Friday, September 4, 2015

Why You CAN'T Do This On Your Own

Again, it looks like the ugly beast of self-publishing vs traditional publishing is raising its ugly head. I will tell you, I am not jumping into that argument today. Hey, it's a Friday so why mess things up. What I do want to focus on is another issue far too many authors are trying to do, and they are really gambling with their career.

They are trying to write their book on their own.

No, I am not talking about team writing. I am simply talking about authors who do all of their work - the planning, the drafting, the editing and so forth, entirely on their own. And this is where many of the self-publishing authors are at right now. There are even authors who are interested in taking the traditional publishing approach but doing this as well.

Be warned. There are dangers to this.

Today, I just want to focus in on the editing side of things. In fact there are 5 major reasons why editing your own work is not the safest thing to do:
  1. Too close to the subject
  2. Reliance on technology
  3. Too rushed
  4. Lacking knowledge
  5. Reading Miscues
Let's talk about each.

Being Too close to the subject matter is really a huge issue. You have now been working with that story for many months now. You know those passages inside and out. Your brain even knows how the pages look on your computer screen. If I were to ask you to find something, the odds are you could scan immediately to that point without hesitating. While that might be great for those larger problems, being too close to it means you are scanning too fast when editing. You will hit sections of your story and your brain will simply say, "Oh, I remember that! That should be OK." and off you go. You will miss things here.

The other issue is that if you are too close to the story, you will have a tendency to be reading with blinders on. You only see the story one way, so you might not see significant plot issues. Things worked great for you, but that set of outside eyes will bring out issues that you had not seen when you wrote it the first time.

Technology too plays a major role. With all of the computer material we have available, Relying on technology can really hurt. We are assuming the spell checker and grammar checker are picking things up. The thing is, we forget the computer cannot read. It is just looking for patterns. When it comes to spelling, it is just looking to see if the letters found within two space marks is spelled correctly. For example: is it tot he or is it to the. Yes, it is small but you get the idea.

Authors who are too rushed are also going to miss a ton. You are so eager to get to the next point, that you will miss things. The issue with editing is that you are now doing the work of two people. You are not only writing, but you are also editing. That sense of being rushed comes from you thinking, "All this time I am spending editing could be spent on writing!" Having someone else can keep you on pace. They edit WHILE you write.

Obviously, a lack of knowledge is an issue. Unless you have a ton of writing experience, or a ton of grammar experience, you cannot simply hope for the best with your grammar book sitting next to you. That reference book is only good IF you know you have a problem with that sentence. It is like the line from A MIRACLE WORKER where Anne Sullivan is complaining that a dictionary is stupid. Finding a word in a dictionary only works if you already know how to spell it.

Finally, there is the issue of Reading Miscues. This is simply when your brain doesn't read things the way you put it on paper. Sometimes this is a neurological condition such as Dyslexia, but in many cases, it is simply your brain not wanting to make a mistake, so it airbrushes it out of history.

Some examples of reading miscues can include:
  • repetition of words or phrases
  • homonyms and homophones
  • tense shifts
  • and even using the wrong words
The simple fact is, a different set of eyes will always help. Having an agent will certainly be an added support system for you. Going through traditional publishing will also do that with their entire hierarchy of readers there to help you. Critique groups can also be those additional set of eyes.

And especially for those of you taking the self-publishing approach, FIND that support group. Quit trying to "save money" and do it on your own. Readers will find those mistake and they will not buy your books.

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