Wednesday, 4 May 2016

My Editing Journey So Far!

One of my favourite things about the entire writing process is the editing. Now, for those of you who write novels, novellas, poems etc., I know what you’re thinking - editing is the worst. It used to be the worst part of being an author for me too. Sending off your work to your editor, getting it back and seeing all the changes you needed to make was exhausting, arduous and quite frankly, it just got on my nerves. I don’t know when things changed, but I learned to love it and what I like most about editing is how much I learn. 

Before GIFTED was professionally edited, I thought I knew a lot about words, ignorance is bliss after all. Turns out, I knew how to spell, but when it came to punctuation, I wasn’t as much of the skilled master I’d once thought I was. Did you know there are three different dashes, and each dash has a specific function?

The shorted dash: “-” is used to join two words together to essentially make one word. For example: non-hyphenated. (Ironic, huh?)

The slightly longer dash: “-” is used when you want to add a word to the end of the sentence without having to make it into another sentence. I’m not explaining this very well, am I? Here’s another example: "I’d rather that than how I knew he really felt - disappointed."

The longest dash: “¾” is used when a sentence is cut off: “I’m so sorry, Alfie, I didn't ¾

I have no idea why on earth I’m telling you this, but I’ve typed it out now and don’t want to delete it all, so you’ll have to read it. Please.

I’ll tell you the best thing I learnt that I still can’t believe I never knew, is when to use blonde and blond. I had no idea there was a difference, in fact, I’ll be honest, I though blond was a typo and someone had forgotten to add the ‘e’. But actually, blond is generally used when describing a man and blonde is typically used when describing women.

Commas and periods. The easiest types of punctuation to use, right? Now, before you go on assuming I’m simply uneducated, I know how to use commas and periods! In most situations… It’s just that people from the US sometimes use commas and periods differently compared to the UK. Take using commas in lists for example. In the UK, you don’t normally put a comma before the last word in the list: Bananas, butter, bread and biscuits. However, in the US, sometimes you do: Bananas, butter, bread, and biscuits. Even after the ‘and’!

In the UK, you don’t normally put a period after ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’, but you do in the US because they are abbreviations.

The reason I know a bit about punctuation in both the UK and US is because my novel has been professionally edited by three editors, one who is British and two who are American. I would strongly advise you to seek an editor from your country for obvious reasons, but I didn’t know there was much difference at the time!

My American editors were before my British editor so you can imagine how many small changes I had to make! My British editor was HelenBaggott and she was amazing. By the time I hired Helen’s services, I was only looking for proofreading and copy editing because I’d received the entire character and plot line analysis business from my American editor. Helen was so great because her price was a third of my American editor and she managed to spot things that not only I didn’t see, but my previous editors didn’t manage to spot either. Things I never thought mattered until I googled it and found that they did matter.

An example? The use of unnecessary bits in a sentence: The young man I couldn’t see, as he had his back to me, but something about him made me stay where I stood and stare. That sentence could easily be changed to: The young man had his back to me, but something about him made me stay where I stood and stare. You’d never think the “I couldn’t see” was unnecessary until you read it aloud. I know it doesn’t seem that much, but because of that small change, I’m now more aware of unnecessary details and with an 87, 000 word novel, unnecessary words add up!

Another example? In my novel, I wrote: It was the literal definition of a cool and crisp evening, which was surprising for February.

Helen pointed out: why would cool and crisp be odd for February? The sun sets at around 5 in February.

She knows her freaking stuff. My other editors didn’t pick up on that either.

Although an editor will point out what he/she thinks is unnecessary, you have to remember that the reason he/she may have singled it out is because at that moment in the story it does seem unnecessary. However, it’s up to you to remember your plot line when given advice like this because bits my editors thought were unnecessary are actually very necessary when it comes to reading books two, three and four in the series.

It’s also important to know your stuff too. Something my editor picked up was that I used the word booksellers and she suggested (a good editor will never tell you, only suggest) I use ‘sales assistant’, but having worked in a bookshop numerous times myself, I know that the actual term is Bookseller, as that was the title of the role I applied for and the title our manager gave to us. Sales assistant is accurate, but I think bookseller is better.

I could write for ages about my experience with editing, but we'd be here for a while. So let me squash it down into a few tips:

Get a professional editor, but be your own editor at the same time. You know what’s best for your novel; editors are there to help, to guide and to advise.

Know that your novel is never fully edited. Editors don’t exactly follow a rule book per say, they go with what they know. So one editor may correct one thing whilst another editor will think it perfectly fine the way it was. Just because I’ve had my novel edited by three different editors, doesn’t mean another editor won’t have anything to say. Once again, it’s your call.

Always read through. Editors are human, even the professionals. I’ve often found mistakes editors have missed. Not many, but mistakes are mistakes.

Try to have fun with it? No? Not convinced? Never mind then.

I'm really interested to know, what have you learnt from your editors?

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