Good Advice on Writing Part 2: Editing
"Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."
In this week's foray into "Good Advice on Writing" I stopped on the above quote about editing. On our weekly FOCUS ON FANTASY ROMANCE PODCAST the ladies of the podcast and I interviewed an editor. Our conversation got me to thinking about editing and about the difference between thinking your work is good, and knowing it is.
This is a double edged sword, in my opinion and one that many authors impale themselves on every day. At heart, writers are artistic beings with creative egos. We need to know that other people think our work is good. All too often, we are certain our story is the best, the most imaginative, the most perfect. It hurts us when our readers don't flock to us with reviews and words of praise. The publishing author has to get past this need for vindication, and understand that reading is subjective. Our vision of the "perfect" story is often at odds with our technical ability to create it.
This is why we need editors! Editing comes in as many shapes and forms as writing, but in general there are three basic types of editors and they each provide important services to authors to help us create the best book we can.
Content Edits: When an author writes a first draft there are often "holes" in the plot, meaning that the story has aspects that don't actually make sense. The content editor can spot these issues, and point them out to the author. They also look for discrepancies in the story, like the main character had blue eyes on page 2 and brown eyes on page 98. Content edits are extremely important in creating a cohesive, streamlined story that the reader can easily understand.
Line Edits: Line editors are what most people think of when they think of "editing". Line editors look for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors as well as word repetition and overall sentence structure. Line editors can pick up on passive voice (telling, not showing) and on poor story structure.
Proofreading: Proofreaders are the last line of defensive in editing. This is the last step a book goes through before it hits the presses. Proofreaders are reading for any typos (now instead of know, etc) and any errors the other two editors may have missed in their passes. Proofreading should catch those last minute boo-boos that might catch a reader's attention.
It is the writer's job to write the story, the author's job to know when it needs help, and the editor's job to help! So, in this instance, I would agree with Colette. Writers need editors! We may study craft, may be astute at picking up errors in other people's work, but we are often the most blind to our own mistakes. Meet your editors. Know your editors. Love your editors. USE YOUR EDITORS! They are resources, just like your PC, your thesaurus and your imagination. If we want quality stories, we need quality editing.