I'm on an editing kick this month, but I don't think that's harming anyone, because there are so many people delving into publishing their first work. I hope you'll take something away from these short blog topics, and in so doing, improve your sales when you set that puppy free!
Today I want to talk a bit on editing in general.
Why is it important?
There's the obvious answer that you don't want to put a book out full of grammatical errors and typos. That just looks bad. It makes an author seem unprofessional, and even authors who edit hire editors to avoid that. Everyone makes mistakes, and I've yet to see a perfect book published by anyone, or any house.
But beyond the surface layer, particularly if you're dealing with romance, there are certain expectations readers have when they put money out for a book--no matter the length. They want to be entertained, foremost, and they don't want to be sidetracked by things that don't make sense.
An editor will look for story gaps, dropped plot, characters who behave one way in the first part of the book then suddenly change their behavior. (Character consistency). He or she will read with a careful eye for redundancy, word choice, pacing issues -- making sure the story doesn't drag or doesn't move too quickly in key areas.
All these things contribute to making a story tighter, to creating characters that are memorable, and ideally, help you launch a great book...not just a good one.
Dangers of Avoiding Editors
Without editing, you are essentially the only person who has vetted your story, and there's no one closer to the story than you are. It's like that clay pot you made in grade school. It was gorgeous, amazing, awesome, and the best ceramic project in the class to you...and your mother. To any person not directly tied to you there was no 'amazing, wondrous' creation made. There was a lumpy, off center, oval shape that resembled a pitcher more than it did a pot.
Your story is like that pot. Readers are brutal -- and not because they mean to be. But as a reader you know a good story is like aged wine, and a bad story is like drinking lemon juice. The reaction is strong. As an author you want the readers feeling like they drank wine.
Two More Points of Editing
Above, I highlighted what a developmental editor would frequently look for in a manuscript. I neglected to mention the value of a copy-editor and a proofreader. A copy-editor has a different skill set than a developmental editor, and when the editor is trained to do both, he or she is reading with a different objective if he's copy editing. It's not so much an analysis of the work as a whole, or even chapter by chapter. It's specialized to grammar, redundancy, word choice, sentence structure, and technical inconsistencies like if your secondary character's hair is blond in chapter 1, brown in chapter 15 and red in chapter 22.
A proofreader doesn't really need to have a specialized focus. He or she is going through the manuscript one last time, looking for things that were not addressed in both other editing passes. Things like a track changes error, or an extra space, or a too, to, two confusion, or even layout issues such as a blank page in the middle. The proofreader is the person who wields the silver polish, so to speak.
More on editors and the relationship with them, next time!
Looking for an editor? Check out Finish The Story!