Editors Are Your Friends

Yikes

Yikes!

Alas! I’ve written the last word and my story is complete! My friends and family are singing my praises. All I need now is to hit the publish button on Amazon. I don’t need an editor. He or she will only end up trashing it. My baby is perfect as is!

Ha! I had a lot to learn! Arguably, writers view editors as the bane of their creative existence. They dissect your thoughts, converting them into mere shells of themselves. Your prose is utterly fucked by the time they’re done marking it to hell and back. Right? Nope. Wrong! Editors are your friends. Don’t believe me?  I’m sure the lady above who made that mistake regrets not having someone edit her work, or at least this sentence! No matter how strong your writing skills are you still need to have someone professionally edit your work. Trust me, I’ve learned that the hard way.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t get totally slammed for the initial rendition of Twisted by Amazon reviewers. But, I’m sure I would not have received that 2 star rating had I consulted with an editor prior to releasing Twisted the first time around. Aside from editors correcting spelling, syntax, and other miscellaneous grammatical mishaps, here are 3 more reasons why you should invest in an editor before releasing your baby to the world:

Editors help you to streamline your manuscript. Your protagonist has just found a skeleton key to the creepy mysterious door in the basement of her house. Throughout the story, she’s been hearing strange noises coming from behind the door. However, she can’t open it because it’s locked and the key is missing. She’s searched all story long to find a key that unlocks it. Finally, she finds it! She slowly creeps to the door. Her heart rate is elevated. Her palms are sweaty. She’s quivering as she places the key into the hole. Right as she turns the key to unlock it, she then says, “Oh forget this, I’m going for a swim.” Wow! Does that make sense in the overall scheme of the story? She’s at the moment of confronting whatever is making that noise behind the door. Why in the hell would she go swimming? Maybe in your mind it flows since you are the creator of it (I was guilty of this). But, an editor can point out this plot mistake and help you see the error of your ways.

Editors help improve your writing skills. Would your character really be so subdued if he found out his wife became pregnant by his best friend? Doubtful. He would probably be a little more pissed off and heads would be rolling. An editor can highlight places within your narrative that seem unrealistic, thus strengthening the story.

Another error I committed in the initial draft was revealing  information via exposition (aka info dump) rather through action. Let’s use the previous scenario as an illustration of what I mean:

Bob was pissed at his wife, Lisa,  for getting knocked up by his best friend, Don. For a while now, Bob suspected something was going on between his wife and his friend, but he never would have guessed Lisa would tell him she was expecting Don’s child. That was why Bob pressed the shotgun into Don’s chest and pulled the trigger.

Pause. So we know that Lisa is Bob’s wife, and that Lisa has been sleeping with Don, Bob’s best friend. She is carrying Don’s child. Apparently, that was reason enough for Bob to blow a big ol’ hole in Don’s chest. Ok. That’s interesting. Now, imagine how much more interesting that scene would have been if acted out on the pages. Let’s take another look:

Bob leveled the barrel of the shotgun at Don’s chest. Don’s arms sprang in the air. “Don’t do this Bob! I know I fucked up and I’m sorry man! For the love of God! Please, put the gun down!”

Lisa, hearing the commotion outside, ran to the front door. Seeing her husband aiming the gun square at her lover’s chest, she swung the door open and raced down the stairs of the porch. “Stop Bob!” She shouted as she positioned herself between her husband and her lover. “You’re not thinking straight. I know you’re upset but we can talk about this calmly,” she said in what she hoped was a reassuring voice. She carefully eyed his expression as she spoke, praying that the she was making some headway.

Bob was having none of that. He eyed his wife’s stomach. Just thinking about that bastard growing inside her made him burn with rage. He shoved his wife aside. “I’ll deal with you later,” he muttered.

Lisa fell to the ground. Instinctually, she clutched her belly. 

Bob cocked the gun. With one final press of his index finger, he watched his former best friend fly through the air before making his final landing…

See. It’s a little more interesting seeing it rather than hearing about it. That probably needs some editing but you catch my drift.

Editors constructively critique your story, not criticize it or you. One of my biggest fears in finding an editor was that he or she was going to tell me my story sucks, I am a horrible writer, and I should just throw in the towel before I even get started. I think most newbie authors feel that way. Editors know this. A good one will never discourage you, but rather show you ways to hone your craft. If you find one that does discourage you, fire them ASAP.

For all those teetering on the fence about whether or not to hire an editor, I hope the aforementioned reasons are compelling enough to persuade you to do so. If you are looking for one, I highly suggest giving my editor, Lindsey Alexander, a try. She proved to be an invaluable mentor and asset for me during the rewriting process of Twisted. (Boy did I learn the importance of story logic and character motivations!) Being able to converse with her and bounce ideas back and forth was extremely helpful in flushing out plot holes and addressing other plot related intricacies.

What has your experience been like working with an editor? Pleasant? Awful? Pleasantly awful? Share your comments here or find me on social media!

 

 

4 thoughts on “Editors Are Your Friends

  1. I found this interesting! I am not an editor but a teacher who has experienced in editing students’ papers. It is difficult to get students to implement my editing suggestions. Would you mind if I shared this with students and other teachers to demonstrate the importance of editing?

  2. Well, this is somewhat of a catch-22 because I feel like while editors are good (the ones I’ve used are OK but they still miss a lot of stuff, mainly spelling errors) I find that too many of them aren’t trained in proper editing techniques and have been known to somewhat change a writer’s style. In some ways, it is difficult to say what will make your writing better simply because that often means doing things as expected.
    Then there is the thing called the crux action. In your example with Bob and his wife, if the crux of the story is specifically about him finding out about his wife’s pregnancy, then the second example makes sense. However, if Bob knowing of such a thing is not that big of an issue in the grand scheme of the book, then it serves more as a wordier expression of something you could have easily told the reader in a paragraph or two. And word count does matter, especially in traditional pub.
    With that being said, this does highlight the need for a very good editor who doesn’t imply understand the story, but is able to understand you as writer and the readers to which you are trying to appeal.

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

      I agree that if the “Bob scenario” is at the heart of the plot, then you would most definitely need to flush that out in action. Or, if the “Bob scenario” has some significance to Bob’s character development, then it’s also important to flush out that scene instead of using exposition. Otherwise, I agree that a paragraph (or 2) is sufficient enough.

      I also agree that editors get a bad rap for changing people’s styles. With that being said, how well you connect with your editor can help counteract that. As someone once told me, make sure you are really comfortable with your editor before you hand over your manuscript. I couldn’t agree more with that nugget of advice!

      Stephanie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *