Editors, man. Editors.
I love ‘em. Love ‘em hard.
That might come across as a shock to some of my fellow writers. There are authors who truly loathe the editing process, or believe their work is so dead-solid-perfect out of the box that editors need not apply.
This is your first warning sign, Sparky — you need an editor.
I’m still baffled as to why people hate the editing process. No writer should ever be free of an editor’s touch as the editorial process is where the story takes shape, where characters are developed, and discoveries are made. It is during this second pass, after an objective pair of eyes reads your work, and begins asking you the tough questions. “Why is this happening here? It doesn’t advance the plot or the character arc.” or “Hold on, what happened to X during this? You touch on how important X was, and we never see it again?” are the crucial questions you need to have asked before your book is in print and readers ask you.
I have heard editors referred to as “gatekeepers” or far nastier names, I look at them as your partner-in-crime. They want to make your story the best it can be as your success is theirs, as well. Editing shouldn’t be regarded as a processes of cutting-cutting-cutting, although trimming the fat off a story isn’t a bad thing. If writing is a process of discovery, then editing is a process of re-discovery. You find some things you’ve written where, out-loud, you will ask “Who the hell wrote that?!” and other times where you will think “Yeah, I got this.” Over a pair of fine single malts (Balvennine Doublewood 15, and thank you for asking), I was talking about the editing process with my fellow word herder and buddy, Nick Kelly. He asked me “So you think it’s okay if you are enjoying what you’re working on?” It’s more than okay. It’s part of the re-discovery process.
I’d worry more if I sat back and honestly thought “I am a literary genius, dammit. Now someone peel me a grape.”
There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying your own work. Not everyone will love what you do, but if you don’t love it, how can you expect complete strangers to enjoy the ride you’re taking them on? Editing is when you take an objective moment to return to your material with an objective viewpoint and refine what you have to a fine edge.
So why not be your own editor?
Yeah, who else knows your work better than you? I can edit my own stuff, sure. I can look at this objectively with zero bias. I can also time travel using my brain and a paper clip! Self-editing is a trap many authors, especially independent authors, fall deep into, never to be seen or heard from again. Even when it is out of necessity, as I found with MOREVI, it is never good to edit your own work as your greatest strength in editing your work is also your greatest liability. You are so familiar to the situations, the characters, and the work on a whole that you may be blind to scenes that merely repeat what happened five chapters before, things your characters state over and over and over, and little details in the plot that you make a big deal about in several chapters, only to have that detail never be talked about again. All these things, coupled with the lack of a critical, fresh perspective on the story (as in, they are coming in cold to this, as a reader would) makes you the worst editor for this book. You can still make judgment calls on scenes you think are in need of a rewrite or filling out, but a good editor will tell you where the story lacks, will keep your storytelling on track with the rules you have put into play, and tell you when something makes sense and when something has just coming in from Left Field. The editor the conscience of your work. You may be the heart, soul, and voice of your world, but an editor will keep you honest.
So if you haven’t, hug an editor today. Make sure you have an idea of what kind of edits your work is ready for as there are a wide array of editing packages to choose from when reaching this stage of your work. Above all, when an editor takes on your work, make sure to say “Thank you” and remember you are there to work with the editor, not against him or her. A good editor is not an adversary armed with a red pen (and anyone else notice that the ink they use is the same color as blood? Just sayin’…) but part of your team, dedicated to make your book the best it can be.
Pick and choose your battles, and together you will have in the end a story that may just amaze you. And your readers.