Is there anything more ghastly than letting someone else, besides you, touch your beloved creation?
Imagine how Dr. #Frankenstein would feel if some putz replaced the monsters human nose with a carrot?
Today's entry as you may have guessed is the horrifying truth about #editing.
Oh, God no! Do I have to edit CM?
Well, yes you do but don't do it while you write. Get your story out of your wee noggin and down on the page or computer screen and don't stop until it's all out. There will be plenty of time to edit later on and after you have had a break from writing. And enjoy your break! You've earned it and you need to rest up for the gruesome task to come.
And just why do we edit?
There are a number of reasons:
1/ Your brain is very subjective and stubborn.
Your manuscript might make perfect sense to you. However, to someone objective and not close to your work, it may be confusing, lacking context, rough around the edges and boringly long. Chances are, you have worked on your book for many long hours, days, weeks and perhaps even years. Your conscious mind no longer sees the errors you have made and in fact, thinks your work is humanity's salvation and destined for a #Nobel or #Pulitzer.
2/ Believe it or not, you're still human and make mistakes just like everyone else.
Personally, I have never read a book or watched a film that didn't have mistakes. Granted, they are usually quite small and inconsequential. My point is, that if a multimillion dollar film still has mistakes in it after hundreds of eyes and ears have scrutinized it - then your book doesn't stand much of a chance of being flawless.
3/ You run on and on and on.
We all do it and it sounds perfectly marvellous in our own minds because as mentioned, our minds are lying to us or no longer care. Readers do not enjoy run on sentences or monologues so it's time to put on your Jack Torrence from #theshining face and chop, chop, chop!
You are in competition with millions of other writers. Make sure your creation looks and reads like you've been writing for decades and you do in fact have a Nobel or Pulitzer.
Unlike your Mom or your dog or cat, no one in the literary world is going to blow smoke out your ass! Unless, of course, you deserve it. Reviewers are going to call you out and give you a scathing review if your work is filled with errors. Don't give them a chance! Edit your work within an inch of it's life.
I started my writing career in the film world, writing scripts. The formatting is quite different, of course, but the big difference is that you let the visuals do the talking and keep your flowery descriptions of things to a minimum. Not so in the novel world of novels and short stories where your words magically set the stage. It was quite a shift for me to re-acquaint myself with the rules of literary writing for #theforgotten and re-learn those rules. A good writer knows the rules inside and out so that editing is rather easy and more creative rather than correcting.
The three horrid steps of book editing.
So, your first round of edits should be yours. Here are a few of the things you should look out for:
Like your brain, you shouldn't believe spell check has your best interests in mind. It's a program and a useful tool and if you rely on it to catch all you're mistakes, yule get frustrated!
Punctuation is a biggie. There are entire books dedicated to the subject and I highly recommend reviewing the rules of punctuation before beginning your edit.
Watch out for the run on sentence. Our brains, yes the ones you can't trust, would rather read three short compact sentences than one long drawn out paragraph. Short and sweet conveys more action and keeps the mind focused.
Shakespeare did it, so why can't you? I don't see anything wrong with a conservative and tasteful amount of asides as long as they contribute to the mood or what you are writing. If you're doing it just to be smart and sound clever - it's not worth the effort.
Real people and real names.
I see a lot of writers asking about this all the time in blogs, groups and forums. You don't have to be an intellectual property lawyer to understand the basics. All you need is a bit of knowledge and common sense.
While it may be fun to include a friend, family member or colleagues name in your work - be careful. You might think turning your boss into a demon is hilarious - your boss might feel differently. Using your bosses name is perfectly fine as long as you don't slander him or create a falsehood about him that he could prove was false in court. Let's say in your creation, he worships Satan and controls all his employees with blood magic. That would be slanderous and I would advise against it. However, if you really want to describe him thusly, just change his name to something close and/or describe him in such a way that your colleagues will clue in and have a good chuckle.
Ditto with public figures.
So, how many rounds of editing should you do?
When you can no longer find errors and the flow is delightfully smooth as is the pacing and your dialogue is spot on - then you are ready for the next editing step. In my personal edit of my latest book of short stories, I went over and over each story at least twenty times. So, if you think you are done, go over it again and I'll bet you'll find another change or two.
I like to print my manuscripts and go at them with a red marker. There's just something about editing on paper that increases my editing instincts.
And lastly, read your dialogue out loud to see if it sounds like a real person speaking. Even better read with a friend or an actor friend. The dialogue that sounds great on the page will sound very different being read aloud by someone other than your inside voice. Try it - you'll like it!
Friends, Romans - give me your eyes.
In this step, it's okay to have a friend, family member, dog or cat look at your book to catch any errors you may have missed. Just keep in mind that your dog loves you unconditionally and just wants to keep you happy. Don't expect an honest review from Fido!
And the cat? The cat will probably try and sneak in more errors just to spite you, so don't trust him or her.
But younger brothers are trustworthy so heed their warnings and advice.
Fix any errors in your work and make the appropriate changes.
The professional editor. Eep!
You mean - you want a complete stranger to mess with my manuscript?
The horror! The Horror!
Sadly, there's no way around it in this dog eat dog writing world. And if you want to sell some books and gain some credibility - you must let go of the reins. Now, how much you let go is entirely up to you and in part depends how much of step one and two you completed.
And just where do I find these editors of which you speak?
Let the fun begin! This may be the hardest part of your journey from idea to finished book. Good editors are extremely hard to find because of their goodness and their crazy busy schedules because they are so sought after. The better you are at editing and relationship building with your writers, the more you can charge as well.
Writers who are new to the writing business, might want to take a deep breath right now.
I can't say with one hundred percent certainty but you are probably going to have to pay for the privilege of letting a complete stranger mutilate your book. Okay, okay, maybe mutilate is a bit too harsh but I am horror writer. How about disembowel? Exsanguinate?
In truth, the editor will not really change a thing but will suggest how to change things to make your book better.
But won't those nasty editors have opinions of their own?
Why yes they do and that's why I asked you to take a deep breath.
The stakes have been raised.
Not only do you have to search for a good editor but when you find him or her, you have to decide if they are a good fit for you. Remember the rein pulling? I guess the goal of being a good writer and following my steps one and two to the tee, is to make sure the editor is left scratching his or her head wondering if there is anything that needs to be changed or anything that could improve the book. This is the sweet spot you should strive to be in.
Anyway, back to where to find these nasty creatures?
Word of mouth is ideal. Ask another writer who they use and get their details and don't forget to ask the writer - how they got on with the editor etc.
You can ask some groups etc on fartbook. You could dive into the piranha filled ocean of https://www.fiverr.com/ and perhaps get lucky. A brief note about fiverr. In my humble opinion, fiverr is a gamble. The folks who run the site don't do a very good job of vetting their service providers so although Jim or Jill advertised that they can juggle live chainsaws - ask to see their intact arms before you sign on.
On a positive note, fiverr may be the cheapest option for finding an editor. I personally, haven't dealt with any editors on the site and my experience with other service providers has been excellent, just okay and in one instance I had to lodge a complaint.
One more bit of nastiness before I tell you one of my editor #horror stories. You will get your manuscript back from the editor with tracking changes. I despise these abominations! Not because I am beyond making mistakes, it's just because I find them very messy, confusing and hard to read and I'm probably not very good at reviewing them and accepting or deleting the changes. Just saying.
CM's most horrible editing horror story!
Read it if you dare!
As I mentioned in previous blogs, I enjoy doing things myself and learning new things. Creating a book, I knew, would be an adventure and for the most part I enjoyed the experience. I created my manuscript, formatted it for ebook and paperback and created my own cover. I knew that I would have to give up the reins when it came to editing but I had no idea it would turn into a rather unpleasant fiasco.
I had a small budget of $500 which I though would attract someone with at least a little experience but knew a highly coveted editor was out of my league. But where to look?
As I also mentioned, fiverr is a crap shoot and I scanned the service providers but no one popped out at me. I thought, why not just plug in book editors in the former search engine Google(now an agenda engine)? Again, this was a crap shoot as I didn't know anyone's work personally nor did I have a friend or colleague who could vouch for their credentials. Fartbook? Perhaps not a general search but I decided to query my fartbook friends and perhaps a friend of a friend might show up and at least someone could vouch for them.
This method worked well, or so I thought. I soon had a few people to query but most turned out to be non-fiction editors or proof readers. I narrowed my search down to Jane Doe who was just starting out but had some experience and was in fact the editor of an author friend.
Eureka! I had done it.
We agreed that the best way to be sure we wanted to work together was for her to edit a sample chapter or in my case a short, short story.
Off she went.
I got the story back with the track changes(boo!) and everything seemed fine. She hadn't sucked the life out of my story and her suggestions weren't too bad. I could live with this.
So, we agreed to work together. The price was fine and we decided on a soft deadline as I was not in a big hurry.
Due to extenuating circumstances, she did not meet the agreed upon soft deadline. Not a big deal and I'm a compassionate man - so I extended the deadline.
Then the big day came, when my beloved rushed back into my arms. Poor thing was hardly recognizable - all covered in tracks marks! Where had she been?
I knew something was amiss when I got a gigantic email from said editor extolling my writing ability but hoping I didn't mind her social suggestions. Social suggestions? What the hell does that mean?
I sat down with a cup of steaming hot lapsang souchong - a most wonderful smoky black tea - and opened my edited book. And there they were, those treaded track changes! I shrugged, knowing there would be lots of them and knowing that good editors make good suggestions and I didn't have to accept any of them. So, I began to read the track changes and noticed they were very long winded and not brief and to the point. Yes, there were some excellent suggestions on run on sentences and a few words spell check had duped me into leaving alone. But the majority of the track changes were not typical editor comments! Oh no, they were in fact the social suggestions mentioned in the monstrous email.
Just a quick word about me and my character, morals and ethics. And I only write this because you have no idea who I am and what I stand for. My friends know. My colleagues know. But, you dear reader and the nasty editor have no idea.
I treat all people with respect and sensitivity no matter their race, gender or sexual preference. Not only do I write about the paranormal and horrific, I write about subjects that make people feel uncomfortable. Masturbation, prostitution, corporations, racism, alcoholism and many more and all things that happen on a daily basis in every community all over the world. I don't go out of my way to create sensationalism, I just tell it as it is.
So as it turns out, social suggestions, was just an interesting way of saying, "I'm the PC(politically correct) Police and you're under arrest!"
According to Sargent Jane Doe, I'm an uneducated redneck cretin that needs to enrol in a Community College political correctness course.
I knew I wasn't a cretin but I had to be sure. I asked my friends and colleagues, who had read my book, if any of these charges had merit. They assured me they did not and, in fact, I had done an exemplary job of dealing with such harsh and taboo topics with respect and sensitivity. They were also beside themselves at the thought of a professional editor stooping to such dark depths to promote their PC agenda.
At this point, not only was there steam wafting from my lapsang souchong - it was shooting out from ears very cartoon-like. I did not react as you might think and start filling my plastic pails with goat urine with the intent of filling her car up. No, I learned long ago, when you are overcome with anger - let twenty four hours pass before you react or respond. And I did just that.
The next day, I sent a very professional but curt email explaining my horror at her very unprofessional use of my book to promote her PC agenda. I also mentioned she was the nastiest nasty editor I had ever dealt with I would be sure to tell all my friends and colleagues to avoid her at all costs. In my case $500 that I would have been wiser to just flush down the toilet. Did I pay her? I did. But only because I feared there might be legal ramifications down the road if I withheld her fee. A very costly lesson but one well worth it as I now can define what I'm looking for in an editor to a finer degree.
So, writer beware!
On with the blog.
By now, having followed steps one, two, three, you should have a manuscript that is ready to publish. You don't have to follow my steps or any advice I or anyone else might give you. You chose the self-publishing route for a reason and you should feel free to do whatever you damn well please! Break the rules! Break them again and again!
Go forth with courage and strength and give yourself a round of applause as you have gone farther than most people. How many people claim to be writers and have a self-published book to prove it? Not many I would wager.
You are a published author. Congratulations.
Now, get busy on your next book.