Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Joys of Editing

gerund or present participle: editing
  1. 1.
    prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.
    "Volume I was edited by J. Johnson"
  2. 2.
    be editor of (a newspaper or magazine).
    "he began to edit the magazine in 1923"
  3.      "he edited the Times for many years."

Editing seems to be a subject that divides the writing world. Some writers, like myself, enjoy it and find it almost as much fun as the writing itself, whereas others dread it and hate every moment of it. It seems you either love it or you hate it. And while some writers take naturally to editing, others find themselves a bit flummoxed by it. 

Now that NaNoWriMo 2016 is over many writers will be turning to their finished first drafts and wondering when they should begin their first edit. That's the first question; how long should you leave between finishing the writing and starting the editing. This seems to be a hotly debated subject, with some people saying just a couple of weeks is enough and others out there suggesting you wait a good six months. 
Me? I think six months is far too long, because if you're anything like me then by the time six months has come round you'll be on to another project and will have forgotten all about editing you novel draft! 

So I would recommend you wait a month, just a month. A month is a good enough length of time for you to have gotten over the awe of having actually finished a first draft, but not too long that you've either lost interest or forgotten half your plot. 
Why is it important to leave time between finishing the writing and starting the edit? 
Because when you finally finish that first draft you feel on top of the world, that first draft is the best thing that anybody could ever have written, ever! So you need to take some time to let that elation wear off before you jump into editing. 
Rule Numbero Uno; Always edit with a clear head. 

When you think enough time has gone by you can start your editing process, which for most people, begins with a lot of Rewriting. 

I like rewriting, for me it's a bit like playing a game. Taking something that doesn't quite sound right and mixing up all the words until I find the right combination, then suddenly - BAM - it sounds amazing. 
Many people rewrite not just sentences but whole paragraphs, chapters or sections of their story. 
Because it's funny how much you notice when you read back through your writing, little niggly things that you thought made sense at the time you were writing them but actually now you're looking at it again just seem really weird. Or whole paragraphs that add absolutely nothing to the story and don't need to be there at all. Remember, readers don't want extra fluff surrounding the story, don't be afraid to chop some of that extra fluff out as well as rewrite the bits that do add to the story. 

Rewriting should also address any majorly obvious plot holes as well as inconsistencies with the characters and any additions or subtractions you'd like to make to the storyline. 

Once you've finished your rewrite you can get down to proper editing, which for me means rereading through my newly rewritten first draft and looking for any grammatical errors, making sure all the punctuation is in the correct places and that everything is spelt right. 

I have a great book that I like to keep close by whenever I'm editing anything and I highly recommend that if you haven't already you get yourself a copy. It's helped me many times and it's clear, precise, easy to understand, and a little bit fun too. Plus in the back it's got all those pesky English words that have more than one meaning explained sort of like a dictionary, so if your brains not working and you can't figure out which led you should be using when Peter lead Susan up the hill, you can just look it up! 
You can purchase Grammar For Grown Ups by Craig Shrives on Amazon here!

When I'm editing I like to start at the beginning of my story and just read through as if I were reading a book written by anybody else. I start at the beginning, move on to the middle, and finish at the end. Some people like to print their drafts out and go through it physically making marks with a red pen (or blue or black or pink or whatever you prefer to use) wherever they spot an error or something that ought to be changed. But I prefer going through it on my laptop. Although I don't like reading off screens particularly much, if I edit on the computer then I don't have to go through the document again later and add in all the edits that I marked on the print out. 

Once you've done your editing, there is, invariably, a short break, cause you've just done it and it's now the best thing that anyone ever could have written, ever! Then after your break go back with a clear head and edit again. 

For a second edit I look for all the things I looked for in the first edit. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, flow, fluff paragraphs, chapter continuity, character inconsistencies and plot holes. 
This often means more rewriting, but if you're like me and you quite enjoy this process then that's not such a bad thing. And if you don't enjoy it just remember that every second you spend reworking this beautiful book of yours leads you one step closer to having a beautifully high quality finished novel, or novella, or short story.

And when you've completed that and you're totally happy with it, you've got a new choice ahead of you. Do you publish traditionally, or do you self-publish?

If you're going to publish traditionally, by which I mean get yourself an agent who will then market your book to publishing companies who will employ their own editors that will go over your work before it is published, then you don't need to do any more yourself unless you want to. All you need to do is start applying to the relevant agents.

But if you're planning on self-publishing then I would recommend getting yourself a couple of beta readers and an external editor. You'll need to pay for this, but in the long run it will be 100% worth every penny. There is no point getting your book published if it isn't edited correctly, readers will know it (even if they can't quite put their finger on what it is that's wrong, they'll know). 
I read a self-published e-book a short while ago that clearly hadn't been professionally edited. The storyline was good, the plot was good, the idea was good, it all needed a bit of work to tighten it up, but it was promising. But the grammar, the spelling and punctuation, and a lot of the sentence structure was awful. I could not believe that this person had published their book and sent it out there in what to me is a half-finished state for the whole world to see. But the saddest thing was that all those errors stopped it from being a pleasure to read, and that is a shame, because all books, all stories, should be a pleasure to read.

No matter whether you hate it or love it, editing is such a crucial part of publishing a book you just can't afford to even look at publishing without it. 

And if you really hate it that much, get someone else to do it, like me. I edit fiction for £15ph.

Happy writing editing!

Rach x

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