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SELF EDITING

August 12, 2020

            I talk about editing quite a bit here at Fred Central. Most recently I did this past May with my article Forest Through The Trees Two. THAT article was a repeat from 2012. There are many more.

            There’s a good reason I bring this subject to the forefront. It’s a major part of what we do as writers. Writing the story is only the first step. Writing chapters, scenes, paragraphs, sentences…these all have to be perfected before they can see the light of day (publication). The last thing we want to do is embarrass ourselves, alienate our audience, come off as amateurs (well those of us that care).

            The other day, a question came up from another do-it-yourself author.

            “What if I can’t afford an editor? What are the chances of doing all the editing myself?”

            Something to that effect.

            Needless to say, but I will anyway, most of the responses told this person it just doesn’t work that well, if at all. Without a second set of eyes, no matter how good you think you are, you can’t see the forest through the trees (or words to that effect).

            Here we go again.

THERE’S SAVING MONEY AND THEN THERE’S CHEAP

            The market is flooded with self-published books. Most of them are easy to spot from the cover alone. The artwork is cheesy and atrocious. That’s a red flag. Given the author somehow has an artistic flare, and slips one out that gets through the cracks, what about what’s inside?

            I’ve had the unfortunate experience of purchasing questionable self-published icky bug stories, since that’s usually all I’ll buy sight unseen (except I DO check the “what’s inside” sample on Amazon for third person, past-tense).

            After reading a few chapters, it becomes readily apparent that the author self-edited their masterpiece. Not only is the spelling syntax and punctuation out there, but the point of view is usually out of control. Then there are often plot threads that go nowhere, plenty of things that don’t make sense, and many times a conclusion that’s stupid or left hanging with no satisfaction. Oh, and let’s not forget excess backstory. Why is it people insist on so much backstory. Why not just start the story with the backstory and work forward?

            Sometimes some of these things are found in EDITED stories, but not as rampant. When you go cheap and have no second set of eyes, you’re blind to your own work. What you see on the page isn’t necessarily what you actually wrote.

THE UGLY TRUTH

            The ugly truth is that you can only cut so many corners. A big selling point is the cover, but some people are not all that concerned with the cover.

            A catchy title is key for some, but that can be fudged to some extent.

            What will kill you is between the front and back cover.

            If the text is crap, you’ll gain no audience, or at the least, severely impede your potential audience. Sure, I’ve seen some horribly written EDITED stories be huge hits because they touched on hot-button topics. They’re rare, but not unheard of.

            Most of the time though, the MAJORITY of the time, I emphasize, your story will have to grow, slowly pick up an audience on the merits of your writing. That means your message must be clear. For it to be clear, it needs to be properly and well edited.

            YOU CANNOT DO THAT ALL BY YOURSELF.

IF YOU’RE GOING TO CUT CORNERS, DON’T DO IT WITH EDITING!

            I cannot emphasize enough how bad an idea it is to self-edit an entire book.

            You only see what you INTENDED, not what you WROTE!

            Your mind fills in the blanks, regardless of what you wrote. It takes a SECOND SET OF EYES, maybe more to catch the things you cannot see.

            Sure, editors cost, but it’s worth it to find a good one. That’s one of the best investments you can make.

BETA READERS

            Initially, if you want to go on the cheap, you can at least start with beta readers. Unless you live in a cave somewhere, or are a hermit, find a few beta readers willing to go through your manuscript and give it a run-through. Let them give you honest feedback on what might be fixed. That can give you insight on major and even minor issues to fix before you seek out an editor.

WRITERS CRITIQUE GROUP

            If you’re in an area with a writers critique group, join and if they’re a good positive group, read your stuff to them and get feedback. This type of group can be invaluable.

LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR

            If part of the reason you don’t want to get edited is not only to save money, but because you can’t take the criticism, or are “too shy,” or whatever, leave your ego at the door. Just think of how reviewers are going to tear your precious “best book in the universe” apart when you get it posted to the world?

SUMMARY

            In my case, I pitched and queried and was persistent. I used a little of everything and finally, after a long time, since I refused to self-publish, I landed a traditional publisher with a small press. I never paid a dime for editing. I had beta readers, read most of my entire manuscripts to my writer’s group, and self-edited. Through my self-editing, I discovered what I’m blind to, and always will be. I know my limits. You should too.

            Happy writing!

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