Knee-Deep in Editing

23/02/11 2:02 PM

I’m self-publishing my debut novel in May. This is a book I’ve worked on for nine years. No, wait — 10 years (since 2001). It’s gone through six top-to-bottom rewrites. It’s been laid to rest once, only to be resurrected a year later when, out of the blue, I figured out how to fix the beginning, which had been dogging me since version 1.0. It went through a bunch of beta readers, and each time, I revisited the piece and reworked it some more. I wrote, rewrote, put it aside, rewrote, revised, proofed, and then this past fall, I finally felt it was ready.

And when I say “ready,” I mean ready to go to a copy editor, not the virtual bookshelves at Amazon or B&N.

As I mentioned in this post from last week, we indie writers have an enormous responsibility to put out polished work. (Yes, all writers do, but bear with me here.) Indie writers don’t have to use an editor, whereas traditional writers do. But I believe all indie writers should use a professional editor, even if that means pushing out the date of your release or working a second job for a little while to get the funds to pay for one. I’ve read too many indie works lately that have punctuation errors on page one. Page one! There’s no excuse for that. None. Don’t peddle schlock. Put out your best work.

I’m lucky. I’m friends with a professional story and copy editor. Her name is Laura Matthews and she owns

We met in Niblets (my writers group). What I love about Laura is that she’s a “literal” reader and writer. I’m not. I’m all about the implied and the indirect, so Laura provides great insight into my work. She also is great at calling me out on my crutches: I know I overuse words like actually and just; I exorcised most of those from my manuscript before she got it, but she pointed out the crutches I missed because I’m too close to the work. Words like really and starting too many sentences with and.

Before Laura edited this version, she read version 5.0 and provided feedback on the story, characters, and the arc. I made some revisions based on these comments and then continued making more until I got to the point I was at this past fall. Then I sent it to Laura around Christmas. She sent it back to me the end of January, and I’ve been working on the edits ever since, poring through every line, every scene, and debating titles (another thing that dogged me with this book. I finally came up with a title I’m happy with — more on that in another post once I finalize the cover art).

I really think indie writers are doing a disservice to their work, to their readers, and to the self-publishing industry in general if they don’t go through this process. While I had only a handful of actual typos in 371 Word doc pages, Laura caught enough inconsistencies, lazy language, crutch words, etc. to show why an editor is needed. It’s not simply a worthy investment; it’s a necessary investment as well. If you’re an indie writer, don’t skimp.

What do you think, readers and writers? If you’re a reader, have you ever read something and wondered where the author’s editor was? And writers (indie or traditional — we’re all the same), do you make sure your work is professionally edited (before you self-publish or before you pitch an agent or publisher or submit to a lit magazine)? Feel free to share info about the person you use in the comments. Copy editing is not an easy job. Props to anyone who does it and does it well! (And in case you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend Laura.)

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6 Comments on “Knee-Deep in Editing”

  1. Steve T Says:

    I have had the unfortunate experience of paying for an indie writer’s work, only to realize it was a strong draft and not a polished novel.

    This is great advice for writers of the digital revolution. You may not need an agent to get published, but there’s no escaping the fact that an experienced editor’s critical eye can turn a good piece of work into something great. Any writer considering publishing to a wide audience should first run his or her manuscript by an editor like Laura Matthews.

  2. Ghenet Says:

    That’s great that you found such a good editor who knows what to look for. If I were to self-publish, I’d definitely want to invest in a professional editor too.

    It’s really interesting to read about your self-publishing process!

  3. Margo Says:

    Oh I can’t agree strongly enough! I intend to use a professional editor – and I’ve heard good service for an entire manuscript can cost over $1000 – even before I start submitting (maybe that’s overkill – but I also do technical writing and I know how helpful a good “literal” editor is!) So glad to hear your editor not only caught typos, but lazy language, overused words and inconsistencies. I’ll keep her in mind!

  4. Susan W Says:

    Laura is an amazing editor.

  5. Susan J Cobb Says:

    I can’t recommend Laura highly enough. She was not only an “amazing editor,” she was a pervasive FORCE, literally dragging the last three chapters out of me. Her influence remains with me every day. Dang, I think of her reading over my shoulder as I write this…

  6. Laura Matthews Says:

    Stop! You’re all making me blush.

    Robyn’s book is EXCELLENT, and Susan’s, too. Such a pleasure to work with such talented writers who have something significant to say. It’s a privilege, “really.”