This is not, perhaps disappointingly, about my total inability to think before I speak. Different kind of self-editing, folks.
Apparently, there is a surprising amount of controversy among writers about the idea of self-editing. I think this may be one of those situations where I’m a little better off because I didn’t follow the traditional route into fiction writing (MFA, teaching job, angst, alcohol). Instead, I took the nontraditional route (years of mind-numbing admin jobs, big break into marketing, angst, alcohol).
At any rate, I always just assumed that if you were going to go to the trouble of writing something, it only made sense to take at least a couple of passes to make sure (A) everything makes sense, and (B) you’ve caught all the obvious grammar glitches you’re capable of spotting.
I don’t think there’s truly any controversy over that. However, the idea that you could or should put out a book that hasn’t been professionally edited by someone other than you is apparently much frowned upon. And a few naive souls have possibly extended that to mean “I’m a writer not an editor, so I’m off the hook” and submit atrociously rough drafts that make editors and agents want to shoot them with poison darts.
I’m not going to argue about whether I should be releasing my eBooks without hiring an editor. It’s a decision born of fiscal necessity, not a statement on the value of professional editing.
If I start asking whether I should release these books without an outside editor, I’d have to get into the whole discussion about whether I should be churning out a book every month in the first place. Where is that going to get us? Nowhere, Jack.
There’s no sage wisdom at work here. This is one woman, who stuffed the thing she loved most in a closet for two decades, and is D.O.N.E., done with waiting around for someone else’s permission to return to it. You’re invited along on the off chance you might find some entertainment value from the experiment itself or the work produced in it.
I’m Naomi Watts, here, people, just doing my slapstick thing with rocks and hoping King Kong doesn’t decide I make a better entree than I do a floor show.
But I digress.
Of course, since I’m taking on all the responsibility for editing these puppies, I have looked up some handy dandy tips. Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful.
Edit Minion – An online tool by the genius that gave us Write or Die. Copy and paste your prose into the window. It catches and highlights all the most common editing gripes.
2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron – This book is mostly about increasing your daily word count (something of keen interest to someone trying to write a book per month). However, there was one wildly clarifying idea about editing in it: “Editing is about reader experience.” Writing is about telling the story. Editing means putting yourself in the reader’s shoes to craft the best possible experience for them. Since I work alongside user experience professionals who do the same work with design, this was a major “AHA!” moment for me.
Tips from Writing on the Wall – Succinct, specific tips that will help more for content editing than line edits.
On Writing by Stephen King – This is part memoir, part writing manual, and the memoir part is the spoonful of sugar that makes the mechanics of writing medicine go down. But there’s some really good advice, which once ensconced in the back of one’s head, helps you cut out the cancerous adverbs that are slowly killing your story.
Writing Excuses – a podcast about writing, featuring four published speculative fiction authors. Each episode is fifteen minutes long (give or take), and they have covered editing tips on several episodes, which are tagged. Worth your time to listen.
This blog post is getting rather long, so it’s probably time I do a little self-editing, in the “telling myself to stop talking already” sense. Hope you found something useful here.