Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hanging, Drawing and Quartering: You know, that thing Writers do called Editing?

Well, I'm halfway through editing my latest novel Ballad of the Highwayman and decided to write a post on that daunting subject for you, mainly, young and inspiring writers out there. As a veteran of six full length novels and countless "short" stories, (they should seriously give medals for that) I've done my good share of editing.

For you young writers maybe still in school, editing your novel is nothing like editing your school papers. Number one, it doesn't matter content wise as long as you are happy with the story line and what you have put into it. Grammar is a tough thing. It's always the hardest thing for any writer, and don't let anyone tell you differently. Even grammar wizards have problems with their grammar. And don't get me started on how spell/grammar check on Word hate dialogue even though it is correct to the character. If you write in another dialect, specifically Scottish, you'll run into even more problems...

But don't worry! Because editing can also be fun! Yes, it's true, I'm not going insane. Editing gives you the opportunity to make your book better. And anything that will make your book better is a very good thing. Make sure that dialogue flows nicely. Make your descriptions interesting and fun to read and not just dry and boring. Make sure people know what is going on in an action scene. Add fluff and stuff you didn't think of the first time around. This is, by far, the best part of editing.

I won't lie, by the time you're done editing, you will most likely hate your book and everything about it. The way I write is this: I write my book. Usually, I will read chapters over as I write them. This is the first edit. Then once the book is done, I will read it through cover-to-cover to check for, not only more typos, but to see if the story line flows. This is the part where you will see if anything needs to be added or even taken away. After that, I start to format it to publishing size. I'll go over my new manuscript on the computer to make sure everything is good in the formatting and then I will get my proof copy (I publish my books through Createspace) and then, yep, you guessed it, I read it again. Then I make the final editing and then publish it finally. Then I hope that there are no typos left, but really, that's always too much to wish.

Some Tips For You All:

It helps to get several other people to read over your book for you as well. A lot of times another reader will pick up things you missed like flow issues, and maybe some things that don't make sense. This is why you have writer friends. They are not only to drink coffee and chat with, you know!

Another old trick is to read your book out loud to yourself. You'll probably not want to actually read the whole thing, but at least read out some areas you have had problems with. I find that when you read things silently, your mind reads what is supposed to be there, but what might not be. If you read it out loud, your brain takes an extra step to process the words your reading, thus alerting you to other problems. I know there's some scientific explanation for all that, but I'm just a poor historian ;)

Of course you can always hire a "real" editor. But for you self-publishing people...well...let's just say our money goes elsewhere. Like on advertising and moralizing coffee.

Other ways to have fun while editing? Write a silly blog post like me. It really does help. Now I have to get back to my editing because (hopefully) my fans are waiting. ;)

Slainte, Hazel


  1. Ah, editing. Just when you thought you were finished, you find more errors!! But, I agree that once you get the story down on paper, it is a lot of fun to do what you can to make it even better. It's just the spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors that make me want to tear my hair out. And don't even get me started on formatting!!

  2. So I guess, in a way, we all have the easy job?


  3. Great tips for editing! I agree wholeheartedly about reading it out loud, my brain always reads things the way it wants it to sound. :) Great post! I'm looking forward to reading more!

  4. Thanks Jenn, I'm glad you liked it :)

  5. I swear that my computer changes and deletes words. ;) I read through sections in my manuscripts, and then come back to them a few weeks (or months) later, only to discover that those annoying little words like "it", "the", "an", or somesuch like that is either missing or different. The computer once changed "drought" to "draught", which caused my editor/friend (one of them, that is) no end of hilarity.

    Having friends read over your manuscript is absolutely sound advice - as is reading your story out loud - either to yourself or to other people (I've done both). Reading it to myself works better because then I don't feel like I'm performing, and I can halt abruptly and mutter quite loudly "No, no, no! Where did THAT letter come from?!" without people staring (unless, of course, you are reading out loud to yourself in a public area, which can be an unendingly interesting experience, let me tell you). And I know what you mean about hating your story after slogging through Edits - that terrible E-word.

  6. Thanks, for the comment, Mara! Yes, I know how you feel, my old IMac was pretty senile and it would (even worse) loose stuff which is incredibly terrible when you have a scene you wrote down and then you loose it. Thankfully my laptop is not nearly as terrible. I've yet to find a writer to really LOVES editing, though :)