Editing can be a minefield, can’t it?
I wasn’t sure whether to write this post, initially, but after recent experiences, I thought, why not air my views, after all, they are only my thoughts, and not law, after all!
Over the last few years, as I have been, (and continue to), hone my writing craft, I have learned so much about writing, and how words can be written and how that impacts upon how readers interpret them.
It means that when I read books, sometimes the pleasure is not as great as it used to be, as I find my technical head switching on, finding errors, or picking up on rookie mistakes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no expert, by any means, and I fully live by the thought that there are so many rules to writing a ‘good book’, yet if we all wrote by these rules, books would all be uniform, and boring.
(Who wrote these rules, anyway?)
However, good writing doesn’t have to follow the rules, but it must capture the reader.
I am one of those readers who hates to ‘DNF’ a book or mark it as something I did not finish. I know the blood sweat and toil that goes into crafting a book baby, having done it myself, so if I choose to read something, I try my hardest to give it my best shot, even if I am struggling. But now, I have realised that I need to stop if something is not clicking with me.
Sometimes it is just a genre that is not for me.
I try and give everything a fair shot, but if the genre is not for me, then I’ll not complain or give a bad review of the book. I’ll just park in under my DNF pile and remember not to pick something like that again.
But, when it comes to genres I love, if I can’t engage with the characters, or follow the story smoothly, I tend to delve deeper into the whys of not being able to finish.
And almost 100% of the time it seems to be due to editing – or lack of.
Several indie authors who requested I read their books for feedback or a general review have admitted, after I ask, that they haven’t had an editor read their work.
Not even a set of experienced beta readers.
And, unfortunately, it shows.
Thankfully, most of the time, my feedback is appreciated, after all, I would never shoot another writer down, but I want them to give the best of themselves to the world of books, but sometimes, the defiance and insistence that they write and edit themselves, because they know it is good, means that I wish I hadn’t wasted my time trying to help!
I understand that editing can be an expensive business, but what authors-to-be should remember is that we are too close to our work to edit it, entirely, ourselves.
Maybe, once you have a few books under your belt, and you’ve had helpful feedback from others on your previous work, you are more able to objectively read, spot mistakes or inconsistencies, and change them.
But as a newbie, when you want to make your name in the world of books, you need to present the best writing possible.
As I said, it can be expensive, but there are ways you can get help without spending the earth.
- Find a couple of readers, trusted readers that aren’t necessarily friends, but people with knowledge of wordcraft, and ask if they will read your work. Think of them as your alpha readers. They are going to give you that first impression of what a reader thinks of your story and writing. It is amazing how many thoughts, questions and mistakes they can pick up, that can improve your initial work before you have even thought about an editor.
- Find a critique partner who you can send your work to, and whose work you are willing to read and comment upon, too. This can be a better way, as you send work as you are writing, and you could incorporate corrections or suggestions for improvements as you write.
- Become a member of a writing group, where you can share your writing with others, and gain valuable critiques. As you read others work, you will also become stronger at picking up weak spots or strong sections in your own work.
And something extremely important to remember, however keen your friends, or family are, to read and help you with your book, they may not be the most objective readers for constuctive feedback. Most will be so encouraging, because they are proud you wrote a book.
Some might not know how to say they found parts hard to read or follow, so give you a false sense of security, but you need to remember that it is the public you want to impress with your words, not just your friends and family, if you want to be a succesful author.
This is why finding your writing people is so important, especially for an indie author.
I would still recommend you find at least a developmental editor, who will give you valuable feedback on your story, and whether everything flows, or if there are holes in your plot.
Beta readers can be your proofreading eyes if they are eagle-eyed. They can spot inconsistencies, spelling mistakes and pick up unclear points, too, when you are nearing the end of editing your manuscript if you can’t afford a copy or proofread.
If you don’t know the best way to find an editor, I would recommend asking among writing groups, like on Facebook, or even on your blog. Research them, yourselves, too, as prices can vary greatly, depending on what you want from the editor.
But the most important thing to remember is that as the author of a piece of work, we are too close to our book baby to be objective, especially at the beginning of our writing career. Either you will feel that nothing you write is good, or you won’t be able to sort the chaff from the wheat. Everything you write will appear key to the story. Or you miss things out because you have been living the story, with the characters for so long, you may omit details that a reader needs to know because, in your head, you already know it.
This is why a fresh set of eyes is so important, be it a paid editor, or a fantastic group of readers. They don’t know the backstory of your characters. They can tell you whether something is unnecessary, or if they felt something was missing. They can explain if something you wrote didn’t make sense, or whether they enjoyed it.
Then you take that feedback and use it, objectively, to improve your writing, and give your book baby the best chance of success.
There ends the sermon on The Importance Of Being Edited by Pastor Ritu!