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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Get An Editor by @vizprod (Andy Christofferson)


Here's another great guest post by an indie author Andy Christofferson (@vizprod). Check out his blog and his book The Peace Corpse. He explains the importance of having an editor in this post, which I firmly believe as an editor and writer. Enjoy~
I wrote a book. I thought my book was pretty good. Like so many naive writers, I assumed that it was 'done' just because it didn't have any major typos or grammatical errors. I even had my parents and sister go through it just to be sure. A lot of people have gone out of their way to tell me that they’ve enjoyed it, and I’m still proud of that. But there was a few complaints about the pacing and some of the description. The thing is: those are the kinds of things a good editor would catch.
What most self-published people don't seem to realize is that editing isn't just about fixing typos. It encompasses pacing, characterization, voice, description, and all major and minor issues that can turn a merely good story into a GREAT one.
Yes, I've sold a few books. That is nice, but maybe I could've had a breakout hit if I'd just made that one-time, initial investment of hiring an editor. Well, that, and actually having a decent cover. But that’s beside the point.
For my next book, a high fantasy novella, I was determined to do things right. So I wrote and revised and had my family go through and look for typos, and then I looked for an editor. I found someone on Twitter who was offering a free two-page edit/critique, and I liked the job he did so much I asked him to edit the entire manuscript. He even gave me a discount.
When I got my manuscript back, there were red marks on every single page. Wordiness, excessive use of adverbs, inconsistent point of view, too much exposition, melodrama, lack of description, overly detailed backstories, and so on. He said he enjoyed the story itself and even complimented me on my writing (in terms of grammar and sentence structure, at least), but I know I would be doing a gross injustice to readers if I put my story up for sale without fixing the aforementioned items.
I am a professional technical writer and freelance editor—of scientific publications. I’m pretty confident in my ability to write grammatically correct sentences with few typos. That does not mean, however, that I can write perfect fiction without help. It isn’t easy to be objective with my own writing, especially when I’m too emotionally attached. After all, if I didn’t think every single sentence was perfect exactly the way I wrote it, I wouldn’t have written it that way.
This is why writers need editors. It’s critical that the work go through the scrutiny of someone who is not emotionally vested and who can provide an honest, objective feedback. Having an editor is an indispensable part of creating a book because writers are often extremely subjective in their opinion, even if they don’t want to admit it.
With the rise of self-publishing, many Indie writers seem to think that editing is merely fixing typos. That is the job of proofreaders, not editors. I think this trend is really a shame. There is a significant number of Indie books out there that would’ve been exceptionally good if the author had just bothered with the one-time investment of hiring an editor. In the end, that could’ve made all the difference.

17 comments:

  1. There have been a few books I've downloaded the sample chapters for and I get the same impression. It's been proof read, but not edited. It's really made me wary of buying anything from a small press or E-publisher because many seem to lack the budget to hire a decent editor. This is a huge disservice to their authors, and even more so to the readers who might buy the book if it'd just had a bit more editing.

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  2. I've come across some people who harbour a great deal of disdain and hatred for editors, even to the point of believing they are somehow the spawn of the devil. I can't understand this point of view. Do people really not realise how hard it is to edit your own work? You can't read your own mistakes (not just typos, but pacing problems etc.) because you're really reading what you know you meant to say. You know how the story plays out and so the words on the page bear only a tenuous connection to the image the writer sees in their head. Everyone needs an editor.

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  3. In the 6 years that I have been writing, 5 of them were a mess of me thinking I knew how to write. I was wrong, but thanks to Editors like Su, I have found a better way to write.

    I do wish that more writers would go the extra mile and have some editing done before they ever consider trad/self pub/ePub/pub drinking.

    Great post

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  4. Great post, Andy. And truthful. The biggest expense an indie writer will incur is an editor and a cover designer. The good news is they will both pay for themselves if you've written a decent story.

    Using and editor-- for the reasons you listed-- is the only way that self-publishers will remove the black eye from our group.

    I would like to say this to editors: You are very pricey and that keeps a lot of writer from using your services. You are a must to us and some dread the price of service much more than the Red Marks. Try charging by the book page and not the manuscript page.

    I love my editor and can't do it without her so you ediotrs out there please take my comments as they are meant. You make us better!

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  5. Great post! I've read some Indie books recently with few grammar flaws, non-existent typo's and absolutely dreadful head-hopping and information dumping. Something if, not an editor would catch -then at least an honest beta-reader. It is possible, in my opinion - to be objective about your own work - if the author wasn't in such a "hurry" to publish it. Set it aside a while then go back to it with fresh eyes BEFORE finding an editor or said beta-readers. I agree with Dannie about the price. $3 per manuscript page is what I've seen lately (as the highest) from a professional editor and for my 100k word book as a doc file? Gah!

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  6. I'm back feeling I should clarify - I was mentally adding the cost of my own WIP. Would be about $600 but it's a big book and that's not a bad price to pay - for someone who knows what they're doing. ;-)

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  7. As an editor, I must add that editing is time consuming. My substantive is a two-step process that makes me spend an hour on just 3-4 pages. The going rate is $3 per page, so it's still less than $12/hour. That is not expensive...just saying.

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  8. Hence the reason I came back to clarify. heh. I've had some small edit and proofreading jobs come up the past few weeks and now relate. Can't believe some of the... *ahem* It's not stabby here, more like slashing and hacking. lol

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  9. Don't beat yourself up, Andy. It takes a mature writer to acknowledge that everyone needs an editor. By the way, can't wait to read your work. :)

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  10. This is exactly my problem. I proofread my work and got it as good as I could. I then published it. Could it have been better with an editor? Probably. I understand that from reading peoples' advice. I trust them, but I can't shake the feeling that if I give my work to an editor and they suggest cutting out big swathes, changing characterisation and whatever else that it is no longer my story. I don't want that. I feel I'd rather sell poorly with work that is all my own than "collaborate" on all my pieces (and have to pay for the experience!) How can I shake this feeling?

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  11. First of all, no editor has the right to "cut off" anything without your approval. In the end, you get to decide which advice to keep or toss out. And if this portion that an editor wants to cut out is because it might be filled with grammars, contains factual inaccuracies, and is a form of plagiarism, you'll be better off not being "original."

    Typically, an editor will not collaborate or rewrite for you; writing coaches do. An editor will mark up and make suggestions but will not force a permanent change. I can see a big publisher coming to a writer and asking to cut out something because of many reasons, but I've yet heard of any editors giving writers ultimatums like you suggest.

    If you want to shake that feeling off, try different editors. We all offer free sample work, so you can be the judge. Or you might even hire one to do a partial edit of a few chapters. For a $100 or less, you might buy yourself a peace of mind, and most importantly, get rid of that prejudice. Not all editors are created equal, but all of them can help your writing to some extent.

    Thanks for visiting my blog~

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the advice. I didn't mean to come off as rude or demanding. What I said was mere speculation and fear as I've never actually tried using an editor properly, so I don't know how the process goes. It was an exaggeration, I'm sure.

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    2. No worries. You are not the only writer who fears editors. I think you need to open yourself up and share your work with others. Then you'll see that critique partners, beta readers, or editors can offer so much more than you could've imagined. It will make you grow as a writer, I assure you. Traditionally published books go through some level of editing because no writers can be an objective editor of their own book. Even editors need editors. And as I've said before, you have the control at the end. Especially if you're self publishing. Just try a few in the future. Good luck~

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    3. Thanks. I've done the whole writing circle, critique groups and things. They were very helpful. Editors, I guess, are my last boundary to being a normal writer! Haha.

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  12. I agree. We editors are an under-appreciated breed!

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  13. Editors are needed. Even if it's just to comment on one word.
    Writers aren't perfect.
    Neither are editors.
    But together . . . they can turn something decent into something amazing.

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  14. Applause to the above comments, especially that even editors need editors (true!), and that editing goes beyond fixing typos, which is to say that a macro and micro view given by an editor of the work at hand can provide that fresh perspective. An editor's job is to work with a writer to achieve the best written output at whatever level of editing is requested or required. Hiring an editor is an investment in your work. Su's correct that not all editors are the same, but I'll add that it's incumbent on a writer to consider it so, in addition to allowing a budget for this important stage of production. Great post, Andy!

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