In my experience of writing, especially the way it is done these days, being a writer is not such a solitary work anymore. Previously, a writer suffered over their books alone and when it was purchased by a publisher, they got to work with a developmental editor whose job is to restructure and work out the manuscript in a way that is marketable. Nowadays, the jobs of editors has been cut back and the greater part of polishing up their manuscript rests with the writers themselves now.
A writer has to draft, redraft, cut back, pad, research, cross-check, proof read, and then proof read again before they can even send along a manuscript to an agent. This is because there are so many more aspiring writers than ever before and with schools of creative writings and MFA, the quality of their work is very high. If your own manuscript is not comparable to this, the less your chances of catching the eye of either an agent or a publisher.
This may seem like a very daunting task, and it is. But do not be discouraged. This is where the importance of peer review cannot be overemphasized or and how useful can be to get as many eyes on your work as possible. After writing your book, short story, poem, article, etc, and reading and re-reading it so many times, your eyes become jaded and you stop seeing the errors and shortcomings.
Also, because we’re the creators of the work, they are like our baby and so we lack the required distance to do any pruning that may be needed to bring it up to scratch. Having fresh eyes from critique partners, writing groups and qualified friends will certainly come in useful at this stage. Instead of paying an expensive editor, you can use these beta readers (people who read your work-in-progress before it is ready for the general public) as a first round editing circle.
After getting others to read your work and point out holes, you must however be willing to accept corrections, and be ready to put them in practice. Working with these people in this way helps you develop the accepting and humble mindset necessary to collaborate with professional editors, either at the last round of edits or at the publication level.
I got an email from Authonomy.com recently where they interviewed a couple of their current editors on what the process of working with an author is and how the final book is made possible. Hope you find it as useful as I did.
Scott Pack, Publisher in chief for the Friday Project
What’s meant by a line-by-line edit?
Pretty much what it says on the tin. The editor goes through the manuscript line by line, picking out issues, errors, inconsistencies, tidying it up, offering suggestions on problem areas etc. This will often follow a more general reading edit where the editor offers overall feedback on first reading – the middle is a bit slow, this character doesn’t work, do we
really need the flying badgers, that sort of stuff.
Does every book always need a thorough edit?
Some need less than others but even the best writers tend to have some help along the way. You can often tell when so-called ‘great’ writers stopped being edited following huge success.
How many edits will a MSS typically go through before it’s ready to be published?
How long is a piece of string? Sometimes just a couple but others may take numerous edits to get right.
Laura Kesner, Senior Managing Editor
Is it ever possible for an author to edit his/her own book?
Possible, just not advisable.
How do you know when to stop editing?
When your schedule stops you from making any more changes! And when you and the author both feel satisfied that the book is honed to magnificence, obviously!
What/who has been your favourite author/book to work with?
Generally, it’s a pleasure to work with authors who combine a real editorial sensibility with great writing. It’s quite rare to find that combination of qualities as often good writers are so wrapped up in the writing that they find it hard to remove themselves and put themselves in the position of the reader.