Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Authors Need Outside Readers

Editing is not fun. In fact, if you ask any author, they would probably rank editing right up there with root canals or teaching little kids to tie their shoes. It sucks. But what is worse is when you have been working hard on a book, edited the crud out of it, and then you get it back from a friend only to find huge mistakes.

What happened?

The answer is simple. You edited it.

For writers, it is beyond crucial to have someone on the outside read your manuscripts and edit those stories for you. No, I am not just talking about the content here. I am talking about the grammar, the punctuation and the typos. You need to understand that these small errors might be the difference between some editor or agent wanting to see more and that infamous rejection letter.

So, why do we have so much difficulty editing our own work? It comes down to some pretty basic things. You are:

  • Too close to the work - This one is pretty easy to understand. You have been working like crazy on your story. You know that thing inside and out. But when you know it that well, you will often breeze right through a section because you know "you just wrote that section" or "you know you spent a lot of time writing that the first time." Because you know it so well, it will also link into a lot of the other problems below.
  • Too rushed - That darn deadline. Whether or not it is from an editor, a contest deadline, or a self-imposed deadline, you will often work a lot faster if you know you have to get that story turned in. Rushing through it will force you to skip sections. You might also find yourself editing the story on the computer with your finger right on that down arrow. As you edit, you will probably find yourself hitting that key even faster. The end result?? You missed mistakes
  • Too tired - We all have busy lives. I get it. But if you are editing either after a marathon writing session, or editing during a time period when your brain is just not there, you will make mistakes. I know this sounds obvious, but it is true. Editing requires much more focus than you would need when writing that story. It is mindless entertainment and if you are not on your game, you will miss things.
  • Reading miscues - This one is annoying. Reading miscues are simply times when your brain doesn't want to make mistakes so it covers up the errors. These are situations when you might type the same word two times in a row and not catch it. This could be when you write "quiet" when you wanted to write "quite." When your brain sees the mistake, it simply fixes it in your head for you and you don't see it.
  • Reliance on technology - This is when you are hoping that MSWord and your spell checker and grammar checker are going to catch things. You have to remember that your computer cannot read. It is simply looking for patterns in letter combinations. I should also add that the grammar checker, unless you have adjusted it on your own, is not checking for everything. In fact, the new MSWord (2013) isn't even checking for Fragments and Run-ons. Even after you set it to look for GRAMMAR AND STYLE, it will not look for those mistakes. You have to manually check the boxes. For those of you computer illiterate, you might want to talk to someone who can walk you through it.
The point is, having someone else look at your work will be a new set of eyes. No, you don't have to pay someone to do this for you. It is perfectly fine to work with those critique partners. But remember, in the end, we are all human and we will make mistakes. We just have to take a bit more time in the hopes we make less of those than the other writer out there.

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