It’s been a long time since I posted and that was about editing. This one is too.
I follow Chris Brecheen’s Writing About Writing on Facebook, he of the “You should be writing” admonitions. He’s clever and wise and very funny, and occasionally he answers questions. He recently got a question about whether to use an editor or not. He comes down on the side of using one if you can possibly manage it. I have said before on this blog that everyone needs an editor. I am here to tell you that I am an idiot who sometimes does not follow my own good advise. However, sometimes I learn from my mistakes and therefore become slightly less idiotic.
As you know, I’ve been editing the Bloodlines vampire series for my friend Dennis Young, so of course, I got all over confident and decided to edit my dad’s World War II memoir. To do this, I typed the entire book into a format I could easily manipulate in preparation for publication. Now, I once took a typing test long ago, and we determined I could type about 5 words a minute with 25 mistakes—that is, I’m a lousy typist (world records have been well over 100 words per minute with no mistakes). But I was determined. Happy with the job I’d done correcting the typos and other issues that the vanity publisher had let pass in my dad’s book, I sent copies to some veterans I know for them to review. One kindly responded that he liked the story, though it brought up some difficult memories, and the other went radio silent.
My dad had only published the book to give as gifts to his family members and we were very grateful for them, never mind the minor issues. Because I was ready to move forward with making the book available to a wider audience, I went back to review it again. Holy cow! The manuscript I had typed was full of transcription errors, typos, and other embarrassing mistakes. I feel like a total fool and that I owe those two readers an apology. So, back to editing my own darn work, and then on the hopefully getting someone else to review and comment. EVERYONE NEEDS AN EDITOR!
Even if your editor or reviewer is not a pro, it should be someone who understands grammar, spelling (spell checker doesn’t catch homonyms or correctly spelled words that aren’t at all what your meant to say), and plotting. Find someone who is really interested and honest and won’t pull any punches. There are actually several kinds of editors, how many depends on who you ask. There is general agreement that among these are developmental editors, copy editors, and content or line editors. There are also proof readers. Each one looks for different problems with the writing. But anyone who is reading along as says, “I have no idea what the heck you mean here” should get your attention. We pretty much always know what’s in our head, but all too often that doesn’t end up on the page. And if it does, it may be misspelled. Or badly phrased.
Yes, we all need editors. Preferably one who isn’t typing the manuscript at the same time. Especially one who types 5 words a minute.