In my day job, I do quite a bit of non-fiction writing. Even though I’ve been writing non-fic for many years, I’m better known professionally for my proofing and editing. Co-workers cringe when I draw out my trusty red pen.
So, when I made the leap into fiction writing, editing was waiting for me like an old, familiar friend. However, it’s more like a love/hate relationship. I constantly struggle with it. Not because I hate editing, but because I actually enjoy it…a little too much.
How could this be a detriment? Well, like many authors, I set aside time specifically for writing. This is a practice I highly recommend. Those stolen, distraction-free moments are priceless.
Imagine me with my laptop and two hours to write. This is how it usually goes:
“Alright, Bryna, you’ve got a lot of work to do today.” (Yes, I do talk to myself on occasion.)
“You need to finish up chapter 5 and write the fight scene for chapter 15.” (No, I don’t usually write chapters in order.)
“Let’s start by reading the last paragraph written for 5.”
“Hey! There’s a typo.” (That’s usually how it starts.)
“Ya know what? I’ll just re-write this entire sentence. And since I’ve re-written that sentence, it will fit better if I just re-write the whole paragraph. Hmmm, it would really help the flow to move that paragraph to a different section. I’ll read that section to make sure. Yes, it fits better, but I think I’ll re-write a couple of sentences in this section and delete this paragraph….” (you get the idea)
Pretty soon, I’ve spent the whole two hours editing rather than writing anything new….love/hate.
And even though I’ve edited every paragraph multiple times by the time the last word is inked, I then send it to at least a couple of folks to edit and usually my beta readers have a few suggestions too. Because even with my obsession over editing, I know the truth – authors should never review their own work. It needs to be seen by a fresh pair of eyes.
Ultimately, here’s my advice on editing…
– Control your Inner Editing Beast. Don’t use “writing time” to edit.
– Use an Experienced Editor. Unless your husband teaches Literature or works for Scholastic, he’s cheap and convenient but probably not the best choice. Choose someone experienced in proofing and editing written works. Choose more than one person if possible.
– Know your Editor. There are too many unscrupulous editing agencies out there. We have so many good resources in our own communities such as a reporter from the local newspaper, fellow authors, or even a public relations/communications professional at a local business. I’ve also found that secretaries that work with legal documents or contracts make good proofreaders. And even though I suggest that you pick someone you know, don’t pick someone you know well. Friends tend to hold back.
Check out what these indie authors had to say on the subject of editing: