Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Editing—It Makes All the Difference

As a reviewer, I’ve had the opportunity to read hundreds of books in a variety of genres. While not every book has been my favorite, what leaves me feeling most disappointed is when I think to myself, “This could have been a great book…if only it had been edited more thoroughly.”

I once read a series of children’s books. I enjoyed the message and loved the characters, but the sheer number of typographical errors became distracting.

There was a mystery novel written by a famous author. It was an excellent read, but do you know what I remember most about it? In one chapter the bad guys had kidnapped the hero and taken his belt. In the following chapter, the hero used the belt—the one he no longer had—as a tool to assist in his escape.

In another book, the main character’s mother’s name changed several times and one of the character’s cars was green early in the book but silver later on.

Now, I’ll admit, I’m not as good at editing my own work as I am at spotting errors in the work of others, but the editing phase of completing a manuscript can’t be rushed. In addition, a critique group, and a third party editor are going to catch errors and inconsistencies you’re going to miss.

After sending a manuscript to my critique group, I review the feedback and make the changes I feel are necessary. Then I let the manuscript sit for at least a week. I go back and perform three rounds of edits: one to pick up typos, one to focus on grammar, and the last to check for inconsistencies. Then it goes back to my critique group.

I didn’t hire a third party editor for my first children’s picture book, Little Shepherd. The publisher and I went through it, and it had been looked over by my critique group numerous times. When I complete Amelia’s Mission, however, which is a middle grade historical, I will definitely send it off to an objective set of eyes to help me polish it before I submit it to a publisher.

I once spoke with a woman who had been in the entertainment industry for decades. She had written a book about her father, an award-winning composer. She had a difficult time finding a publisher. She said that breaking into the publishing world was more of a challenge than catching a break in entertainment.

In such a market, taking the time to edit your book thoroughly will make a huge difference. Proper editing can turn a good book into a great one.

This post originally appeared at VBT - Writers on the Move on January 13, 2011.


Nancy Stewart said...

Cheryl, this is great advice and, as such, should be near to an author's heart! I, too, do my own editing with the help of my marvelous critique group. Thanks for writing this article and for your blog, which I find quite helpful.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

You're so right, Cheryl. It's so sad to read what would be a great book, if it weren't full of mistakes. Like you, I can't always see the faults in my writing. That's why a crit group is good and also another set of eyes in an editor.

Great reminder.

JM said...

As a reviewer, my most common wish is for better editing. Not with every book, of course, but it happens way more than it should.

I think a lot of people just get excited. If they aren't going through traditional means where editors are provided, then editing isn't given as much credit as it should.

That's not to say that's always the case! No throwing virtual tomatoes. I know non-traditionally published authors who need to send me the details of their editors...

Rebecca Camarena said...

Cheryl, great advice. Thanks for sharing.

elysabeth said...

Excellent article on editing. It is a shame not more authors will take the time to get some help editing their manuscripts. I, like many of you, have read books that I thought would have been good or better had there been some editing. I had a review on my third book where the reviewer said that the editing wasn't up to snuff - but the book had been edited several times - by my editor and the editor at the publisher - so it's a matter of what really needed editing.

Anyway - great posting. Remember even if you self publish or publishing using a POD entity like - you need to have someone edit your book before it goes out - you want to always put your best foot forward no matter who or where you publish through. - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

Where will the adventure take you next?

(PS Cheryl - please add an email subscriber feature to this blog so we can know when new postings are made - thanks - E :) )

NancyCL said...

Cheryl, thanks much for the wonderful article. As an author and an editor myself, I know what you're talking about. I can easily find mistakes in other's writing, but always seem to go over my own without noticing them. That's why it is very important to have "fresh eyes" look at anything you want to submit. Just a tiny typo or punctuation error could set the whole stage for turning off a reader or a publisher.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. You know, I made some changes to a manuscript that I want to send off to a publisher, and when I was reading it to my girls last night, I found errors in it. Sigh! Had to go through it a few times again. Good thing I have my critique groups to help me out.

Virginia S Grenier said...

This just made my Top Ten Blog Post for my next newsletter. Great post.

Cheryl said...

Fabulous. Thanks Virginia.

Margaret Rose said...

My best advice is to put some distance between your last edit and the publishing date. With full novels, this is usually difficult to achieve, but even a few days between edits can help you see mistakes.

V.R. Leavitt said...

Definitely great advice here. Editing is key, but something that often gets neglected. As you said, having a critique group is great, because they will often find stuff, you don't.

Janet Ann Collins said...

I certainly agree about critique groups, but they don't catch everything.