To Edit or not to Edit, that is the question

In my current work-in-progress, I’m at the editing stage. And it’s not even the final stage where you’re congratulating yourself for getting through such a tedious, mind numbing, horrific, no good, process in the production phase either. If you’ve ever gotten to the end of that final edit, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You’ll feel so pleased with yourself that you’ll ditch the spouse and the kids for an evening, go to Chuck E Cheese, and spend all night gorging on greasy pizza and crying in relief in the ball pit while parents and children watch in morbid fascination.

Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about that since I don’t have a spouse or any children. I can neither confirm nor deny the other mentioned activities due to pending lawsuits. You might be asking if I’m joking about the lawsuits. Honestly, I’m only joking. Or am I? who knows at this point.

The one thing I do know is that I absolutely hate the first round of drafts. Mostly because I hate reading my own writing. My number one critic is myself.

There are a variety of editing methods. You could edit it yourself, have the editing team of your publisher do it, or you could pay a freelancer to edit it. Allow me to break some of these options down.

Option 1: Edit the novel yourself.

This is the cheaper option, by far. You do the work yourself and the only thing it costs you is time. Plus, it allows you to have complete control over what gets changed. However, there’s something to be said about having an outside eye read through your work and offer constructive criticism. My advice is to edit it yourself the first time, send it off to at least three fellow authors or readers who will read your manuscript in a timely manner and offer their opinion. If you’ve ever heard the term “Beta Reader,” that’s what that is. The nice thing about Beta Readers is that you can have an ongoing discussion about your work. Just make sure that you can trust those readers.

Option 2: Leave the editing to the publisher’s discretion.

This option is the one I’m currently going along with. Basically, this is the hardest option. First, you’ll want to have the novel edited before you submit it to the publisher. Why? Because you’ll want to be able to submit the absolute best. No publisher will want a manuscript that has plot holes, weak characters, and riddled with typos. It’s simply unprofessional to submit something like that. Publishers don’t want to work with authors who aren’t professional.

When a publisher has a book edited, they’ll pay to have an editor go through it. Once that editor is finished, if the publisher is an honest one, they’ll send it to the author. The author will go through the edits and approve them. If the author doesn’t approve of them, then the publisher and the author have to have a discussion. Here’s where a negative aspect of this option comes into play. A publisher doesn’t have to publish your book. In most contracts, see following paragraph, there is an escape clause where either party could terminate the agreement. If a publisher is steadfast in a particular change, they may or may not be utilize that termination clause. I have known a few books that this has happened to.

I should clarify that when I talk about a publisher’s honesty, let me just say that you have to be careful when you read your publishing contract. Most, if not all, publishers will have a clause that states that the author gets to look over and approve edits. Having said that, some publishers might try to assert control over the author simply because they have a contract together. Make sure to read that contract before you sign. Ask the publisher questions, ask a lawyer questions… just ask questions if you’re confused. Because the last thing you want to do is get stuck in a contract that benefits the publisher more than it benefits you.

Option 3: Pay someone to edit it.

You can’t see it, but the cheapskate in me is currently cringing. Writing is hard. You spend months if not years trying to pump out enough coherent words to produce a novel. During that time, you’re not making any money on it. Then, before you can shop it to different publishers, you have to make sure it’s all shiny and the best that you can make it. Again, you’re not making a cent from this process. Now, before I go down this tangent, let me be perfectly clear. I respect all editors and the job that they do. Because if I hate reading my own writing, I’m pretty sure some stranger will also.

Freelancing editors aren’t cheap. You may think they’re cheap because they (most editors) charge by the word, but if you’re writing high fantasy or something huge then you need to prepare for the shock when you get that invoice. Also, sometimes editors charge an hourly rate while some charge per page. It varies. There’s also different types of editing and each type has its own rate of pay.

It can get pricey. It’s worth it though because you don’t have to do the bulk of the work. It also gives you ultimate control if you don’t like the edits. If you’re planning to self-publish, I advise going this route because it gives you someone who works for you and you get that control over what’s edited. You may have to eat Ramen until the next payday. Which isn’t always such a bad thing.

I guess what I’m trying to get across is that you’re going to have to do some editing yourself. That’s the hard truth of it. Suck it up buttercup. Put on your big boy writing pants and go grab your highlighter and your red ink pen.

You’ve got some editing to do.

Each of these options could be expanded and closely analyzed, but maybe that’s something that I do later on. For now, though, keep calm and write on everybody.



Categories: Mastering the Craft

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