This month, Saturdays are time to talk about writing! And since today is the letter E. . . let's talk about EDITING, even though that's sort of starting at the wrong end. Hey, I didn't invent the alphabet.
Since I've been in editing mode a lot lately, I've thought about it a lot (mostly while trying to avoid actually doing it). So here are my three main things you need to know about editing.
1. Revision, rewriting, editing and proof-reading are all different things and every piece of writing needs them all (to a greater or lesser degree). Re-vision: to see again. Really big-picture changes. Re-write: make the changes, big and small, that make the text read well. Edit: clean up all the awkwardness and excess adverbs and little words you love to overuse. Proof-reading is what you do the last thing before you submit the MS, to catch every typo.
1a. Why can't you do your own proof-reading, even if (like me) you are pretty good at it and can proof someone else's MS to near-perfection? I knew the answer to this and went ahead and did it anyway, just to prove the point. Two reasons: first, you are too familiar with the text. You've read it 20 times, and you will see what you expect to see. And second, the author will always want to tinker. Tinkering introduces new errors. I've uploaded a corrected version of Death By Ice Cream, after a friend found far too many errors (not awful ones, but more than I want and enough to make me a bit embarrassed). So, again: do not attempt to be your own proof-reader!
2. If you haven't read your book aloud, you haven't finished editing.
3. No one is good enough to do all that alone. Hire, bribe, or barter for a big-picture edit and a proof-reader. Your readers will thank you. Note: if this is a term paper we are talking about, it has to be your own work, but there's nothing to stop you bouncing ideas off friends, and proof-reading exchanges with classmates are completely legit. As is asking your mother to proof-read, if she'll do it (and if she spells better than you do).
And that's my word on editing. Many of us love the rough-draft composition stage, and dread the editing phase of writing. But after publishing three novels I can say: it gets easier. The feeling of taking an amorphous blob of text and molding (or beating) it into a well-formed piece of readable prose can be as great a high as the initial pouring forth of the idea.
Now, enter the drawing to win an e-book of Death By Ice Cream-with the errors removed, thanks to (you guessed it) an external proof-reader.