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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My biggest editing peeve: me

So, I'm a freelance editor. Yay! People send me their novels and ask me to clean them up and get them ready to publish. Yay!

Their manuscripts aren't actually ready for that stage of the editing process. Boo. 

Okay, before we go any further, this is not going to be me yelling at the authors. Relax. I almost made it a "dear authors, please don't do this" post, but then as I was writing I realized that it's a matter of adjusting my own approach. So, really, relax.

See, it turns out that there are several different levels of editing that a manuscript needs - genuinely needs, I'm not just fishing for money here - and if you don't manage them more-or-less sequentially, you end up asking your editor to do a whole heck of a lot of extra work that you probably aren't paying them to do.

Marcy Kennedy has a terrific post that neatly explains the different stages of editing out there. When my prospective clients and I are first getting to know one another, I send them to that page just to make sure we're all using the same vocabulary to describe the same types of work.

For a perfect example, here's a snippet from that post:
Developmental Edit
You might have also heard this called a comprehensive critique, a substantive edit, or a macro edit. (No wonder everyone is confused, right?)
This doesn’t involve correcting your punctuation and grammar or smoothing out awkward sentences. It’s about big picture issues—for example, characterization, setting, plot, too much/not enough backstory, showing vs. telling, dialogue, POV problems, and making sure each scene has a clear goal and enough tension.
Do you see that part about POV errors? Do you? DO YOU? Good, because the title of this post is "My biggest editing peeve", and here it is.
Line Edit
A line edit will cover things like word choice, paragraph flow, smoothing out awkward or wordy sentences, eliminating repetition, catching clich├ęs, and other style issues. During a line edit, your editor will also point out areas where you need to clarify what you’ve written and suggest spots where your transitions are weak.
Many editors will flag POV errors or small scale showing vs. telling during a line edit, but they will not do it to the degree that a developmental edit does
In other words, line editing isn't the same as developmental editing. Correcting the errors in a scene's point of view isn't supposed to be part of line editing.

I'm lucky. I generally am able to offer my authors "The Full Monty" and charge accordingly. I go through, usually at least twice, and look at every single thing I can find in the manuscript. I end up doing developmental stuff if it's there, and line edits, and then I finish up with a copy edit/proofread.

But I've been approaching it like a line edit. I've been thinking of it as a line edit, and then getting all cranky and bent out of shape when I find POV errors that mean everything I've just gone through with a fine-toothed comb is going to need to be rewritten anyway, and all the time I put in on the punctuation or whatever has been wasted.

It's a peeve. Strangely, though, it's not actually a problem. No, really. It's not a problem that authors are asking me to do a line edit when they need developmental one first. See, the real problem is that I keep trying to perform a line edit rather than taking a moment to go, "You know what, screw the grammar for now, let's just look at characterization and POV first."

Writers learn as they go. The more you read, the more you write, the more you begin to understand about the craft of writing.

Editors? Well, this editor anyway, is also learning as she goes. I refine my approach a little bit with every manuscript, and I get rid of the habits I have that make me enjoy the work less, while trying new ideas that make me enjoy the work more.

Figuring this thing out, about how I've been approaching the manuscripts, has been wonderful. I am so much less frustrated now! And it should have been obvious that I was taking the wrong approach, but since I'm being paid for an "everything" edit, I was trying to do everything at once and couldn't figure out why I was getting more and more unhappy with the work.

So. Send me a sample! I'll look it over, tell you what I think it needs, and we'll go from there.

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