Editors and Editing – Slash before Cash
By far, the most important decision you’ll ever make will be hiring an editor. First, you have to decide what kind of editor you need. Then, you have to decide on an editor and do research on them so you don’t end up getting screwed by an unscrupulous person who thinks they can edit books because they read. After that, you have to send in part of your manuscript for a price quote (your editor should mark it up and send it back with a quote and a blank contract for you to look over). After that, you have to pray your editor does what they say they’ll do, and gets your book back to you in time for your release. If you did your research in step two, you should be fine. Remember, you’re in a contract with your editor; your deadlines matter, too.
Here’s Contract Considerations, a good reference to what you should be looking for in an editing contract.
I’ll be honest, the better you self-edit your novel (no matter what kind of editor you choose), the less you’ll pay in the end. Over at INDIE Books Gone Wild we give your novel a grade to determine the price. Those books we feel will take us longer to edit (we do two rounds of line editing and use a different, in house, proofreader after), get a lower score. As the score goes down, the price goes up. You save us time, we save you money. Make sense?
We love nothing more than to get a book the author has done a thorough self-edit on.
Let’s go through the four edits every author should be doing before they send their manuscript off to an editor for markup and pricing (you should really do five, and I’ll include the last one, but some prefer four):
- Round One: Storyline – Always the first line of defense. This is the first edit and should consist of you going through the storyline very carefully, making notes on what your characters are doing at any given point. You don't want an apartment on the first floor in this chapter only to have it on the second floor two chapters later, or your character to be asleep in bed and then having a conversation on the other side of town in the next sentence. Expand where you can and watch tension and pacing. Check dates for linear flow. Fact check now as well. Elements and language used should match the era and voice of the character. Make all your notes before you change anything. If there's anything to add or any holes to fill, do it now. This is also a good time to create your style guide. I have tips on doing that here. Run a spell check during this phase.
- Round Two: Cutting – Slash and burn. See what you can cut out that will have no impact on the final draft. In the book On Writing, Stephen King recommends you sever at least 10% of your total word count. Cut Out Superfluous Words! Go through your manuscript with a possessed red pen. Kill as many of these words as you can: that, just, for, to, began, thought, as. Reword where necessary. Take out sentences and adjectives you don't need. Remove adverbs by pumping up your prose. I have a tips post on that one, too! 1. Repetition in word use or information given. Okay, you told us his eyes were blue. Either find a new way to describe those peepers or cut the repeated information altogether. Hunt down your ize and ization words and kill those, too.
- Round Three: Pronouns – This is a big one. So big, you need a whole round for it. Check each pronoun and the person or thing it references. Make sure you aren't using them incorrectly. Handy guide here and another one here and, one more here. So, yeah…
- Round Four: Consistency and Punctuation – This is where the handy-dandy style guide you made in step one rushes to the forefront and saves the day like Superman. This is also where you check your flow. Make sure commas aren't sprinkled around like fairy dust. Use those commas with care. In these two sentences: I went to the window and Bob moved to my side. I went to the window, and Bob moved to my side. You can see the one without the comma flows more easily. While they're both correct, common sense tells you to nix the comma on that one for readability. Be sure your sentences flow well. Read and re-read to be sure you've been consistent when spelling a word, using language, or using a reference. Check your chapters for tension. For the love of all that's good, use contractions unless writing formal speech. Chase the S! Search the words backward, forward, toward, etc… and check to be sure the s (if you used it) is consistent. Beware the homophone and make sure you're using the right word. Use semicolons now and then to keep it interesting. Watch out for the big words. Your reader knows you're a writer with a gargantuan vocabulary. Be careful not to shove it down their throats.
- Round Five: Proofing – One last look should do it. Check it all to make sure there aren't any of the issues listed above hanging around and everything is spelled correctly, all quotes are in place and are the right kind (curly vs. straight), and all i's are dotted and t's are crossed. This is your last chance to make it beautiful.
Does that seem like a lot? Because it is. These are things a line editor checks (word-by-word), and why a good edit won’t be cheap. Yes, you can go with an inexpensive editor; but you get what you pay for.
Don’t think one badly written book won’t matter. Your readers will be turned off in a heartbeat if they get a novel riddled with errors. It only takes one to burn that bridge forever.
Is your book a sentimental thing? Treat it like you would your child. Avoid getting one star reviews that talk about errors. Those are never fun and make you look lazy. Readers want you to care about what you put in their hands.
I hope this post helps you self-edit, know what kind of editor to choose, and know what to look for when you hire one (remember the contract!).
Was there anything up there you didn’t know?
Have questions? Ask in the comments! I’ll pop back around during the next two weeks to answer anything I see.
I’d like to give a huge shout-out to the Rebel Writers for letting me gunk up their blog with my guest post. Here’s hoping it was informative and stuff.
Well, that’s all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!
Jo Michaels is...
Hi, I'm Jo. Let's forget all the "Jo Michaels is blah, blah, blah" stuff and just go with it. I'm a voracious reader (often reading more than one book at a time), a writer, a book reviewer, a mom, a wife, and one of the EICs at INDIE Books Gone Wild. I have an almost photographic memory and tend to make people cringe at the number of details I can recall about them and/or their book(s). My imagination follows me around like a conjoined twin and causes me to space out pretty often or laugh out loud randomly in completely inappropriate situations.
I have a degree in graphic design, and my journey to the end was one few students who begin that program ever complete. However, this was one case where my memory and OCD tendencies helped me. Graduation was one of the most amazing days of my life. But, my most amazing day was when my now husband proposed. Every little girl dreams of being Cinderella someday, and he pulled off the proposal of fantasies.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I'm going to let it out there and say how much I absolutely adore the man I'm married to. Along with my children, he's my whole world.
I've lived in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia, but I've had my feet in almost every state. Traveling is something I adore, and have plans to someday see the Mongolia I've written about in Yassa.
One of my favorite things is hearing from fans! You can find me on social media most any day of the week. Connect! I'd love to hear from you.