Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Editor and Editing

Happy Tuesday to you. Today I'm going to discuss editing. To some, edit is a "four-letter word". To others, it's a grueling though rewarding process to perfect translated thought. Any way you look at them, edits are the lifeblood of good writing.

I write for several publishers, and each publisher assigns me an editor I consistently work with on each project. Each of my editors has different quirks and quibbles. But one thing they all have in common: a thorough editing process. **This is key to finding a good place to publish your work. Any place that considers itself a professional publishing house that refuses to edit work is either a vanity press, a self-publishing business, or a "publisher" who puts out shoddy work. Take heed.**

For an example of what I go through once my work is finished, I've chosen one of my favorite editors! "Fave" has been professionally editing my work for two years. She and I have an open writing relationship. I can disagree with her changes so long as I explain why, and she always listens. (I've gone round and round with line editors over my refusal to minimize the "M" when I write about Marines--U.S. Marines, the proper noun, not the adjective.)

Fave gets it. And she supports me, even when my ideas may look odd on the surface. It's that two-way communication that allows us both to be successful. And she's given me many, many word choices and changes that have cleaned up my work. She doesn't take offense if we disagree, and neither do I if she wants to delete a line I absolutely love. She'll always explain why she's doing what she does, and that helps a lot. Added to that, she won't just change "a" to "the" for no reason.

Oh, and all of my editors use MS Word's Track Changes feature. A must have, in my opinion!

Here's how it goes. Putting it all together...

After going through it intensively, I submit my book to Fave. She receives it, lets me know, and I sit back and wait.

On Fave's end, she reads the story not only for grammar, but for content. Plot holes, inconsistencies, sentence structure, that hated comma, and the publisher's style standards. (Note: every publisher is different. I can't tell you how many times I've had to change "blonde" to "blond" depending upon who I'm writing for.) She'll read and edit the story anywhere from one to three times before sending it "down the turnpike," as she likes to call it.

The manuscript then goes to Line Edits, where a line editor goes through the text. Once done, the line editor gives it back to Fave, who gives it back to me. I go over the work, send it back, Fave reads over my changes, and we're either fixed or we go through the process again. After the line editor has finished ripping through, er, I mean going through the story, a proofreader takes hold of it.

The proofreader does the same thing. Looks it over, makes her comments, sends it to Fave, who sends it to me. I go over the MS, give it back to Fave, who reads it, then sends it back. This process may be repeated. Yep, really.

The proofreader, when done, sends the book to Formatting. It will rarely return from Formatting with problems, thought that can happen. But generally, once it's hit formatting, I can consider my edits done.

All in all, this process can take several weeks. Most publishers like to have their stories edited and ready to roll months before they publish. This way, there are no last minute emergencies or changes interfering with the publishing schedule, which is normally set months/years in advance. Good editing takes time, especially when you can have four people or more eyeballing your story.

Honestly? It's an exhausting process. I'm a fairly clean writer (Father taught English, I majored in English at college, call me a grammar Nazi), but they still find mistakes I've made as far up as the proofreader. Having so many different sets of eyes on the work makes it that much cleaner once it's been "filtered."

Having been with publishers who edit and others who don't edit, I can truthfully say my work is ten times better in places with people who care about putting out quality product. Edits can make or break a work. And it's funny, because as a reader, I do care that I'm reading the very best money can buy. When I catch spelling errors and inconsistencies in a novel, it really throws me, because I'm expecting the editor, not so much the author, but the the publisher's editors will have caught this.

Now, all of my publishers are different. But each of them pretty much follows the above process as concerns editing. Questions? Comments? Then on to tomorrow where I'll discuss the administrative details of publishing, namely, contracts (in general), artwork, blurbs and more. And thanks again to Fave.


Pauline Allan said...

I am enjoying this blog. This is great information and I appreciate you putting it out there. I have a quick question. How long do editors usually give you to return edits once they send them to you. Do you get longer depending on the word count? Thanks so much.

Marie Harte said...

Hey Pauline.

I have to say edit time depends on several factors. If your book is edited way ahead of time, your editor might give you a week or more to get back to her. I normally ask Fave when she needs my edits, that way there's no confusion. We have had instances where I need to get line edits back fairly quickly, for one reason or another. The line editors edit for many authors, so sometimes they can get behind, or maybe Fave had more than one author to edit at a time, so she got behind... There are many reasons why a quick turnaround might be needed. Normally though, I get 2-3 weeks to get back to her on the initial edits.

And remember, after the first round of edits, mistakes and changes decrease, so there's less for you, the author, to worry about.

And as you mentioned, word count comes into play. It's much easier to edit a 15K piece than an 80K piece, simply because of the length of the work.

I hope that answered your question. :)


Savanna Kougar said...

Two comments about the editing I've been through. I'm always glad and thankful when editing makes my story better, whatever the comment or suggestion by the editor or line editor.
Okay, I'm in a total quandry over comma usage, since the editors I've dealt with differ drastically.
So, when I'm writing my next story, I have comma interruptus...