Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Don't make others pay

By Jenny Hilborne
Author: mysteries & thrillers

I'm in editing mode. This means numerous rounds of slashing and cutting from my manuscript and deleting offenders (never realized I had (oops) such a fondness for the use of had and was until now). I'm in fine company. A good friend of mine, and a good author, too, recently found and discarded 156 exclamation marks from his manuscript. The cleaning doesn't end with me. Once I'm done, it's off to the professional editor.

Hours upon hours in the editing cave makes me tired, hungry, and often irritable. The weekend cool down we were promised arrived, and it dropped from 100 degrees to about 99. My editing cave faces south, where it always feels like 115. Twelve or more hours spent sweating and poring over a manuscript for every offense I can find makes me feel like a school nurse ferreting for nits, and dragging them out kicking and screaming. It's a long process.

My relaxation after hard days like this is usually a book. Unfortunately, I can't switch my inner editor off, which tends to spoil my reading. Editing has turned me into a critical audience. A bad plot with good writing is one thing - irritating - but not a death sentence for the author...meaning, I'll give said author another go. However, I can't say the same for authors churning out a good plot with bad writing.

An aspiring author recently asked me what he/she could do if unable to afford a professional editor. Well, quite frankly, it depends on how serious you are about your writing. If you're serious, find the money and pay for a good editor, and don't go cheap. Find a good one, preferably a recommendation. An abundance of author forums can help with that. Jodie Renner, who doles out tons of free editing advice, is one editor I've recommended to more than one new author.

A few other ideas: join a critique group to get the work as tight as possible prior to editing, or try a kickstarter campaign, though without some kind of "fame" kickstarter might be a tough sell. If you have skills of your own, you could use the old barter system. Free cover design for a free edit. If not, then trusted beta readers can help, as long as you're not using friends who will tell you only what you want to hear. If you choose to self-edit, get a good book on how to do it properly. And read your work until you can't stand it.

If you're not sick of your own manuscript by the time you're done editing....then maybe you haven't read through it enough times. Whether you publish yourself or publish traditionally, don't skip over the importance of a good editor. If you bypass it, you're not the only one who has to pay.

Here are some links to articles that provide clear, concrete advice for revising, editing, and polishing your own novel, courtesy of Jodie Renner. Implementing these tips will also save you a lot of money on editing costs!

REVISE FOR SUCCESS - A Stress-Free, Concrete Plan of Action for Revising, Editing, and Polishing Your Novel

Revising, Editing, & Polishing Your Novel:

How to Save a Bundle on Editing Costs -

How to Slash Your Word Count by 20-40% …and tighten up your story without losing any of the good stuff!


  1. Wow, I'm going to post this one over my computer: "If you're not sick of your own manuscript by the time you're done editing....then maybe you haven't read through it enough times."
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Me, too, Richard. By the 9th or 10th go around on each of my manuscripts, I'm usually pretty tired of reading the same story :-)

  3. Great post, Jenny! I find editing manuscripts exhausting, as I don't only look at style and grammar, but I get deep into the novel and look at characterization, point of view, plot, pacing, logistics, and so much more. Makes my brain tired! LOL.

    Then, like you, when I go to read a book for relaxation and entertainment, it's hard to turn off my editor brain and just enjoy the story! So I find I have to stick with really high-quality novels to really get swept into the the story world for the escapism I seek!

  4. I have a friend who is beta reading for another author at the moment, and has become convinced that the author has not done any self-editing at all prior to sending it to her to read. That's just wrong.

    Self-editing is hard and it's something that's learned, usually manuscript by manuscript, page by page.

    Two words I went over the top with for the one currently getting finishing touches: pull (or some variation) and just.

  5. I agree with you 100%, Jen, and I tell people this every chance I get. It really bothers me when I come across a poorly (or non) edited book. When people tell me they can't afford to hire an editor, I tell them they can't afford not to.

  6. I'm with you on this one. Editing is a test in a way; after a set of edits I start to wander off in my mind, to that place deep inside where new stories emerge. That is the difficult part for ne; not the long hours at my desk (I can beat that with coffee), but keeping my mind from wandering to a new story. Because once that gets going, there's no stopping.

  7. Well, yes. Why don't they put this in all those "how to write a bestseller in 5 minutes" books?

    Actually, I think high school and college teach students not to value the editing process. Students come to the writing process with a "one and done" attitude. The idea of drafts, of playing with ideas, structure, words is either not taught or grade-penalized. Students are so tuned to the A, product, that process doesn't get the time it deserves.

    Maybe Jodie can verify this, but from my experience teaching freshman comp, and even advanced writing, students believe that what comes out first on the page must be brilliant. (At which point I tell them the Oscar Wilde/Isaac Asimov story.) Perhaps this is a leftover from the misunderstanding of the Romantic notion of inspiration.


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