Editing for Indie Writers: Intro

So you’d like to edit your own ebooks and POD books?  Great!  Please follow me to the torture chamber!  Just kidding…mostly.

Most writers don’t like to edit.  And they have no idea how to edit, so the idea of editing causes them fits.

“But wait,” you say, “I like to edit.”

More than likely if you’re a writer, you like to revise: you like to go into your stories and change dialogue and description.  You like to reorder chapters.  You like to question whether your ending is effective.  Your first sentence has been through more variations than a room full of monkeys with typewriters can produce.  You like to dress up your story like it’s a doll, changing outfits back and forth:  “Does this backstory make my butt look fat?” ” ‘Said’ is the Little Black Dress of dialogue tags, don’t you think?”  “First-person POV or third-person POV?  First-person POV or third-person POV?”  This is not editing.  This is revising, and you’d better have it done before an editor steps in, because we don’t put up with that kind of crap.

That’s right: crap.

The mind of an editor is a harsh, harsh place, where dithering is not allowed, sarcasm is the language of choice, and breaking the rules is viewed with a suspicious eye.  The worst editors take the rules and make them holy commandments; the best editors gleefully collaborate with rule breaking, pointing out places where you haven’t broken a rule that you generally like to break.  It’s all a matter of style:  if you have it, a good editor is your friend and co-conspirator.  If you don’t have it, the editor will make you toe the line.

But what happens when you’re your own editor?

Some people can’t do it.  They can’t spell worth a damn, think grammar is stupid, and they say things like, “You knew what I meant” when having their wording criticized.  Creativity rules over clarity–and clarity is the basis of communication.

However, if you find yourself wincing at errors in published works, feel that words (and the orders of words) mean things, and worry about whether or not you’re being clear, then you’re probably a good candidate to edit your own ebooks.

–On the other (third?) hand, if you’re the kind of person who corrects grammar in the middle of informal conversation, then this book is probably not for you.  Being a good editor involves filtering the rules through context, and if you can’t filter your need to correct people through the context of informal conversation being informal, then editing fiction or non-fiction with any kind of creativity is not for you.  Good writers break rules all the time, because they have a purpose in doing so–and if you can’t grasp that communication is more important than following the rules, then you don’t need to be in the editing business, even for yourself.

So if editing is not revising, what is editing?

Editing is like being the very best kind of butler.  Once the writer has made all the relevant fashion choices, it’s the butler’s job to make sure that the person heading out the door is as presentable as possible.  Tag at the back of the ripped t-shirt? Tucked in.  Mohawk:  consistently spiked.  Gaudy faux fur?  Not crusted with pancake batter from breakfast.  The butler may, on rare occasions, suggest appropriate (that is, consistent) outfit choices, such as the stacked, neon-green heels if the master has stated that he is looking for footwear, but whatever the master picks is always “Very good, Sir.”

What the butler thinks is probably quite different.

Note: When the butler starts to dictate your fashion choices?  Time for a new butler.  Editors are supposed to point out logical inconsistencies and weaknesses.  They are not supposed to make your book fit their tastes.  Sorry, Jeeves.




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  1. Liz

    I like editing and revising… though I’m less intimidated by revising, for some reason. However, I used to think I could never edit my own writing, until I saw the price tag for editors. “$20-30 per page?! I’m doing this myself,” I told myself after researching and then getting a quote of $25 per page… which could be up to $4,000 for the novel I had in mind. I like doing it myself because, once I’ve spent some time away from the manuscript in question, I can easily see errors I wouldn’t have seen through my rose-colored glasses while writing. “This is great! It doesn’t need even a minute of editing!” Several months later: “This is a hot mess. This is a damn train wreck. Who wrote this?! Fix this, now!”

    Sometimes I feel like my inner writer and editor are two very, very different people.

  2. De

    I don’t think that’s strange; my writer and editor are two very different people indeed.

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