by Virginia Herrick
For authors, editing pays. It pays in getting your message across, in the capacity to capture your readers’ attention, and in efficiency, time, and money. An unedited manuscript is generally something only a mother could love. And, yep, in this case you, Author Dearest, are “Mom.”
So … what is editing? Many writers when they first approach an editor may not be certain about what kind of help they need. Editing is not a monolithic unit of work, like attaching widgets on an assembly line. Write … edit … cover art … SPROING! Out comes a book! Uh … no.
In fact, about the only time you aren’t editing is that first flush of creative outpouring (or jaw-clenching determination, if the muse does not smile). After that, you’re editing. The first edits, of course, are the author’s own. Otherwise known as the “second (or third, or fourth, or …) draft.”
Dos and Don’ts of writing the first draft of your novel
Do … keep writing. Crafting and re-crafting that gorgeous first chapter is well worthwhile … after you’ve finished the first draft of your book.
Don’t … wordsmith a lot. Later, you can fix your grammar and punctuation, or ponder just the right simile. For now, get the story down.
Do … spend time getting to know your characters, even if it means writing something you know doesn’t belong in the book.
Don’t … agonize over that scene that just isn’t working. Skip it. Make a note to yourself about the plot points that need to be accomplished and move on.
In nonfiction, with obvious exceptions, the same applies. Make your outline, sure. But relax if you need to write things as you get the information and interviews, and organize later.
Now, say you’ve finished that first draft … and it’s full of pedestrian writing, disjointed storytelling, head-hopping and stream-of-consciousness reflections on irrelevant background material … Celebrate! A first draft is a massive achievement!
And … welcome to editing. Read over your manuscript, noting problem areas and tweaking language as you go. Fix everything you possibly can before you look for an editor. The better your manuscript, the less expensive the professional edit! Fix that scene you skipped, make sure your character’s motivations and development are coherent, and polish, polish, polish the dialogue. For nonfiction authors, the focus will be organizing your material, improving your narrative voice, and making sure you have all the information you need, no more, and in the right order!
Next step is a beta read. The more volunteers you have, the better. This is the place for your mom, your best friend, that guy down the street who will read anything as long as it’s (Fill In Your Genre Here), members of your writers group who owe you favors, etc. Take their responses, fix the ones that make your book better, ignore the rest, and repeat as needed. NOW you’re ready for The Editor!
Virginia has been making up stories for fun since she was a skinny, shy kid with straight hair down to her waist. She’s now less shy, less skinny, and has shorter hair. However, she still loves fantasy novels, other novels, other books, the beach, the woods, animals, birds of prey, and thinking, writing, and talking about how to make the world better.
Most of her waking hours, Virginia is reading and writing: emails, blog posts, news, social media, magazine articles, book reviews, and – oh, yeah! – stories! Often when she’s reading and writing, she has a dog at her feet and a cat cruising back and forth between her and her monitor and/or book. This is not convenient. It is not efficient. But it is the way she rolls.
She has been a babysitter, secretary, hair stylist, pet groomer, lobbyist, newspaper reporter, and newspaper editor. Now she edits and reviews books and short stories, and writes poems, short stories and as-yet-unpublished novels. (Stay tuned!) Several years ago, Virginia fostered more than fifty cats and kittens over a period of three summers and is very proud that she only kept one! Her two mostly-grown kids help around the house without being asked. It’s weird.
A member of the Bellingham Friends (Quaker) Meeting in Washington state, Virginia lives with her sometime-sailor husband, Mark, cats named Sinbad and Mercury, and a miniature schnauzer named Espy. She would foster more kittens, but Mercury says no. Sinbad and Espy would totally be cool with it.