To (be) edit(ed) or not, etc.

My good friend Tamara Clarke, aka MugsyB, recently posted on her blog about editing and how she loathes it. She followed up with a post thanking her beta reader/editor (yours truly 🙂 ) for taking on such a thankless job. Hahaha. Seriously, she did thank me and I appreciate it, just as I appreciate the beta reading and suggestions she gives to me. So, what the heck, here are my thoughts on editing.

I don’t mind. 😀

But first I need to note — there’s self-editing, then having someone edit for you. I don’t mind either one. I’m constantly editing my own stuff. My husband has in fact threatened to not let me re-read some of my earlier works, as he thinks they’re fine and that I’m fretting needlessly. The truth is in between. The stories are fine, mostly, but since posting my first story, Make a Wish, I’ve learned a lot. (I could go on about the issues in that one…)

I am also one of the rare writers, it seems, who actively seek out and want feedback that pokes holes or otherwise challenges a story. It’s a little bit of paranoia, in a way. I don’t want to get stuff wrong (although I do; the first version of Ghosts of the Forum was rife with language errors, later corrected for the version included in Melting the Ice), and so I look for help. I’m competitive with myself. I want to know if my characters are acting as a guy or woman would, or that they are not acting out of character the way I set it up. I want to know if I make a continuity error or forget something in the plot line.

Finding those holes is difficult when you edit yourself. As the writer, you know what you mean, you know how you want the story to go, and so you may fill in gaps in your head, automatically, that would puzzle a reader who doesn’t know your intentions. You may also miss things entirely. I’m always a little nervous when I send off something for beta reading, hoping I haven’t done anything embarrassing. On the other hand, it’s a relief to know that if a mistake of some sort is found, I can fix it before siccing it on the unsuspecting public. (You’re welcome.)

I’ve had writers tell me that they don’t want an editor because they feel: it would change their voice or style; that they are possessive of their plot or characters and don’t want anyone to change them; because they’re just stubborn that way. 🙂

Finding a good editor and/or beta reader is a job, I can’t say it isn’t. Especially on the free sites where I post, if you do happen to hook up with someone and it works for you, it’s likely luck of the draw. Not everyone is an English expert, so mistakes will still get through. (Professional, paid editing would, I hope, be a different story.) Even so, a good and helpful editor will not change your voice or style, they will help you hone it and make it stronger. They won’t take away your characters; they should help you make sure the characters stay in character and act according to whatever rules you’ve set up. Putting a character who’s afraid of heights on top of a cliff is no good unless a foundation is laid for the change, for example. A good editor won’t change your plot or hijack it; they will help you find the parts that make it rough so you can smooth it over.

As a writer seeking editing, you have to be open to making changes. I remember being a bit taken aback when my editor at Republica Press wanted to remove a multi-page scene from Young Blood. I thought the scene was good, demonstrating Jura’s insecurities while Sean refused to let her fall victim to them. My editor thought it was unnecessary and repetitive, and so I redid the scene, making the struggle more internal, and I think it’s better. In the edited version, Jura struggles with her insecurities and then decides to deal with them, making her more of the independent heroine I’ve written about before.

So I edit myself and ask for editing. My beta reader and I have been over Chs 1, 2 and part of 3 of a new hockey story multiple times now (and don’t ask how many times we debated the Cobra scene with Tabby and Lucas in Game Misconduct). It’s a little frustrating but the story will eventually be better for it, and I hope write itself more easily as the foundations for the characters and plot are strengthened early on.

Now, editing other people… that’s a whole other ball game.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Emma Holt on June 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I 100% agree that the revised Jura scene in Young Blood is much stronger than the original. :0)

    In all seriousness, it takes a lot of guts to offer up your baby to be judged, altered and possibly chopped up. At the end of the day, authors need to remember that editors are on the same team, with one goal in mind: to make the writer’s book better. No one ever says that a book is well edited.


  2. I think this is what many writers don’t realize. They think the editor is on the other team, or at least not on their team. If you find a good editor, you’ll be on the same team.


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