Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Many Layers of Editing

One of the requirements for making a good book-- or making a book good-- is editing. A good publisher uses not just one editor, not just a proofread or a copy edit, but serious craptastic editing-- from after your manuscript is accepted for publication until the final proof is sent to the printer.

At WiDo,  I have been involved in all aspects of editing: reviewing submissions, line by line revisions with authors, copy editing finished manuscripts, and proofreading the typeset proofs. Once I had to re-edit a published book that had too many mistakes slip through and needed to be reprinted. If you have published with WiDo, I guarantee at some point I have looked at your manuscript along with about four to six other people.

That is a whole lot of editing that goes into one single manuscript. I absolutely LOVE it!! It's thrilling to see a project come together from the beginning. You take a darn good first submission and after a series of editing events along with some skilled design work, you have the polished, pretty, published book ready to sell.

There's a lot that goes into the making of a book. But the Big E-- Editing-- is key to making the writer's work shine. If you plan to self-publish, get yourself an English grammar and composition book-- in fact get several-- and study punctuation like your career depends on it.Okay, not just if you plan to self-publish. Nothing will get a rejection faster than a query letter full of punctuation mistakes.

When you're not sure about comma placement, go look it up. Don't just guess or rely on your Word Processor. It's okay to be casual and informal about all this when writing blogs and emails but in publishing, the rules of Standard English apply.

Comma placement, misuse of capitals, run-on sentences and countless other issues lurk between the lines to jump out and distract the reader who just spent good money on a book they expected to be polished and professional.

E is for Editing!

55 comments:

  1. Great post! I am a pretty decent writer, but the guidance of an editor is like having a fairy godmother sprinkle magic dust all over a manuscript. Many books would be like Cinderella in rags without that extra help.

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  2. It's always a good idea to have someone else take a look at your copy before you submit it. After awhile, our minds will fill in the blanks and make things look right even when they are wrong on the page. I used to proofread ad copy, which is usually pretty simple and there was still a ton of mistakes.

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  3. I haven't written a book that required an editor, but I must admit I am constantly editing my articles. Bad in some cases, good in others, if you edit to much you end up with a totally new article..

    Stopping by via the A - Z Challenge, I've added you via GFC, followed your tweets I didn't see a Google+ or would have added you to my circle.

    Feel free to visit me at
    http://www.scatteredmusings.net/2012/04/buying-car/

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  4. Hi Karen,

    Coming from the A-Z Challenge through Alex Cavanaugh's!

    Nice reading your post here! I am glad I bloghopped and learned much from you!

    Thanks for sharing Karen! :-)

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  5. My wip is nearly done and I can't wait to start the editing process!! Grammar is not my strenth, but we're going to have to become friends real fast!!

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  6. I'm not a writer but I can see the importance of editing. There's nothing that annoys me more than trying to read something with errors all over the place.

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  7. Beautiful post. I actually love editing, because it thrills to see what I can cut, make stronger, rearrange in order to form an even better story.

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  8. It does annoy me when I read a book and there are silly little spelling mistakes etc in them. Something I paid good money for should be perfect! Great advice, thank you :)

    Universal Gibberish

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  9. I quite like editing for the same reasons as you! :D I intend to get a proper editor to check my WIP for me when I'm ready. For now, I am still polishing it up! :D

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  10. Editing is hard sometimes. Especially when you know you have to cute a scene or a sentence you might truly love but losing it will make your story better. I love this post though and thank you for stopping by my blog. ;)

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  11. Editors are so important! And it's a completely different league to writing - often the two roles can't do the other, e.g. writers don't make good editors and editors don't make good writers.

    Great post.

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

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    1. Megan, Well, I hope that maxim isn't true, because I am both!

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  12. Editing is absolutely crucial, but unfortunately, it's not all that fun. Or at least the revision process for my own manuscripts isn't. I enjoy critiquing others' work, though.

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  13. Editors are heroes in my opinion. Yeah for editors. Without them, writers would be in trouble.
    Karen

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  14. I wish I had passion for editing and writing like you do. It's not that fun to me. But I'm trying to hang in there since I recently started blogging and signed up for this challenge. (That felt good getting out!) Thanks for letting me share!


    Eat Live Move: Intuitive Eating from A to Z

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    1. I just saw your Jesse Stuart quote. I needed to read that. Thank you!


      Eat Live Move: Intuitive Eating from A to Z

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  15. If I had given serious thought to a career when young, this is what I should have chosen. I know now that I would have been a good editor and would have loved my chosen field. Fortunately, I did enjoy my working life at UCLA, both in budgeting and technical writing, but still......

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  16. So true, great words... my weakest part is the editing. I know you and I have had this conversation... you have given me some sound advice.

    Excellent! ... to the challenge "E" is for Efficient!
    Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
    A to Z Co-Host
    IZOMBIE: Visit the Madness

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  17. Ha! Editing is my word for today too. It was a patient and kind editor who taught me most of what I know about the craft of writing. Yeah for editors!

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  18. I used to be really good with grammar in hs and college. I think I need to refresh some skills.

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    1. a. eye, So was I, but after years of being sloppy in my casual writing, I'll get confused about punctuation and have to reach for my handy grammar book.

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  19. If I'm in doubt, I look it up.
    And you used one of my favorite words - craptastic. (Usually reserved for the cinematic marvels on SyFy.)

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  20. Yay for editing!

    I'm not the best editor of my own work, but I do try very hard to get it right. And when I'm not sure of something, I look it up. That's what Google and other search engines are for, right? I'm constantly learning.

    Thanks for giving us a quick insight into your world of publishing!

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  21. I'm lucky that all of that stuff comes quite naturally to me - like maths to other people, or the ability to sing. It doesn't stop me questioning my comma placement, and moving it, then moving it back!

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  22. I absolutely love, love, love editing.

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    1. It seems to be one of those things people either love intensely or hate intensely.

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  23. Great advice. There are so many rules to English grammar, and even more exceptions. Yikes.

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  24. And I'm another one who also chose "Editing" as my A-to-Z word for today!

    Thanks for the visit and the comment on my blog -- I appreciate it!

    Happy A-to-Zing!

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  25. I agree with you! If you aren't sure, look it up! I learn something new every day, and I hope to continue each day of my life! I am editing for a great "thinker" right now. The pieces of his manuscript come to me and it makes my head spin. Once edited, it is brilliant. However, I could not have written it. I enjoy editing so much!

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  26. I've been thinking a lot about editing lately. I was told something worrisome by an author who decided to self-pub that publishing houses are cutting back and that their editors are acting more like marketing liasons and doing less editing, and therefore expect an author's book to be fairly well-polished if they're going to accept it.

    From what you're saying it sounds like this isn't entirely true, or at least not for everyone, so that's heartening. :)

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    1. Jasmine, You have a valid concern. I'd be suspect of a publisher that gets a book out in less than three months. Even six months is pushing it, to allow for the layers of editing that need to happen for it to be a polished, ready for press book. Publishers love manuscripts that are well-crafted and require less work, to be sure, which is why they like agents to screen things. But at some point, the editing process needs to happen, and it takes time.

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    2. I agree with you Karen. It does take time and I'm always amazed at how little time, some writers put into the job of editing.

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    3. Thanks for answering this, Karen. It's good to know that editors do still edit! :D

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    4. In this digital revolution, we now have freelance editors that will do the job for you. There are a lot of support industries popping up for self-pub authors, meaning there are new costs added to the writer's back and a lot of scam artists out there. The best defense is a really tough, but sweet and trusted, critique buddy, and a good support system where known rip offs, and those with reliable services can be shared with others.

      I'm always up for copy editing, but tread carefully with critiques or full on editing. My time as an editor for a cultural arts magazine left me with tremendous respect for the very fine art and craft of professional editors. When do you know that something's wrong with the manuscript, and when do you know if a strong and unique voice needs help blossoming? Editing is an art of its own, which is why I doubt it will die off as a profession. But it is in for a bumpy ride.

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  27. I love this. Writers may craft a story, but editors are the ones that make it readable. In today's world of indie authors, more people need to realize that a good editor makes a book shine, and good editing takes time.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  28. Ugh...I hate editing. But I also like having my books done.

    So. I edit.

    I am trying to read all the A to Z blogs, but coming back to the ones I really like.
    Looking forward to seeing what you do all month!

    Tim
    The Other Side
    The Freedom of Nonbelief

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  29. Trying to edit my own stuff is impossible but trying to find someone to think in the same way is also

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  30. This is a really well-crafted post, Karen. I like hearing more about what you do and I appreciate that you are willing to share you knowledge for those looking into self-publishing.

    I think editors are an invaluable tool for any writer. :)

    And thank you for stopping by my blog today. I appreciate it.

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  31. I haven't been involved in editing to the degree you have, but I enjoy doing it. Maybe it goes along with my background in software testing because I like finding (and correcting) errors.

    Thanks for posting this!

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  32. Great post! It seems as I grow as a writer, editing is the one thing I've found that I value more and more. The process of going back through a manuscript, whether it's mine or a critique partners, is exhilirating. :)

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  33. Great post! I'm currently editing my novel and I'm really enjoying it.
    Happy A to Z! :)

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  34. I've really grown to enjoy editing, partly because it shows I've reached the point where I'm not afraid to change my work, even if it's been unchanged for many, many years. A great writer knows what to take out, what to rewrite, what to flesh out, and what to revise, instead of leaving everything exactly as-is and just adding new stuff, or rewriting junk that just bogs the storyline down.

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  35. Great tip. I would definitely need a second or third or... set of eyes if I should ever get serious about writing. Maybe I'll stick to crocheting.

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  36. I love editing, I love figuring out how to make something better, how to change a scene a little to make it stronger.

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  37. I was so stressed out about the editing process of my book. It turned out to be my favorite part of the journey. I decided I was going to listen to what each of my editors had to say and make the changes they suggested. I am so glad I did.

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  38. I hated editing up until two months ago, when I had the revelation that editing is not like rewriting. Rather, it's an entirely different process. Trust me to get that right with other people's work but not my own. Palm in face moment.

    Jessica
    A to Z Blogger & SF/Fantasy Writer @ Visions of Other Worlds

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  39. I often find grammatical errors in books that I read; I don't mind it so much unless I keep seeing the same errors again and again. That's why I agree that it's important for writers to study grammar and punctuation, because too many grammatical errors can turn off picky readers like me. :) Also, I read one book that was full of exclamation points, which got to be kind of annoying; it made the narrator seem way too bubbly. I wish those had been edited too.

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  40. Great reminder Karen. Oh how I hate reading a newspaper, newsletter, magazine filled with typos and badly written stories. Rules I learned so long ago from the Sisters at Our Lady of Lourdes all ignored ! It's good to know there are still real professionals out there who feel grammar is and spelling is important and not optional.

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  41. I agree on the importance of editing (how could I not when I am an editor?)but I thought I'd mention something I run into occasionally, which is when I have to explain to an editor that no, something is not a mistake, it is simply in correct UK English, or using the Oxford style manual rather than their beloved Chicago one.

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  42. Karen--Hi--found you on the challenge. And editing is very important-I think it's crazy how I can read my ms--send it to 2 cp's then have 2 beta readers and I still find a typo now and then. So when you say you have 4-6 people looking at each manuscript--that's why.

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  43. Hi Karen .. I hear you - it sounds like WiDo has a great professional set up .. and it's always fun to read others works get their feel, and progress their story correctly edited ...

    Cheers Hilary

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  44. Editing is SO essential. Since I write long novels, my editors have to be crackerjacks at tightening as well as other talents, and they're excellent. I'm glad you find it fun. Do you enjoy editing your own novels too?

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  45. A lot of people don't know how much editing goes into a book. Excellent post!

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  46. Loved the blog about editing. I am a new blogger and also trying to build my writing skills stronger. Look forward to more blogs. found you through the a to z challenge.

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