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May 2018
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Aerden [userpic]
An Eye-Opener

Writing: I bought a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers today from Amazon after I bought my copy of the Novel and Short Story Writers Market.

I suppose I must just be the most naive amateur writer in the world, because I thought that at least some editing of books went on at professional publishers. I knew that very successful authors don't get edited as much anymore--as witness Anne McCaffrey's lates few books and the horrible first chapter of Halfblood Prince. Somebody should have taken a stick to J. K. Rowling for the awful technique stuff in that first chapter, but it's pretty clear that they published what she sent them.

Now, from looking at the reviews of this book and some excerpts from it, it appears that, by and large, the only editing your book is likely to get is the editing you do on it yourself. I don't know that this is true across the board, but it is apparently true for many.

I'm pretty horrified. On the one hand, editing your book yourself can only teach you to become a better writer. The idea that there might be no one at the publishing house who would look your book over aside from your agent is a bit scary, though. It helps to have a pair of fresh eyes look at your book--fresh eyes of people who aren't your beta-readers or yorr friens or family, people who can tell you, "This needs to go," or "This needs to be changed."

I will be very interested to read this book when it arrives.

Current Mood: thoughtfulthinking

"Now, from looking at the reviews of this book and some excerpts from it, it appears that, by and large, the only editing your book is likely to get is the editing you do on it yourself. I don't know that this is true across the board, but it is apparently true for many."

I don't think this is generally true. What's changed, I think, is that publishers were once willing to work more with first-time authors if the work was nearly-there, but not quite.

Now your first book has to be much nearer perfect (IMO). But that doesn't mean editing doesn't happen.

I used to be an editorial assistant for Harlequin Mills & Boon - probably not well known for its editing.

Yet whenever a book came in from one of my authors, I'd read it for the first time to see whether it needed any revisions, if it had any weak points. If it did, it would go back for revision and I'd look at it the same way when it came back. I'd work with some authors very closely from the first synopsis, or just the first three chapters.

Then, once the book was more or less ready to go, I'd do a 'line-edit' - basically reading (and editing) it line by line to ensure everything made sense (continuity and sentence structure, etc).

The copy editor would then take it, correcting spelling/grammar and flagging up any inconsistencies/questions, which I would resolve myself or go back to the author on.

Consequently, each book went through several 'editing' stages. On the line I worked with, the editor was actually very reluctant to ever publish a book without revision, no matter how pressing the deadlines.

Some authors (usually the bigger names, but sometimes even new ones) were very reluctant to make changes. Some you had to work around.

Mistri--Sheesh! I'd think any new author who didn't want to accept changes would be almost too arrogant to bother with. That's probably over-generalizing, but...When you're just starting out, you really need to listen to the more experienced people in the business. You have to let yourself be made aware of your own writing weaknesses, if you want to succeed and improve.

I feel sorry for the big-name authors who don't want to listen. They probably are likely to go on and sell millions, but the fans notice things, especially the ones who want to be writers. I don't know how well Mercedes Lackey is selling nowadays, but there used to be a lot of fan complaints about her work, which mainly pointed out editing problems.

And Rowling--I read the first chapter of Halfblood Prince and cringed. The storytelling was great; the chapter was wonderfully funny, and I enjoyed it very much. But some of the writing techniques she used...I would have taken a red pen to them.

I have no idea what either of their attitudes are toward being edited, but sometimes, the need for it is very clear, even to an amateur like me. Maybe especially to an amateur, because these are the things I'm trying to avoid in my own writing, because I want to get published.


There's changes and then there's CHANGES.

I'd be willing to accept a lot of editing -- gratefully, even. Prose, storytelling, plot, character inconsistencies -- sure. But I know (even if I don't know exactly where it is) that somewhere, there is a line. A line past which it is no longer my story.

I hope to God I don't run into it on my first sale, or my third, or even my tenth. Because I don't want to have to choose between the story and the sale.

But I also hope that I never get so big, that I am a victim of my own success. That there are always people around me who can call me on my sloppiness, my laziness, and my blind spots.