All writers are editors. In fact, to write is to edit. Most of us edit from the moment the paragraph, sentence or even word appears on the screen or note pad. We typically look at the phrase we have produced, and immediately begin to scrutinize it. We make changesâ€”try writing from a different angle or using a different combination of words.
I donâ€™t know about you, but I edit as I go. I try not toâ€”and sometimes I can write several lines before I decide to change or correct something. But my writing process is a mix of writing and editing, writing and editing.
If youâ€™re like me, once youâ€™ve completed an article, story, blog post, email or book manuscript, you go back to the beginning and read it through with an editorial eye. You may do this once, twice or dozens of times before you consider it finished. And this is a good thing.
Itâ€™s also highly important that you invite one or more additional sets of eyes to scrutinize your work once you feel itâ€™s finished. You may be surprised at what an editor and, in some cases, an untrained eye, will discover, especially in your book manuscript.
There are things that the author just canâ€™t see because he or she is much to close to the project. Itâ€™s a fluke of natureâ€”if we scrutinize something too many times, we begin to miss the obvious. Over time, our eyes and our brains are tricked into seeing what we think we should see and they miss seeing what is actually there.
Here are some of the problems I find in the nonfiction and fiction book manuscripts I edit:
1: Punctuation mistakesâ€”backwards quotation marks, two-spaces between sentences, errors in the way the em-dash is formed, missing or misplaced commas, errors in punctuating dialogue, misuse of apostrophes in plurals/possessives and numerals, etc.
2: Grammatical mistakesâ€”misuse of words (your and youâ€™re, whoâ€™s and whose, too and to, than and then, its and itâ€™s), misspelled words, capitalization errors, using passive instead of active sentences, word repetition and so forth.
3: Content problemsâ€”muddy writing, discrepancies in the storyline, overuse of clichÃ©s, lack of clarity, lack of continuity, overuse of qualifier words (very and really), difficulty in using and maintaining the right tense and person and so on.
Of course, you, the author, should be watching for all of these things as you write your book and you must go through and edit many times over. But itâ€™s the trained eye and the fresh eye thatâ€™s going to notice that youâ€™re still referring to Don Blake as Ron Blake in the 3rd chapter. You might never notice the discrepancy in the timeline in Chapter Eight. But a good editor will. The multitude of repeated words might not bother you at all, but it won’t escape a good editor’s field of vision.
I canâ€™t tell you how many manuscripts I see whose authors tell me, â€œItâ€™s completely edited. I just need you to double check the grammar and punctuation.â€ What I find, when I open the file, however, may be a big can of worms. If you donâ€™t know that fathersâ€™ is a plural possessive and fatherâ€™s is a singular possessive, you will undoubtedly make mistakes in your manuscript. If you arenâ€™t aware that it is 1890s and not 1890â€™s, your work may be riddled with errors. If you havenâ€™t learned that you start a new paragraph for each new speaker when your characters are involved in dialogue, you may grossly err in formatting your manuscript. And if you arenâ€™t bothered by repetitionâ€”you donâ€™t have a clue that the redundancy makes for uninteresting readingâ€”you may inadvertently create a manuscript monster.
Let a good editor tame your monster. Youâ€™ll have a much better chance at the brass ring of publishing.
And be sure to read The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. http://www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html Order the companion Authorâ€™s Workbook and get a discount.
If youâ€™re interested in my editorial or consulting services, contact me at PLFry620@yahoo.com. Learn more about me and my work at http://www.matilijapress.com/consulting.html