Tuesday’s Tips: Good Editing vs. Bad Editing
An author walks into a bar carrying 3 manuscripts. She hands the first one to a friend, the second one to the bartender, and the third one to the guy checking her out. Two weeks later she returns to the bar.
Friend: OMG! I lovvvvvvvvved it! You’re so talented! How did you ever manage to come up with that?
Author: Did you find any typos?
Friend: A few, but nothing major. I was so lost in the story I might have missed a few. Oh, did you want me to write them down?
Author (turns to the bartender): How about you?
Bartender: It’s good. I liked it.
Author: Did you connect with the characters?
Author: (turns to the last guy) And you?
Guy: I thought it was spectacular. It read like I was watching a movie. I marked a few grammar things I wasn’t sure about, but other than that it was perfect.
…So what’s the punchline here? This entire editing process is a joke! Congratulations, you just wasted two weeks of waiting on a critique your grandmother could have given.
Author: I said make it BLEED!!!
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]elieve it or not, bad editing is having someone gush over your work and inflate your ego. It’s not there yet. You know it’s not perfect and needs work, that’s why you asked for help. Gushing is not helpful at this stage. Compliments are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but they are not a substitute for editing.
I have multiple beta readers (people who critique my work in the early stages). Beta 1 gets writing chapter by unedited chapter to help me stay focused. Beta 2 gets the book in quarters to decide if my characters are likable. Beta 3 gets draft one for plot hole inspection. Betas 4, 5, and 6 are on typo patrol. Meanwhile, I’m reading the manuscript so many times I know it by heart (not good because then even typos appear correct. I call this writer blindness.) It’s obviously time for the big guns!
You need someone who (1) is willing to offer their time. (2) They also have to be qualified. (3) They have to love you enough to not care about your feelings. When you hand them your MS and tell them to make it bleed, you explain to them that it should come back dripping in red! And you wait, no matter how long it takes. Never forget they are doing a favor for you others don’t have the heart to do.
When they return it to you, smile and say, “Thank you.” Don’t you dare get your feelings hurt by their honest criticism!
They went out on a limb for you, gave you the brutal honesty you needed to get the job done right. And believe me, hearing criticism from someone that loves you in the early stages of editing is a lot easier than getting criticized by a bad review when the chance to make changes is over.
I have an outstanding relationship with my editor at Secret Cravings Publishing (I have great relationships with all my editors, but this one I’m particularly close to). I was her first author and in the beginning (when I didn’t know what to expect) I hated her. She was horrible! How could she say those things about my work, suggest I cut out that crucial part? Never! In hindsight, she was right 99% of the time and I was wrong. This lesson came at the cost of reviewers pointing out the same suggestions she had made. She is now the acquisitions editor for the company and I refuse to let her leave me. What I thought was critical then doesn’t compare to the way she beats up my work now. I beg for it like a masochist and she literally whips my work into shape. When I say make it bleed she wrings her hands and grins like an evil doctor, because good editors are sadists at heart–just as they should be.
I’m very lucky to have an editor like that. As many of you know, I’m dyslexic, so my editing process takes about 6 times longer than my writing process. Surviving your first experience with a real editor is a lot like getting shot I imagine. You know it’s going to hurt and you can try to prepare, but you’ll never know exactly how that hurt feels until you’ve experienced it first hand. What’s important to remember is that it won’t kill you.
Good editors make great writers.
(Thank you, Elise, for kicking my ass. xo)
Who do you count on for honest feedback about your work? Who can you trust?
Respond in the comment section below.