Edit! Edit! Edit! And When You Think You're Finally Done, Guess Again And Edit Some More!
Okay, so lately, it seems like whenever anyone asks me about my book, I respond with the automatic, "It's in the editing phase." Well, needless to say, it's been in the editing phase for, let's see, HALF my life now. Or, at least, it feels that way. But I think I need to define what editing really means - because, to most people, it means trimming out the fat and polishing the writing to the point of absolute perfection.
This is true, but, it's also very vague.
Editing is a long and tiring process. When I first finished my book and read through the material from start to finish, I was like, "Damn, that's good!" And then I read through it again. And again. And again. And, guess what? It was good, but not damn good.
The book started out at 150K words, and, at that time, I was convinced that every single word was necessary and beautiful and totally brilliant. I'd think, why on earth would I hack this beautifully crafted paragraph or I'd make excuses like, but this HAS to stay for the sake of character voice. Nope, it really doesn't.
Each time I read through the material, I'd take my mental axe and hack out another paragraph or another word, and, sometimes, entire chapters! And each time I did this, I felt empowered, like my story was just a prun-snip away from being readably perfect. Well, it wasn't.
Because, once you're done snipping and pruning, then comes the real fun--copyediting and proofreading. Copyediting is all about grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, formatting, awkward transitions, wordiness, ambiguous references...etc. Proofreading is essentially the same thing, but with more focus on grammatical errors. It's all very tedious and time consuming! But worth it, believe me.
After several rounds of phased editing, my story is now at a word count of 119K. And it reads a thousand times better. But, still, it's not perfect. This was all done by me, myself and I, so you can imagine what errors a reader with a fresh set of eyes will find. Which is why my story has now entered the Beta-Reading phase. Once I gather everyones feedback, I'll go back and do another round of editing. Once that's done, I'll have it beta-read again. And I'll repeat this process until the story is as good as its going to get.
Then, I'll hire a real editor. If you're contemplating self-publishing, this is especially important. Traditionally published authors typically have a team of editors who groom their work to perfection. As an indie, you won't have this, but that doesn't mean your story can't be of the same caliber. Just budget this in as a must-have and hire an affordable freelance editor. It's an investment that I know will pay off. I've read so many blogs by self-pub authors who wished, when they were starting out, that they'd invested in editing services--so, yeah, heed their advice!
Okay, I think I'm done with my editing rant. Don't get me wrong, editing can be a fun stage in the process, but after so many rounds, it's just plain bang-my-head-against-the-wall-tear-my-eyes-out craptastic. And editing is a completely separate process from the revision process--did I forget to mention that at the beginning of the post?
Writers know this, of course, but again, whenever I speak to my family or friends about my book and mention editing, they say, "But I thought you already revised your book. You're doing it again? What are you changing now?" And then I do my tight-grinned-pat-you-on-the-shoulder laugh and say, "For the love of god, if I hear that one more time..."
I'm kidding, of course ;)
But not really.
Editing is hard! And so is the revision process! Both are time consuming and require more patience than I, admittedly, thought myself capable of. So, for all you writers out there who feel like you should have been done with your book yesterday, don't! Creativity is not something that can be rushed. Nor should it be. Giving your readers the best reading experience possible is what its all about. So give your story the time and dedication that it deserves. You'll respect yourself more and, in the end, you'll have a story worth sharing.
For those of you interested, or who just need a little pick me up, check out these articles. One is about editing vs. revision and their differences--seriously, it samples the idea perfectly. The other is about patience and how important it is to hone your skills as a writer. Both made me see the light at the end of the tunnel. Enjoy!
Editing vs. Revision - How to Tell the Difference
Patience Is a Writer's Most Important Virtue