.
Self-publishing your work doesn’t eliminate your responsibility to thoroughly edit. I see great editing as even more of a requisite for SP. You are your own gate-keeper. If you publish trash, good luck! You’ll probably have the same chance at success that an egg has of surviving under an elephant’s foot. That always brings up the question, “Can I edit my own work?” I always respond, “The question isn’t if you can, the question is if you should?” Personally, I believe an adaptation of a cliche is the answer. “An author who edits their own work, has a fool for an editor.” This is particularly true of the novice. Here’s why:
Do you really know the norms, styles, and standards required to produce a marketable book? Most think they do … and their knowledge falls far, far short.
Are you sure that your knowledge base of grammar, structure, and form conforms with commonly accepted publishing norms in a producing a book that readers will accept? For example, does your writing conform to the Chicago Style Manual? Do you know what the Chicago Style Manual is? This is important, particularly if you have hopes of eventually attracting an agent or traditional publisher.
Are you so familiar with your work … you are likely to edit what you thought you wrote … instead of what’s actually on paper or on your monitor screen? I do. When I edit I have to print my ms out, and pencil check, because if I don’t, my mind’s familiarity with my work makes me fill in missing words, gloss over usage errors, etc. Luckily, I have a great editor at my publisher Taylor & Seale.
The reason I started with the definition for Editorial Analysis is that I recommend that new writers go through the process at least once. Find a good editor, one you feel comfortable with, and ask for an analysis (all issues) of your writing. BE SURE YOUR EDITOR ISN’T A FRIEND OR AUNT MARTHA! You want a clear, unvarnished report. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, you’re on your way to improving your writing.
The next question normally is, “Can you recommend a good editor?” That’s a tough one. First, there are literally thousands of editors and they vary all over the competency spectrum. That’s true of the prices they charge as well. What a good editor is, depends on a number of things. Most importantly, it depends on your independent needs.
If you want to follow my advice, two (of many) excellent sources for that editorial analysis would be Unicorn for Writers (www.unicornforwriters.com) and Jane Friedman Services (www.janefriedman.com). Jan Kardys and Jane Friedman, the principles, are real veterans in the publishing business. I’d start by checking out their website.
As far as folks that are farther along the writing path, I have a couple names of editors of which my associates speak highly. Nancy Buscher does a wide range of line editing/consulting functions. So does Beth Mansbridge – she specializes in polishing manuscripts in the copy editing area. You can reach Nancy at NancyBuscher@yahoo.com and Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org. I suggest you talk to any perspective editor before you engage them. Chemistry is important in the relationship.
See you tomorrow!
I’d like to meet you! Come visit me at Barnes & Nobles in Daytona Beach. I’ll meeting, greeting and signing my two most recent Taylor & Seale releases, The Bait Man and The Cross on Cotton Release (a re-release). I’ll be at 1900 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114 from 1 to 5. It’s very near the race track. Come visit me.
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