Editing your work is an important part of the publishing and self publishing process. Author & freelance editor Jay Merill is writing a series of articles for CompletelyNovel.com which will be guided by your questions about the editorial process.
Use the comments below to give your feedback on the current article and to ask any questions on editing your work, and Jay will use these questions as the basis for her next article, selecting and addressing the main themes identified.
In today’s competitive market it is clearly desirable to have as polished a piece of work on offer as possible so that the product, whether it be a journalistic article, a work of non-fiction, a novel or a short story, will receive its fair share of attention. Material is likely to be rejected by agents, prospective publishers or other outlets if it fails to meet standards of competence in the editorial sphere. A good standard of editorial competence then will help to ensure your work is taken seriously and considered on its merits.
Traditional publishers no longer provide all the editing functions which they used to do but the author need not despair as a wide range of independent editorial services are increasingly available for anyone who is serious about getting their material published. This is true likewise for the author who is intending to self publish. In fact all authors would see the merit in having a well produced text, and this would hold true whether the text was intended for a digital or a print market.
Ultimately, of course, it is desirable for the work to be well edited so that the clarity of its arguments and the flow of its language will not be impeded and obscured by flaws in the text. In other words the text deserves to be well edited for its own sake, and for the sake of its potential readers.
The tasks within the editing process are many and varied and can range from an editor’s input at the inception of a work, where skills may be called upon to help develop the idea itself and assist in the preparation of a comprehensive outline. Later on editing will involve modifications to the initial text to ensure any problems are ironed out and that the work is moving in the right direction. One of the last stages in the editorial process will be proofreading, at which time remaining errors should be eliminated. The final stage would be production editing which could include communicating with the designer and printer. An author may require help with some or all of these tasks according to the requirements of the project.
The role of editing involves interaction between the editor and the author, and the cooperation of each is necessary for a successful outcome. Moreover it is highly important that the author be able to trust the editor with whom they are working. The job of successful editing not only calls for technical and creative skills therefore but also a good awareness of the human element. It will be enabling on the part of the editor if they are sympathetic and flexible when dealing with an author who is likely to have a deep emotional attachment to the work. And it goes without saying that there must always be a joint harmony of purpose between author and editor for things to go forward, and in order to provide maximum benefit to the work itself.
Very good advice, but at what stage do you submit the story? Presumably when it is finished and the author has completed some checks of his own; but how do you find a good editor who has the time to spare to provide personal interaction? Or, is it dependent on the quality of the story as to whether the editor is willing to devote precious time? My very limited experience has not been good, and i have a dilemma about when & where to send my next manuscript. There are plenty of offers from people and organisations willing to take your money, but providing little return. I like the Completely Novel approach, and will look at the advice posted by others.
Finish your story then complete two drafts. After the second pass it on to a beta reader (someone with good grounding in the English language and use of). From there forward your manuscript on to an editor. An editor will make changes to the prose (everyone has an opinion)however it will be money well spent. A good editor will turn English into English.
As an author the biggest problem is leaving the finished manuscript alone. I have it edited then change a few lines creating more editing. As my beta reader now threatens me with death I leave well alone.
The most important part of your story is the timeline. It is the spine of the novel so it must stand up to scrutiny. A summer, then winter, then autumn will not go down well. Nik, on the choosing an editor front ‘beware of Greeks bearing gifts.’
Have a great Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Colin B Leonard
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