Editing is your friend, or it should be.
1. Your first draft felt great to write, but it was actually you vomiting words onto a page. No one wants to read that.
2. Substantive editing turns that vomit into something beautiful. You learn a lot about story creation while doing this stage of editing because it is where you organize your story into something that makes sense and is enjoyable to read. You find things like where you say a character is in one location and then they are in another, but you never had them leave the first location.
3. Copy editing is where we hope to find things like jargon the readers won’t understand without an explanation; where we’ve said the same thing multiple times; where we’ve used the wrong word entirely; and inconsistencies with style. Grammar is also corrected where possible.
4. Proofreading looks for anything not already caught like double word entries, missing words, misspelled words, incorrect grammar, capitalization errors, etc.
5. Formatting then turns it into something that looks good.
Here’s why I think editing is awful for most people:
1. They don’t have a clue of how the story should flow. What’s good flow look like? This is why reading is ultra important for authors. You need to read to see how others have put a story together. The more you read, the more you can play with your own story flow with confidence and enjoyment. Yes I believe it’s possible to enjoy the process of editing.
2. They start at the wrong place. I know so many that keep focusing on things like grammar or spelling first. That’s really inefficient. You’re editing words that may not even need to exist in your story. You’re wasting your time. Books already take a long time to produce, why make it longer? I know, you’re worried about trolls finding that one word that you misspelled. You’re worried you used the wrong word and will look like a moron. The thing is that despite many edits and a dozen or so reviewers, things still get missed. People that are capable of finding every error are rare. It’s annoying, for sure. It feels like an attack on your capability as a writer. Here’s how I’m starting to look at it: We are people who write stories. If our story has been understood, we have succeeded. I’m not saying you shouldn’t fix the errors you find at a time that makes sense to do so (many companies charge per revision, so it’s best to wait until as many as possible have been discovered unless you’re a wealthy writer… that sounds oxymoronic). I’m saying this is a small part of the larger picture. Don’t be lazy, but don’t spend every waking moment worrying that you had a d on the end of a word because at one point your whole story was in a past tense and now it isn’t. I don’t think it’s any excuse to write garbage either though.
3. You’ve convinced yourself it’s awful. I know I need to change my mindset on this. My story is nothing without editing. It’s easier to make it my friend than it is to spend my entire writing career loathing it. Life is short. Why make something worse than it has to be?
4. You think you have to do it all by yourself. You have options. If you have willing friends, they might help you for free. You can also pay people if you want. I’m not much for that, personally. If I can do something myself, I prefer to, generally. Here’s the thing though. There are authors out there who don’t even write their own stuff. They hire people (ghost writers) to write the stories for them. What does that mean? It means you are awesome. You wrote your own stuff. It might seem like a mess you don’t have the skills to clean up and I think that’s okay. Hire someone. It won’t be cheap though and there’s a chance you’ll never see the return on investment. If you don’t want to hire someone, learn how to do it.
I’ve reached the 30% complete mark of editing The Page & The Magician and I’m starting to enjoy it. I feel like the structural editing is connecting me to my story in a deeper way. I’m seeing these points where I can do some fun things like foreshadow what’s to come.