Hey y’all! Hope it’s been a good week. I’ve been working on two short stories for a few summer contests that I’m entering. But I wanted to continue with my series about things I didn’t know when I self-published. Keep in mind, y’all, I’M STILL LEARNING. I just had a conversation with another author friend (Sarah M. Cradit) today about ways to improve sales. It is a never-ending process and if you are serious about self-publishing or even writing a book, you need to read this.
In case you missed last week’s post about stepping out of your comfort zone, you can read it here.
So #2 in Things You Don’t Know….
You will need an editor. You cannot under ANY circumstances rely on your personal editing skills, your bff who is a teacher, or any self-help book on editing. Those are great resources, but TRUST ME it doesn’t replace a professional getting their hands on your manuscript. Do not be duped into thinking your readers won’t notice the errors because of your awesome story. They will and when they call you out on it, they probably won’t be nice. Hire an editor. Now, there will be someone who doesn’t heed my advice, publishes an unedited book, and hits the NYT bestsellers, but their story is the exception, not the rule. Besides, your book is basically an extension of you. Don’t you want to put your best self out there?
With my first book, The Waiting, I seriously was days away from self-publishing without any more than a few family and friends reading the book. The errors inside that book would have made me the laughing stock of the literary community or at least those who read it. And rightfully so! I’m not for being a troll, but I appreciate it when books are easy to read and error free. Believe me, people are going to pick apart what you write anyway. I’d rather them pick apart my style and content, rather than my inability to use a word correctly or my bad habit of placing prepositional phrases awkwardly.
But Elizabeth, it cost so much…
Yep. It’s not cheap. It doesn’t have to break the bank, but if someone wants to edit your 115k manuscript for $100, then they are looking for easy money. I tell Kathy all the time paying her is like buying tampons or laundry detergent. In other words: necessity.
I’m sure you can get someone who’s ‘just good at English’ to look over it and that may work for you, but I feel pretty awesome to know someone who’s worked in the book business has looked at my manuscript several times. Research your editor. Ask for credentials. Ones who are serious will give them to you without asking.
What does an editor do, you ask? Well, in the first issue of Witch Dance – which I admit, I was a little lazy with the self-edits – I used the word THAT over 600 times, not to mention several other grammatical issues. I am dsylexic and though I don’t believe it’s ever been a problem when I’ve sent a manuscript to Kathy, I’m really thankful for a set of eyes to make sure I don’t write grapped instead of grabbed.
Below, I’d like to show you what editing looks like. Of course, all editors are different but if your editor isn’t teaching as she (or he) goes along, find someone else. Naturally, you should grow as a writer with each book, and your editor should be a huge part of that process. (You may need to enlarge my photos.)
That’s the Prologue to my first book. Subtle differences, right? My voice hasn’t changed and I’m still conveying my message, but I’m doing it in a way that makes me and my story look good.
After edits, here’s the final product: (italicized for emphasis)
Arianne Douglas stood over her son. Her dead son. Murder weapon in hand. Blood and tears running down her face. Helpless. Powerless. Paralyzed. Recalling his first steps, first words. There would be no more firsts. Her child was dead. Startled by the buzzing of her cell phone next to his body, she answered but did not speak.
“Ari?” her best friend said, “you called but didn’t leave a message. Andrew texted me about the fight between Reece and Nash. I’m on my way to you now.”
“Lesley, I need you.” Arianne sobbed into the phone. “He’s dead, he’s dead… my baby… my son… Les, he’s dead… God, please no… I’m so sorry, baby…” Her voice broke with every word.
“Arianne, I’m on my way. Are you still at the house?” Lesley Huff remembered her recurring dream, pangs of regret pelting her heart. A storm was coming.
“Have you called the police?” she asked, certain Arianne had not.
“No, only you,” she cried. “My… my son…”
“Dammit Ari, call the police. Now.”
Ending the call, Lesley pressed the accelerator, speeding down West Esplanade Avenue. Arianne hadn’t said which son she had found. Thinking of her own two little girls, she choked back tears for her dearest friend.
South Lake Drive was quiet except for Lake Pontchartrain’s choppy waters lapping over the levee rocks. Lesley wrapped one arm around her chest, her breathing stifled by the heavy Gulf wind. Sirens screeched in the distance and the night sky was filled with the blue and red glow of emergency vehicles. She was glad they were close. Parking next to Arianne’s Jeep, Lesley offered a silent prayer of thanks that Arianne’s thirteen-year-old son, Pike, was with his father and nowhere near this house tonight. So was it Nash? Or Reece. Both of their trucks were parked underneath the awning. Fearful, she opened the back door leading to a dark kitchen, and a bloody Arianne cradling the lifeless body of her son.
Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners
Nowand at the hour of our death.”
Man, I remember going through this book with Kathy and almost throwing in the towel, but I didn’t because I loved my story and I had a patient and long-suffering editor who was willing to go through the manuscript line after line, and help me make it the best it could be at that time. Of course, now both Kathy and me can see so much we’d do differently and that’s awesome. It means we’ve both grown in our craft.
Editing is a grueling process. With The Waiting, I cut characters, passages, I even changed as few tertiary plot lines for the sake of the story. But if you have caring and patient editor, they’ll be right beside you in the trenches, helping you discern what’s best for your story.
My editor – Kathy Lapeyre is a primarily a line editor. Here’s a bit what she does in her words: “I use a combination of line editing and copy editing on the first pass… then copy editing mixed with proofreading on the next one. If three readings are booked, I use a formula of line/copy, then copy, and finish up with a thorough proofread.”
Every single one of my novels had something that I unconsciously picked as my error. As I said earlier with Witch Dance, it was the excessive use of THAT. Another one, it was starting too many sentences with And and But. Kathy helps me see a new way to write, correcting the problem and enhancing the final product.
Your editor should be an encourager. The author/editor relationship is special. They should always elevate you and your work to higher standards. I consider my writing good before it goes to Kathy. When she gets done, it’s GREAT. So much so that I know if someone doesn’t like my work, it’s not because I’m a terrible writer but because they didn’t like the subject matter or my style, not because I broke every rule in the book.
Give your story the love and attention it deserves and hire an editor.