Firstly let me say, the English language is hard. I didn’t quite realize how hard until I started editing my own novels, and I’m convinced I don’t know the extent of it. We conjugate differently than nearly every other language, half our words are spelled the same and pronounced differently, there are hundreds of verbs where the past and the present tense are the same word. Don’t even get me started on there, their and they’re. I could go on.
Which brings me to my first point – editing is a challenge.
There are two kinds of editing – story and syntax, and you want someone who can do both, well. The story element is the who, what, where, when, why and how. It’s your characterization and plot. It’s the meat in the middle of the pie. The syntax is everything else – the copywriting (I’m the worst with commas), the sentence structure, the vocabulary.
In order to build a beautiful house, first you need the frame and the floors – that’s the syntax editing. In order to come out with a really good final product, you need an editor – you or someone else – who can do both of these things well.
I’m a fairly decent editor of my own work. After four years of college writing workshops, my grasp on the English language is good enough to break the rules – and I love breaking the rules. I can see plot point issues and I can understand most of the nitty gritty of the syntax editing. (Still forever arguing with Word about that or which), but that doesn’t mean I like it.
Because there are two things I’m slow at – researching and editing – the bookends for any good novel. Only with my last few novels have I begun to understand the importance of research as a companion to writing, rather than a pre-requisite. On my current WIP, I’ve been researching as I write, 10 Chrome tabs at a time, which really makes the whole process move through molasses. When it comes to editing, I’m even worse.
I know, it’s important to be thorough and detail-oriented in the areas where people can call you out. The writing process should be fairly quick and straightforward because we trust that the editing process with be slow and detailed.
I know all this, and I still don’t care, I hate it. I’ve never been a patient person, and the editing and researching process requires a lifetime of patience. Because if you rush through it, if you skim the story or do a quick job, you might as well not have bothered at all. There’s a reason they say write drunk, edit sober. Your inhibitions should be down while you’re writing and doubled while you’re editing.
I do have to say, I am grateful for my ability to edit. The reason I’m slow is because I’m trying to do the very best job I can, even though that kind of stuff doesn’t come naturally to me. I make a point of printing out and editing on the hard copy of every manuscript I write, and I know it makes my stories better.
That doesn’t mean I have to like it – but I do have to come to terms with it. In the modern writing world, authors aren’t just writers. We’re editors, marketers, promoters, and bloggers. We run social media and websites and edit our own work. We’re the Jills of all trades. Fine, I’ll be the master of some and keep on the working on the rest.
After all, I’m a work in progress too. ♦