Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Approaches to Editing

Editing is a crucial element in your writing process. This is an obvious statement. But, when it comes to editing, I do believe that a lot of writers are missing the mark with this crucial step. The end result is a project that might not be presenting the true picture of your story to editors or agents.

Now, before I go any further, I do need to stress that there isn't one right or wrong way to go about editing. Still there are things that each writer needs to consider as they go through this difficult, and sometimes painful process.

You cannot just edit on your own
This is a big one. Writing is certainly a solitary activity, but you have to go outside of your comfort zone and get feedback from other people. If you are looking at your own writing, you are essentially writing with blinders on. You have tunnel vision. Because your are so close to your writing, the odds are you aren't going to see potentially better approaches to the story. You won't likely see the huge mistakes and holes in your writing. This is especially the case if you have spent a ton of time on your writing. At this point, you would know the story so well, that now you start to over-look things. 
The person editing your paper must know what he or she is doing
I have talked about this one before here on the blog. Getting feedback from someone who is still trying to understand their own writing and story will not likely give you the feedback that you need. Remember, if your car is broken, you don't take it to a plumber. You take it to a mechanic. But, can you get feedback that might work from people who aren't the experts? Sure, but with that said, you have to know that there might be some limitations.
Think like a reader, editor or agent
As you write your story, you are thinking like an author. Now, as  you edit your writing or another author's writing, you have to now think like an outsider. How would someone, who has never read your writing and who doesn't know your story react to what you have written? Will they understand what you are talking about? I see this a lot with Fantasy, Science Fiction and some Paranormals. The world building is so in depth, that I really have no idea what the person is talking about?
We also need to look at this like an agent or an editor? Is this marketable? Does this fit with our lines that we are working with? Are you showing the editor or agent that you understand your genre and the line? Although you might love your story, think like these professionals on the other side. Does it work in that context?
Don't just focus on wordsmithing - focus on content
I do think too often, writers spend more time just making things sound pretty or to make the grammar work. Yes, these do affect the writing, but think about the over-all plot of the story. Think about the characters and the conflict.
I recently judged a contest where I can see why the author made it to the finals. The scenes were certainly interesting. The scenes were well written and the words were well crafted. The story? There was absolutely no story. It was simply scenes.
Grammar, punctuation and conventions ALWAYS matter!
Yes, if you are published with a traditional publisher, there will be a copy editor. But, this does not mean you skip looking at the grammar, punctuation and conventions. Demonstrating to your editors and agents that you understand the basic rules of writing say a lot about you as a professional writers. You have to take the time to work at this.
I do need to note here, if you don't understand this, then take the time to learn that grammar.
Be honest when editing
Being kind and touchy feely about an author's writing is not going to make the story better. Yes, we need motivation to write, but when it comes to editing, this is the time for tough love.

Remember this about editing. You essentially get one chance to make your case to an editor or agent. We are not cold and heartless. We won't reject you if we see one dangling participle. But, if you send material that isn't ready, what are you saying about you or your writing? Even if you decide to self-publish, are you really sending out the very best? Is this giving your reader a clear picture of who you are as a writer?

1 comment:

  1. I really struggle with editing myself. It's the phase I haven't conquered yet and I tend to take A LOT of breaks in between chapters. Which might be my downfall *sigh*.

    But thank you for the advice!