C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

How Editing Works

Many publishing companies (as recently discussed) are suffering from a shortage of editing. The vast majority of Print on Demand (POD) books just look awful. It matters. If a book looks bad, you won’t be taken seriously.

I once met an enterprising author selling his books at the mall. He had the right idea in many ways, but as I scanned the page, things went off the rails. The layout was crammed. The print job was spotty. The cover was sub-par. He had become his own publisher, but the product looked shabby. He needed an advisor and an editor to bring the manuscript up past the status of “hobby.”

Manuscripts are full of mistakes. You’re human. It’s normal. When you send your manuscript to a professional editor, there are things we look for. Grammar and spelling? Sure. But it goes beyond spellcheck. What about pacing? Are you writing too little here? Are you overwriting there? Are you explaining too much? Does the sequence of events make sense to anyone but you? Do you have three characters who could be one? Sometimes dialogue needs to be punched up and bad habits of passive voice identified. Niggles emerge through the editing process that need solving.

So what does this mean to you, the writer? Perhaps, most important, know that your best writing is your rewriting. When you type “The End” on your first draft, go ahead and pop your champagne cork. Then get back to work and look for problems. Revise. Get it as clean as you can.

Consider sending it to a professional editor first. It’s hard enough getting your work published. Give your manuscript its best chance.

Next: nope! You’re not done. Your editor will give you a lot of suggestions. You may or may not take all the suggestions, but you will have to go through them. Now you rewrite, correct, juggle, stomp your feet and revise some more.

Done? Not yet. Now you share the manuscript with your chosen readers. I’d suggest three to five proofreaders to catch the last of the typos. You don’t want haters. You want someone who knows that this street doesn’t hook up with that street. You want someone who reads slowly and notices things, like your heroine started out three inches shorter or the villain’s eye color changed to blue and then back to brown. You want helpful, book-loving people.

Get their comments and corrections. Do your final polish as quickly as you can because you’re aging and this process takes a long time. You’ve got to ship it out there in the world.  Submit, get rejected and resubmit. Submit simultaneously, five manuscripts at a time at least.

Then, if you’re very lucky, an agent or editor will pick it up and be captivated by your story. If you’re very lucky indeed, they’ll make you an offer for publication* and you’ll get to go through the editing process again (though we hope it will be far less traumatic this time!)

*BONUS TIP:

Don’t get too excited about your advance. For a first novel, the advance is best described as “piddling.”

That cash should all go to the promotion of your book, anyway.

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Filed under: Editors, writing tips, , ,

7 Responses

  1. kim says:

    Cool post; thanks, Chazz.

  2. Chazz says:

    You’re welcome. This is the single most popular blog post here. Maybe it’s the symbols.

  3. […] to the most searched for and useful posts and sites on Chazz Writes: All That Chazz     How Editing Works (Plus Editing Symbols)     Five Editing Tricks & Tips      6 Effective Ways to Promote Your Book     First […]

  4. […] to the most searched for and useful posts and sites on Chazz Writes: All That Chazz     How Editing Works (Plus Editing Symbols)     Five Editing Tricks & Tips      6 Effective Ways to Promote Your Book     First […]

  5. MarinaSofia says:

    It is a really useful reminder – I used to know them off by heart but have forgotten some of them in the 10+ years that I haven’t used them, so it’s great to have them all in one place. I’m surprised you suggest submitting simultaneously in about 5 places – I can understand why you would want to do it, given the glacial rate of response, but is it ethical?

    • Chazz says:

      Because of the glacial rate of response, or no response at all, yes, it’s ethical. Most places expect non-exclusive submissions now and those that don’t are unreasonable (unless they can actually get back to you within a month or two. Some places manage to do that.) Since we won’t all live forever, only the Highlander can submit, wait, submit, wait, one at a time. One magazine got back to me on one story a year after I submitted and never replied about the other story I submitted. Those stories ended up as award winners in one of my short story collections. (Of course, that’s a very old post so I don’t submit anything anywhere anymore. I just publish it myself.)

  6. homebadger says:

    This was so helpful! I am bookmarking it for when I start pulling my book together! Thank you!

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