First comes writing, then comes revising, then come the Beta Readers, then comes more revising, and last comes the dreaded editing.
That’s what a publisher is supposed to do for a writer: edit. But these days, some advocate the editing step before finding a publisher or agent; other writers do it on their own because they’re self-publishing. That’s me.
I’ve experienced this step on both sides of the fence. My first job after university was as a proofreader. I was quickly promoted to copy editor and trained by an excellent editor. We also took workshops or short courses at George Brown College together in related areas like graphic design. So I know what to expect when I send my manuscript out to a pro for a critical look.
One thing has changed though since my editing days: technology. Now instead of marking up paper, editors mark up word processing docs electronically. (Well, most. I hear there are still editors with no email and no Internet, paper being so romantic and the material of real Canadian writers, you know. But I digress.) I miss the different coloured pens we used in the publishing house. Green for proofreading; pencil or red for editing. I like the new way though. So efficient!
But I lied at the top. First does not come the writing. First comes an outline that I take to my main editor, the man who gently but firmly tells me how to structure the book better, how to fix plot holes or timelines or characterizations, teaches me new structural or character techniques, and gives me the confidence to proceed, to turn my idea from outline to polished outline to a manuscript I write during NaNoWriMo.
That kind of editing, structural editing, is not the same as the kind you get after writing and revising and revising a bit more. The latter kind is copy editing. But with editing companies or self-publishing houses, the copy editing will also include structural and stylistic editing. Some call it comprehensive editing.
In comprehensive editing, the editor looks for everything from how the narrative flows to misplaced commas. The editor sends back your manuscript with both notes and line edits. Line edits are when the editor goes through the manuscript line by line looking for and highlighting grammatical, spelling, punctuation, and diction errors. The margins of one’s manuscript can be filled with comments from Microsoft Word’s tracking changes.
I hate Word.
But that’s what the publishing industry uses. So for Lifeliner I borrowed my Dad’s ancient laptop which had Word on it so I could see and interact with the tracking changes. This time round I have QuickOffice on my iPad, but it doesn’t show tracking changes. Grrr. I also have OpenOffice. It does show tracking changes but not with the offending text highlighted. Grrr. Still, I’m not emptying my bank account to pay for Word. I hate that program. I’ll use OpenOffice, and when I get down to the nitty gritty of responding to every line edit, I’ll use a demo copy of Word that I have on my new computer till it won’t let me use it no more.
So this past February, I found an editor — did you check out yet my Donations button in the right sidebar, to help me with the costs of editing and publishing? If not, please take a moment to consider any size of donation. I’d appreciate it hugely!
Back to what I was saying. What was I saying? Oh yeah – I gathered up my courage and sent my manuscript off, crossed my fingers, and this past Monday, I received it back. My stomach lurched upon seeing the email. Only one antidote for that – read it! I did. It was more than I expected, not because there was so much wrong with the manuscript (there wasn’t, yay!) but because the editor didn’t confine her remarks to generalities only but also included specific comments on each chapter.
I now have the notes and line edits open on my computer and am going through each, chapter by chapter, to see what the big and little problems are. Big problems could include a detail missing or a storyline not threaded through the narrative clearly. Little problems could be a double “and” or a period instead of an exclamation mark. As I go through, I’m writing ideas down or asking questions of the editor on many but not all of the notes or complex line edits. This is the “big picture” scan. Once I’m done, I’ll email my questions to the editor and begin the final revisions. The only problem I have is how to stop the exclamation marks in my document from turning into squares. I’ve tried many methods and none so far have worked. I hate Word.
I’m quite excited because this is the last big job to do before prepping my novel currently called “She” for publishing.