EDITING ISN’T THE END OF THE WORLD
A post from one of my writer’s group members prompted another return to one of my favorite subjects, editing.
Let’s face it folks. No matter how hard you try and how many edits, reads, folds, staples, spindles and mutilates you do on your work, once an editor at a publisher gets hold of it, you’re probably going to be surprised when you get it back full of red ink. It may be a real dash to your ego, it may toss you into the depths of despair, it may make you think you pursued the wrong career!
It may make you add your negative adjective here_____ editing.
PART OF THE PROCESS/HALF THE FUN
The idea is not to take it personally, but look at it as another part of the creative process. Sure, you don’t want an editor to rewrite your book. If you find an editor ghost writing your story, it’s probably time to talk to the publisher and say “wait a minute.”
A good editor doesn’t do that. What they do is look for content, structure and grammatical mechanics. If your story needs a complete rewrite, that’s something that should’ve been caught by the publisher or agent before you signed a contract, and made clear they intended to do that. It’s also something you should be doing, not them. If they’re doing it, they’re basically stealing your story. You’re supposed to be the writer, not them.
WHAT MOST RED INK REALLY MEANS
The bottom line is that depending on the function of an editor, when you get to the red ink, you’re usually past the biggies, like structural changes. The first read will be to make those major story tweaks, big cuts and switching chapters. That may involve some red but, is usually more general in nature. These big issues have to be resolved by mutual consent. That may be a painful process when you have to kill off a favorite character or something, but if a story doesn’t need that character or scene, oh well. These initial stages catch those things as well as continuity errors, timelines etc.
The red ink is the grammatical things, sentence structure, point of view violations and such tweaks. A good editor could leave a lot of red per page, depending on your core skill.
Once those tweaks are made, a final read could reveal something nobody saw the first time. That could (or may not) lead to another round of edits. Be prepared!
However, seeing a lot of red doesn’t always mean a lot of work. It could still just be tweaking.
THE ULTIMATE GOAL IS A QUALITY STORY
Your ultimate goal is to put out a quality story that shines, not something that will ceaselessly embarrass you down the road. The red ink now will do you many favors in the long run. Don’t look at it as a chore. Look at it as a learning experience and embrace it. Also, it’s another opportunity to once again, relive your story.