Sunday, September 16, 2012

Working with your editor...

I can't make you believe how important a good editor is unless you've experienced bad editing. I'm reading several free self published books on Amazon and suddenly that point has been made crystal to everyone. I can deal with poor formatting and even a repeated word or two in a good story. What bothers me is when a story has great potential but it's marred with character flaws or plot holes. Critique partners can help or a good content editor.

I'm not a punctuation purest or even a grammatical fanatic. I love Nora Roberts so head hopping, when done well, isn't going to put me off. That being said, what does bother me is...

  • Dangling modifiers/misplaced modifiers (Learn to recognize and correct them.)
  • There instead of their or they're (and all other homonym issues) 
  • Flip flopping between American spellings/language and the Queen's English (Pick one-stick to it.)
  • Blatant pov issues ( He's thinking what a sexy smile and great pecs he has? I don't think so.)
  • Bad dialogue (There are too many examples to site.) and/or tags
  • Misspellings (You have spell check and a dictionary. Use them.)
  • Warning: cross reference words you find in your Thesaurus with your dictionary. Similar words may not have the same meaning you intend when you stick it in your sentence.
  • Please do a quick study of when and when not to capitalize. 
  • Learn when to use ellipsis and em-dashes.
  • Passive writing: he was going instead of he went
  • Pacing: if it's slow and I want to know what's going to happen, I'll breeze over the slow a point. (I have to care what's going to happen before this is even a remote possibility.)
  • And if you can't stay in the correct "tense" I will not continue to read the story no matter how interesting the story.

For all those very critical readers/reviewers out there--commas, paragraphs, and sentence formation in novels may be still loosely structured for emphasis. So if a sentence is a fragment, it may not be incorrect. The problems I see more often are run-on sentences or incomplete sentences. Once an author gets into this realm the waters get muddy. A good editor can help. Here's a trick...turn grammar and spell check on...if it underlines something...look it up. Use the Chicago Manual of Style or at least Google the problem.

Auto Crit is a service that will tell you when you have overused words, too many repeated phrases or opening conjunctives. It's very useful to the beginning writer or to the experienced perfectionist. To maintain your voice, do not remove every recommendation. Learn how to balance what you need with what might be too much.

With all this being said, even with ten peoples eyes on a manuscript, often a word will get by now and then. The more one editor has to work on your manuscript, the less likely that editor will be able to see some of these issues three or four edits later. And always remember this is the author's book. In the end, it is the author who makes the final decision on a word choice or sentence length. Editors make recommendations but aren't going to force an author to take it. If two or three different people are saying the same thing...reconsider your choices.

I hope this helps highlight the key editing crisis in self-publishing. Feel free to share.

Maureen Sevilla is an editor with The Wild Rose Press and free lances as well.   Maureen Sevilla, Editor