But it’s Already Perfect, Right?
I remember when I started seriously writing, back when I was about 19 or 20. The first book I wrote was dreadful. We’re talking complete drivel (I found it the other day and winced as I read it!).
However, I remember at the time, thinking it was pretty good. And thinking that it didn’t need much editing. Ah, the naivety! The fact is, most first drafts aren’t great. More often than not, they stink. Fortunately, that’s where editing comes in.
How Should You Approach the Editing Process?
I’ve talked to plenty of authors about editing, and there doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong way to go about it – it’s what works for you. I found out recently that Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) wrote a page, then edited it until it was perfect before continuing. Personally, I think I’d go a bit bonkers if I edited like that, but it just shows – different strokes for different folks!
Here’s how I go about it…
Before submitting the manuscript:
- I write the first draft. This is often rattled through at a ferocious pace, to ensure I get all the ideas down on time! I’m terrible for having great story ideas, then completely forgetting them a few hours after. Why do all the best ideas always happen in the shower, when you don’t have a pen and paper to hand (or is that just me)?
- I leave it a little while. Sometimes for a couple of weeks, other times longer. When editing, I like to approach it as a reader, not a writer. I like to look at the manuscript with fresh eyes, as it makes it far easier to spot all the errors!
- I do the first round of editing. This round normally addresses all major, glaring issues. For example, I might rejig a few sections to improve the flow. I might slash out whole pages or add new pages instead. It’s also at this stage that I identify the obvious mistakes in spelling, grammar and punctuation.
- I then dive back in for Round Two. At this stage, it’s a matter of fine-tuning the work; spotting the annoying inconsistencies, removing repeated words, taking out anything that reads a bit awkwardly.
- More often than not, I do a third round of editing. This is when I relax a little, and read it for enjoyment. Any sections that impact my enjoyment, I change. Simple as that!
After it’s been approved for publication:
Again, this is only my experiences with Amberjack Publishing – other publishing houses may vary.
- The first round of edits comes through, complete with very helpful notes (courtesy of the wonderful Cherrita!). I then plough through the edited manuscript, making changes and also spotting little things that I missed previously – you’d be amazed how many tiny mistakes sneak through, despite your best efforts!
- The editor then checks again, and sends through the second round of edits. Again, more fine-tuning. By now, it’s hopefully resembling something like the finished product!
- If no further edits are required, the ARC (advanced reader copy) is printed. I receive a copy, and enjoy it as a bit of night-time reading – whilst also spotting any final areas that need a tweak. With the first Dr Ribero book, my wonderful husband managed to find three pages of tiny things that needed changing – where would I be without him and his eagle-eyes?
And that’s it! After the ARC has been checked, the book is officially out of your hands.
The Importance of Editing
Ultimately, you want to offer your readers something that’s worth reading. Even small mistakes can mar the flow, so it’s worth putting in the effort to ensure that book is as good as possible. Of course, editing isn’t easy – and like any skill, you’ll get better at it over time. I’ve made a few whopping great errors over the years, including:
- Over-editing. This is my personal weakness. I doubt myself terribly at times, then in a fit of over-zealous passion, I strip the writing down completely. Yes, I remove all the problematic areas. However, I also take away the very thing about the book that made it enjoyable in the first place. I’m learning to avoid this now – but be warned, it’s an easy mistake to make.
- Being too precious about it. Sure, you might love that particular character dearly. But if they’re not contributing anything to the story, they’re fundamentally pointless. Get shot of them.
- Racing through it. These days, I know to take time over editing. However, rewind ten years or so, and my attitude was definitely ‘get it over with as soon as possible’. This is unwise, and will only negatively impact your work. A good book is 50% creativity, 50% polishing.
What Do You Think?
How do you approach editing? If you’ve got a totally different way of doing it, do let me know (I find it fascinating!).