On Editing

First, I'd like to say hi! I'm Leo and new to this community, and think you all have something awesome going on here. Since I've arrived, you've only treated me with kindness, and I appreciate that. Please let me know if there is anything I can ever do for you in return.

---Quick question for all of you---

How do you handle editing? When I write, the "grammar part" of my brain turns off completely. To compensate for this, I have an editor that reads over all of my work that I plan to publish and I give him a cut of the profit in return, though he does it mostly out of the good of his heart. He's absolutely awesome, but even he misses some stuff sometimes, which is 100% to be expected since this is a side gig and not anything serious. Plus, I have a lot to correct- no matter how fine his filter, some things will fall through due to the sheer volume of mistakes. Last time I published, I opened my book up to 100 beta readers who scoured it for errors once he edited, and even after that I still had some (grammar nazis) people go on a rampage about the grammar though the vast majority were happy.

So my question for you all is how do you handle editing without breaking the bank? I definitely plan on keeping my current editor, like I said he has been an incredible resource and I have mad respect for him, but might add something for the minor bits that he misses due to the content and timelines I throw at him.

Even more importantly is I'm writing more now and starting to exceed his bandwidth but I still want to keep all of my work at a high level of quality.

Additionally, does it even matter that much if a few people go crazy about the grammar if it is "good 'nuff"?



TLDR: How do you make sure your work is as polished as it can get?

I'm one of those people who 'break the bank' to avoid getting review comments about poor editing. That said, my first two books were a hot mess and needed a lot of editing. By now I've learned so much that my third book will be much cleaner, and the editing will be cheaper. Considering how much I learned, it was totally worth it.

Out of curiosity, why do so many people equate copyediting with editing as a whole? Checking for spelling and grammatical errors is a fraction of the editing process.

@ Dary Checking for spelling and grammatical errors is what I consider proofreading. My edits included a developmental edit (pages upon pages of content were added or removed) and several copyediting passes, meaning that whole sentences / paragraphs were rewritten. I doubt a single word stayed in the same place. The whole process took more than a year.

But I'm an English second language writer. A native speaker will have an easier time with their editing.

That's pretty much what I consider "editing", aka "75% of the actual writing process".

Going back to the OT: I'm fortunate enough to know some professional editors, but they're so inundated with work that I can only really ask them to give my work a general read through. And, since my income is below the poverty threshold, I can't really afford to pay anyone for a thorough analysis.

My income is below the poverty threshold, too. It's amazing how much money you can save when you eat really cheap and do your own cooking (rice and vegetables cost next to nothing), wear the same shoes for five years until they fall apart, don't have a car, never go out and never buy anything except the absolute necessities (toothpaste etc). I'll admit it's impossible to do what I am doing when you have kids. Kids come first.

Oh, and no pets, no alcohol (not even the occasional beer) and no smoking.

As for 75% of the actual writing process - an author will never spot all or even most of the issue that plague their writing. Their vision is so clear to them that they won't truly see a reader's perspective.

That would be why I consider editing to take up the bulk of the work ;) As I normally say to people: write the book until you're happy with it, then multiply the time it took you by three - that's how long you'll spend editing.

I've known more than enough people pour all their heart and soul into perfecting a first draft, only to send it to an editor and have the resulting tome of editing notes put them off writing for life.

I worked as a technical writer for a couple of years, my initial reasoning being the more time I could spend writing (any kind of writing) the better I would get at it. I worked with a large team of writers (and still do) and could often swap reviews/edits with other writers to keep the cost done. Now I constantly review my work and make don't shy away from making changes to stuff that has been published for years.

One tip I like to share for proofreading is to have your computer read the work back to you. We all tend to read what we think we wrote, but if you use a text to speech app the app will read what you actually wrote.

I used to be a part of an editing circle, where a bunch of writers critiqued each other's work. None of us were professional, but it was very helpful all the same.

I like Lee's tip with the text to speech, although I'm not sure I'd have the patience!

Now we need a text to speech app with Tartra's voice. <3

Hi Leo! If I'm interpreting your initial question correctly, you're asking more about grammar/spelling than going through and removing excessive instances of "like" or adding/removing speech tags or using synonyms to avoid the same word twice in a paragraph and all the other stuff Dary is alluding to.

You mention "grammar" turns off when you write; the possible fix for that would be putting yourself in a mindset of 'for the next hour, I'm not writing, I'm fixing the language'. And like anything else, it's the sort of thing that comes with practice. The earlier you start, the better. I was an editor at my university faculty's student-run news/parody publication for about three years, and it's stuck. Maybe ask your editor friend for tips too, if it's something he enjoys doing, he'd probably enjoy talking/sharing and you might pick up on a particular weakness you can catch ahead of time.

As to "does it even matter that much", well... given the choice of two equally good stories, where one has good grammar and the other doesn't, and a finite amount of time - you probably see who would win out. (In particular, I find poor grammar/spelling takes me out of the story. I can't turn my "edit" mode off. Even in this post! I just thought of the "editor friend" idea, appended that in the middle and separated this section out into a separate paragraph.)

@Dary: Regarding why "copyediting" and "editing" might be equated -- when reading "I was an editor" for a student-run publication above, presumably you didn't think I was taking in humourous articles from university students, marking them up with red pen, and sending them back to "resubmit for publication". So I was merely fixing typos, copyediting? Yet sometimes I had to walk that fine line of 'How do I make sure the author's point comes across without actually changing any words to the point where they would say "That's not what I wrote!!"'. It was rarely possible or feasible to contact the person. (It helped immensely when the grammar was already good.) Isn't that more than "copyediting"? Journalists do this sort of thing in the comments section of the newspaper - what can I crop out?

Add to that layout, the masthead, the cover, possible filler, some of that necessitating fiddling with fonts, all within about 24 hours, and hell yes we called ourselves editors. Does that mean we didn't do copyediting? No. Really "editing" becomes a huge "catch all" phrase. Is copyediting a form of editing? Yes. Does editing mean copyediting? Depends on context... and most people who don't experience it don't consider the context. The same way I don't necessarily distinguish between a Phillips-Head and a Slot-Head when I'm talking screwdrivers.

Thanks for all the replies!

As far as interpreting my work, I leave that to beta readers (my editor is also number one here). I'll see if I can use some of the suggestions mentioned above too.

As for rewriting, and editing taking 75% of the time to write... My style is different. I usually only have one draft, with only minimal changes being made afterward. Perhaps that means that it could be improved, but there are those that still enjoy how it looks after draft 1, and I'm ok with that.

I can't afford an editor yet, so my writing partner and I proof our stuff. We also have a pool of beta readers. Beyond that it's the process of write, take a break from it and then re-read it with fresh eyes and see if anything is jarring and needs to be fixed. Other than that, I use an online tool, www.autocrit.com to spot repetition and filer words. We're doing the best we can for now but will hire a proper editor someday (we hope!)

@team contract

Autocrit seems quite expensive. My experience of online grammar checkers is that they tend to quite iffy. Make obvious mistakes, don't spot glaring errors etc. especially when it comes to dealing with fiction. Do you get more than a list of adverbs and basic proofreading with Autocrit?

I'm a full-on grammar Nazi, so I don't rely on other people to keep my writing error-free. I don't really see grammar as separate from good writing in a holistic sense. If a painter needs canvas, paint, and paintbrushes, a writer needs grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

That doesn't mean my writing is actually error-free, of course. Helpful readers often point out typos in my writing, and when I read over what I've already written in order to keep continuity with future chapters, I'm often mortified by typos that have been online for months without anybody telling me.

To answer your question about how important it is to have good grammar in your writing, it's all about the normal distribution/bell curve. If you go from "bad" grammar to "good" grammar, you'll gain a lot of readers who would have dropped the story on the first chapter. If you go from 1 mistake in 1000 words to 1 mistake in 10,000 words, your return on your effort goes down in terms of readers gained. Even books that go through traditional publishing often contain 1-2 errors, so no matter how much of a grammar Nazi you are, you have to have some tolerance for typos.

So far my process has been to write, edit a couple times before posting a chapter online, then do a deep, professional level edit of my own when I'm done with a book.

After that, I send what I have over for a professional PR.

However, this process has been rough. Putting myself in the necessary mental state to edit my own work is taxing and took me forever. I think for book 2 of Delvers I am going to pay for a professional edit.

Tearing apart my own work took long enough that spending the money on an edit would be worth it, I think. It kind of depends how book 1 sells in a few weeks, though.

All I know is that how I was doing it before isn't sustainable for me.

Much as I'd love to have someone do the editting for me there is no way that I can afford it at the moment. Perhaps when I have a few fans I could get some of them to do it in return for advance reads of the parts...

So at the moment I do my own. Not the best option, but the only one I can do at the moment. The most effective way I know to do it is to read it out loud. That forces you to slow down and actually read the words properly rather than simply speed-reading through. I'm amazed at how many more I pick up that way.

Sometimes you can get lucky and find a great editor working for cheap because they want to build their portfolio / build a reputation. I found a fabulous proofreader who did my entire 147K word manuscript for 50 bucks. :O

I knew she was going to be good when she asked if I wanted proofing in American or UK English. Not so good editors don't make the distinction.

Oh gosh, I just realized I'd be a good editor's nightmare. I randomly switch back and forth between UK and US spellings :(

And now to mark this down as yet another reason World Domination in Retrospect will never be published. Most of the "editing" I've done was the typos and phrasing. I'd probably have it as bad or worse than Chrys if I actually hired someone to try to whip up a bit to fit into a book. And since I've nothing useful to add, I'm out.