Many many moons ago when I first began thinking about becoming a self published author, I didn’t think about editors. I thought that was something traditionally published authors used because the publishing house offered them. Then I launched a few short spanking stories onto LuLu without any editing other than my own. I sold a few copies. They are still up for sale. I should pull them off the shelf. I’ve read a few indie authors lately that I can tell have never been edited by anyone other than the author before being put up for sale. These are the stories that I have not been able to write a review on because I just couldn’t bring myself to suggest to anyone else to read them. So instead of a review this week, I’m going to talk about editing.
By editing, I don’t just mean grammar. True, grammar needs to be checked over several times. I’m sure I’ll find at least three grammar mistakes in this post after I’ve posted it. What I’m talking about is the content of the writing and the writing itself. Stephen King said in his book On Writing “…it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer…” (pg 142). The quote goes on to say that you can’t make a great writer out of a good one, but you can make a competent writer into a good writer. When I read that line I wanted to slap him. How does he define “good writer” and “competent writer”? My first thought was “Oh no! What category do I fit into?!” and instantly convinced myself Mr. King would hate my writing. Then I took a deep breath and found an editor.
An editor will take those sentences that sound pretty damn good to you and help make them fucking great to everyone else. As indie writers we need to pay even more attention to what we put out there for people to read. I think the most successful indie writers use an editor and other crew members to get their work in the best shape possible before sending out for sale.
A Content editor will work with you in regards to your word choices, your story line, and some of the grammar. They will pick up some grammar errors, but that isn’t their primary goal. Their goal is to be sure your sentences are sound, and there aren’t any gaping holes in your story. Say for instance your main character is a hunky MC President. If you have that character saying things like, “Aww, shucks” or “That’s awesome”, the content editor would point that out something not realistic for your character.
A Copy editor digs through your words to find the grammar mistakes and helps clean all that up.
Do you need both? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how much the Content editor will do for you, or if you decide that you just want someone to get the grammar cleaned up. The editor I’m working with right now seems to be pretty great at picking up the grammar issues along with the content issues, so I’m leaning towards not using a Copy Editor for my novella. However, I might change my mind later.
The main issue is that you need a different set of eyes on your work. Someone who isn’t emotionally invested in the characters or the work. They will find the small things that annoy readers, like using “to” when you meant “too”.
Write now I’m working with an indie writer to help edit her work. (Did you catch that back there…an error like that makes the reader stop reading to look at it again. The last thing you want is your reader to stop reading to do anything, let alone double check your words.) I’m working with her because I think her story line was great, but I found too many errors in the book to enjoy it properly. I’m looking forward to the experience and will be sure to let you know how it goes from my side of the editing world.
In the meantime, if you are thinking of self-publishing or even if you are thinking to submit to a traditional publisher- get your work edited. Virgin eyes will make an astounding difference to your piece.
Next week, I’m going to review another Katie Porter book. I’ve waited long enough to dive into the second book of the series.