Editing specs

Paul Meccano

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Afternoon all.

Why is it that I can't see what needs editing until I've edited?
Yeah, right, I get that this might be an odd question alert! But maybe not.
Is it because I'm dyslexic, perhaps, that I'm not good enough at writing yet? I mean I've only edited 200,000 words, twice, so far on this novel alone. Or, is it like Neil Gaiman says, that like driving in the fog you can only see so far ahead; that until you move the story on a bit, you won't be able to see where it's going, or where it might end? I mean story is one thing, but editing?
Your opinions would be gratefully received, yo'all. I don't know quite how many edits it takes, as a rule, but each time I look I seem to find more. That darn sentence is in there somewhere – tangled in a mess of ifs, buts, that's, there's, wheres, commas, grammatical faux pas and unexpressed particulars – but will it ever end? When do I stop and let the editor begin?

Does anyone have any examples of pre and post line editing, copy, even mechanical please?

I'm so close to handing this to an editor, and yet the more I leave unedited the more it'll cost me (of course, that's what editors are for) but hey, I thought I'd ask.
What do you see? What do you expect of yourself? And, is it normal for everybody (skill level aside) to suffer this blindness?
When is it best to stop?

Thanks in advance.
 

msstice

200 words a day = 1 novel/year
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It depends a bit on what you mean by editing. At the core, I'm interpreting editing as meaning changing words at the sentence or paragraph level, keeping the story the same, to bring out the impact of what you want to say.

The guideline that I have taken very much to heart is not to edit during the first draft. I'm a discovery writer and only now on my second draft am I somewhat confident of the scenes and arcs that will be there in the final story.

I'm therefore, on the second draft, editing, but only lightly. I am still not sure if all the scenes will be in the story, and some scenes I am writing only for the first time. These I don't edit much, since they count as a first draft.

When I am on the third or fourth draft, at which point I expect all the scenes are largely preserved, I intend to "wordsmith" in detail.

I realize everyone is told to get the services of a professional editor, but I don't intend to do that. I feel that this is my work and I should be responsible for its quality at all stages. Especially with automated spell and grammar checkers I feel I should be reading my work closely enough that I do editing myself. Line editing especially, I reserve for myself. This does not lend itself to volume of course.

After typing this up, I realized that all of this information is likely useless to you, sorry.

One useful thing might be that, because I write slowly, when I come back for my next pass, it's been upto a year since I last saw those words. This allows me to pick up errors I might not have if I was skimming the words out of familiarity to them.
 

The Judge

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I don't know if this will help, but here goes.

For the last three years I've written the monthly serials for Kraxon and for the last 12 months I've acted as a kind of submissions editor there, so in all I've had 37 of my own stories edited (I also had a short published) and I've seen another 12 stories in both the pre-and post-edit stage. I'm pretty good at grammar and in spotting errors and the authors I've worked with are all experienced writers who are no slouches in that department. And not one of those 49 stories has emerged unscathed from the editor's virtual red pen.

So, yes, it's completely normal for authors to miss things in their own work. Some of this, as msstice notes, is because of familiarity -- we read what we think is there, not what is actually there, so typos get missed. Some of it is that we know where the story is going, and what is meant, so we don't see potential ambiguities. Some of it is that we aren't objective enough to see that something just isn't working.

For myself, I edit as I go along -- I'll be changing the beginning of a paragraph before I've reached the end of it! -- and I progress only slowly, constantly re-reading from the top of the story and making changes as I go along. So by the time I've put the final word down, the first written paragraphs will have been read and edited dozens of times. I'll then re-read and edit the whole at least twice before sending it to my writing group, and once I've had their feedback I'll make the necessary changes, then go through at least another three edits of the whole, constantly refining. (And usually constantly reducing word count as I write long.) And still things slip through.

Yes, if you intend to self-publish, then it's best if you have a professional editor go over your work once it is ready to to go press. But before that, if you haven't done already, you ought to have the whole thing read by someone else who can give help with the larger issues of characterisation, pace etc. Only when all of those matters are dealt with, and the story itself as good as you can get it, should you think of getting in a line editor. If in fact you've done that, then perhaps now is the time to get, say, the first few chapters edited. If the editor is picking up a whole lot of errors which you might have found for yourself, then perhaps go over the succeeding chapters again at least twice before asking for more help.
 

ckatt

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the magazine Dream Forge sometimes shows before and after versions of published stories. You can see the original submitted manuscript and the comments the editors made.
DreamForge
 

Paul Meccano

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I don't know if this will help, but here goes.

For the last three years I've written the monthly serials for Kraxon and for the last 12 months I've acted as a kind of submissions editor there, so in all I've had 37 of my own stories edited (I also had a short published) and I've seen another 12 stories in both the pre-and post-edit stage. I'm pretty good at grammar and in spotting errors and the authors I've worked with are all experienced writers who are no slouches in that department. And not one of those 49 stories has emerged unscathed from the editor's virtual red pen.

So, yes, it's completely normal for authors to miss things in their own work. Some of this, as msstice notes, is because of familiarity -- we read what we think is there, not what is actually there, so typos get missed. Some of it is that we know where the story is going, and what is meant, so we don't see potential ambiguities. Some of it is that we aren't objective enough to see that something just isn't working.

For myself, I edit as I go along -- I'll be changing the beginning of a paragraph before I've reached the end of it! -- and I progress only slowly, constantly re-reading from the top of the story and making changes as I go along. So by the time I've put the final word down, the first written paragraphs will have been read and edited dozens of times. I'll then re-read and edit the whole at least twice before sending it to my writing group, and once I've had their feedback I'll make the necessary changes, then go through at least another three edits of the whole, constantly refining. (And usually constantly reducing word count as I write long.) And still things slip through.

Yes, if you intend to self-publish, then it's best if you have a professional editor go over your work once it is ready to to go press. But before that, if you haven't done already, you ought to have the whole thing read by someone else who can give help with the larger issues of characterisation, pace etc. Only when all of those matters are dealt with, and the story itself as good as you can get it, should you think of getting in a line editor. If in fact you've done that, then perhaps now is the time to get, say, the first few chapters edited. If the editor is picking up a whole lot of errors which you might have found for yourself, then perhaps go over the succeeding chapters again at least twice before asking for more help.
Now, this is sounding familiar.

It’s taken me three to four years of writing and editing just to get to where I am. Over that time I’ve had learn to write again, due to my dyslexic crankiness, along with the repercussions of ducking out of school. It’s not until now that I’ve woken up to the truth: that having worked hard with my head down, I’m probably good enough to create something others might consider, not just readable, but possibly well written - for want of a better term. Provided that is, that I edit out the crap. Which brings me to the point of this thread.
I tend to stall any writing for editing as I go these days, (Not wholly, of course; I’m aware I’ll go backwards if I don’t chill out.) whereas before I edited afterwards. The truth then, is that my novel had been written over a long period, during my own, long journey, and although it reads well now, it has taken three of four different types of editing to process. Not just developmental, copy, line, etc, but due to the way the content has been written I’ve had to adapt my own style when attacking it.
Needless to say I’ve learned much. But haven’t yet learned what my limits are, or as you say, where blindness creeps in for the closeness.
I’m pleased to hear your red pen hasn’t run out yet “ long live The Judge”, and I feel a little more comfortable now, knowing I can leave some mistakes, like the odd there, their, or a few that’s – and just stuff.

I’ve loved writing this novel. I’ve had to throw out two along the way, equating to hundreds of thousands of words. But it’s time I handed it over. If it isn’t well received, again, I will have learned much and enjoyed the whole process. I really need some Beta readers in truth. It’s something I’ve been dreading, and looking forward to, stuck in a polarised fit regardless of the editing. It’s almost time I stuck my head over the parapet.

Thanks
 

Paul Meccano

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Messages
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It depends a bit on what you mean by editing. At the core, I'm interpreting editing as meaning changing words at the sentence or paragraph level, keeping the story the same, to bring out the impact of what you want to say.

The guideline that I have taken very much to heart is not to edit during the first draft. I'm a discovery writer and only now on my second draft am I somewhat confident of the scenes and arcs that will be there in the final story.

I'm therefore, on the second draft, editing, but only lightly. I am still not sure if all the scenes will be in the story, and some scenes I am writing only for the first time. These I don't edit much, since they count as a first draft.

When I am on the third or fourth draft, at which point I expect all the scenes are largely preserved, I intend to "wordsmith" in detail.

I realize everyone is told to get the services of a professional editor, but I don't intend to do that. I feel that this is my work and I should be responsible for its quality at all stages. Especially with automated spell and grammar checkers I feel I should be reading my work closely enough that I do editing myself. Line editing especially, I reserve for myself. This does not lend itself to volume of course.

After typing this up, I realized that all of this information is likely useless to you, sorry.

One useful thing might be that, because I write slowly, when I come back for my next pass, it's been upto a year since I last saw those words. This allows me to pick up errors I might not have if I was skimming the words out of familiarity to them.
I hear you Misstice

This sounds like the perfect process, and something I’ve already failed at
My process has been, let’s say positively chaotic. I’m getting there but am struggling having written it, rewritten, edited, edited, and edited. I think I’m blind now, which as The Judge has pointed out keeps her red ink flowing – a job she seems to be good at.

Thanks
 

msstice

200 words a day = 1 novel/year
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Oh, the other thing I'm trying is having the text read aloud. Sadly the Mac OS text to speech is not that good. There are some spectacular paid products out there, however. I think I might just have to read it into a recorder and play it back at some point.
 

Jo Zebedee

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I hear you Misstice

This sounds like the perfect process, and something I’ve already failed at
My process has been, let’s say positively chaotic. I’m getting there but am struggling having written it, rewritten, edited, edited, and edited. I think I’m blind now, which as The Judge has pointed out keeps her red ink flowing – a job she seems to be good at.

Thanks
You haven’t failed. Everyone’s process is different - I’m fact, every project’s process is. Chaos is just another approach. Whether or not this project comes together as a final book is only one aspect of writing - what you have learned to take forwards is another. Be kind to yourself
 

sknox

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Every story I start, I begin with outlines and notes and sketches, and a determination that *this* time I'm gonna get myself organized. Hasn't worked. Not once.

Looked at one way, you could say I'm faililng. But I have four books published, along with four short stories. So, looked at from that angle, I'm succeeding. I reckon you can choose which viewpoint you wish, but for me there's only one thing that counts: I finished, and I met my own standards.

Two things. Only two things counted: I finished, I met my own standards, and at least some others have read and liked those stories.

Three things. Three things only count. Which I clearly cannot.
 

Paul Meccano

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Skonx

Well said.
Meeting your own standards is everything, and truly, I know I will, once I get an idea on what that is. I believe I’m at that point, with handing this novel over a moment of discovery.
I’ve had to learn how to write again, which is odd as an adult and means I really have no standard until I can weigh it. I literally have no idea what is acceptable and what isn’t; what makes good sentence structure, passes for good grammar, and what doesn’t. I’m sure I’m close, but it’s not yet “at hand” when I want it. Some days I just can’t see right from wrong and find it frustrating, other days it’s like someone else is at the keyboard typing for me.
I can’t write freehand well enough either, I have a problem with my hands which makes it painful, so I type, slowly.
And, thanks for your note on failing/not failing.
I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one losing my way for the madness.
Again this points to setting some kind of standard – I do seriously love writing by the way. It’s ruining much of my life and yet I can’t stop, taking too much of my time to be sustainable.
I have to make a choice soon, to either curb it or continue using as many daily hours as I do – Something I can do once I understand the process better. Maybe completing this book, edited, even published, might give me a marker, that along with feedback from others might offer perspective I’m so far, yet to aquire.
It’s been a long journey.
You, as with many others on here, have been and continue to be an inspiration.

Thanks again
 

Paul Meccano

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You haven’t failed. Everyone’s process is different - I’m fact, every project’s process is. Chaos is just another approach. Whether or not this project comes together as a final book is only one aspect of writing - what you have learned to take forwards is another. Be kind to yourself
Thanks Jo

Chaos rules! (Like many men before me, I have plans to dethrone it that will likely end in tears.)
I’m aware I’m still learning, with being kind to myself actually one of my mantras. It’s been wearing thin of late though, which is my own fault, I suppose, for not seeking enough help and guidance along the way.
I’m going to swear… —————word count!!!
I’m so fixated on the bloody word count, and knowing I’m not yet accomplished means there must be a lot of excess words and ideas that aren’t required in there. If only I could discern which ones. If only I could see them sooner, if at all.
I think I need to lose 20k words.
But which ones?
“Come out with your hands up, you superfluous adverbs – quickly!”
 

DLCroix

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Before trying your luck with a novel, which is a long project of three or four years according to what I have read, I advise you to write a couple of stories and send them to professional magazines such as the Argentine Axxon, which has been publishing for more than twenty years authors from around the world and is one of the leaders in the science fiction genre. Well, it seems to me that you write more fantasy, but writers are supposed to write anything, right? On the other hand, seeing your work exposed to the analysis of professional, serious editors published in several languages, winners of contests such as the Minotaur or the UPC, I think will give you an idea of what your real level of writing is. I think that's the million dollar question at the moment, because after a few years of writing, the concern of knowing what situation you are in is absolutely reasonable and healthy. And necessary, I think, to know what things you need to correct. Because it happens that you need a dispassionate and impartial evaluation, from people who do not know you and only evaluate what they should evaluate, which is what you want. In addition, they do not charge and instead the work they do is invaluable to aim for larger objectives such as international competitions and the long-awaited dream of publishing. :ninja:
 

tinkerdan

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Sometimes it depends on your resources and patience.
I usually edit once through in Word as I originally wrote it and then I change a few things like line spacing and margins and edit through again.
There are two things to be aware of--one is that if you write something wrong the first time you might tend to read it back the same way you thought you were writing it and miss the error by some weird correction that happens only in your head--the second is that if you have been looking at the same thing for a long time while it's double spaced with one inch margins it might all look the same every time your eyes scan it.
Changing things up seems to trigger that bit of extra attention you need to edit.

I have lots of paper, ink, and printers so that I can print the thing out--after exhausting myself with several edits on the computer and then I bundle it and take a pen and marker and start editing to find many more suspects. At that point then it might be ready for someone else to look at because it would be insane to think that I caught everything. Depending on how much they find I will likely have to start the process over again.

Lastly--reading out loud(find some place where you won't annoy anyone and embarrass yourself)really helps because some things sound different in the air than they sound in your head.

Keep writing.
 

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