Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Editing the Day Away

Editing is such an important step in the writing process. For hundreds of years authors have sought agents and publishers to publish their books because of their access to mass production. Those agents and publishers acted as a winnowing process, removing the wheat from the chafe. They and they alone decided what would sell, what was good, and what we needed. Then they polished those pretty stories, removing all (or most) error and making the best possible product to package.

In the last thirty years or so there has been a movement toward self-publishing. In the beginning self-publishing was messy, expensive to the writer, and so frowned upon in the industry that to self-publish was viewed as a career killer. But technology (I LOVE IT) has opened up new and amazing opportunities for all of us. I can now publish for free with print on demand and e-books. I can do a massive amount of marketing from my own home without spending more than it costs to pay the electric bill! If I want to do ground marketing, I can use the proceeds from my book to buy a handful of physical books to sell at speaking engagements!

It is an exciting change to be sure, but one that is fraught with peril. The peril of poor quality work being thrust upon unsuspecting readers. The peril of not being able to distinguish yourself from the crazy joe down the street who spent three nights clacking at the keys and can publish his book tomorrow and be just as much an author as you.

The danger of losing readers to the other forms of media because our quality has fallen so low. (Though after this summer, I am still convinced the movie industry is way ahead of us in that fall!)

What can we, as serious authors, do to prevent this? The first is to make sure that your story really is the best that it can be. Take the time to make sure that you are publishing a work that is quality work.  Note that I did not say a work you can be proud of, but a quality work. I can be proud of my son for his artwork from school that won first prize, but he is seven. It is not quality work.

(Hint, your mother is probably not the best person to tell you whether or not what you have done is quality work! We're moms and we're proud... not to mention biased!)

Once you have written your story it is time to edit. Once you've edited it, go on and edit it again. Honestly, my rule of thumb is to edit my work no less than four times. First read through is for content. Second is specifically for grammar. Third is for those niggly spelling errors that slip past Word (such as I typed is, but meant if.) Fourth is read aloud to catch anything else. If it feels good... and I mean really good, then I send it to a couple of friends for critiquing while I am scribbling out my next story. I do not look at it again until I have had two people send back their "corrections". Then I go through line by line evaluating the two friends suggestions with what I have and piece it all together in the best possible light. Then I read the final copy again... and again, if necessary.

Writing has always been a collaborative effort. In the past we have had to pay agents, editors and publishers to participate in that collaboration. But in this modern age, you can find writer friends from all over the world. Find a group you trust! Work together and help each other succeed. Do not view those other guys as your competitors. View them as your colleagues!

If we as author's band together we can make it through this crazy whirlwind of change and come out on top!

Writing is the easy part of what we do folks, we are getting into the hard stuff now! So, next post will be focusing on some of the details to watch out for when editing. Why? Because none of us are experts and we all need refreshers. Even me!

Until next time, keep writing!!

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