As I look up wrapping up my six book series (I’m at 67k for book five) editing 540,000 words is weighing on my mind. It’s a daunting task. I edit my own books, which people tell me is quite a no-no, and I agree for first-time authors and writers still working on their craft. I use beta readers who hunt for typos and point out murky scenes and I take their opinions to heart and decide if what they say has any validation in my work. (It usually does.)
On the other hand, my betas are writers, too, not only readers, and writers don’t read like readers do. We are pickier, which may or not be a good thing. The problem is, the pickier you are, the more you’re going to nickel and dime your manuscript to death.
So how can you edit without sucking the life out of your story?
- Don’t write by committee. I have to thank Kristine Kathryn Rusch for this tip. While critique partners and writing groups can offer valuable tips and suggestions, the end product should always be yours. There is no “best” way to write. Readers read your work because they like your voice. Writing by committee is the fastest way to lose your voice. You simply can’t implement everyone’s suggestions, nor can you make your book “perfect.” There is no such thing. Your book could have a million endings, a million different twists. If what you have chosen gels (meaning no potholes, you have realized character acs, etc) there’s no reason to be swayed by someone else’s opinion if you like what you’ve already got.
- Too many cooks ruin the broth. Every beta reader is going to have an opinion and your mind can spin if you try to listen to everyone. Some people think the more beta readers the better, but all that does is give you more opinions to listen to. Maybe you like that. I have one or two trusted betas and that’s it. I wouldn’t even bother with that except it’s not a good idea to publish without another set of eyes just to be sure you’re not missing anything plot-wise.
- Too many editing sweeps and you’ll edit the flavor right out of the story. I did this with Wherever He Goes. I wanted my first standalone to sound good, but all I did was make the opening chapters sound bland. It’s difficult to trust your gut, especially if you haven’t been writing for a while and you know your voice and writing style still need a little work. Going over and over your work won’t make it better–it’s already written. Make that particular piece the best it can be with as few editing sweeps as possible and move on to something new.
- Trust your instincts. I have already made some changes with my first couple of books in the series that I don’t agree with based on beta suggestions, and I regret them now. In my next editing sweep I’ll put them back. The things she pointed out and I changed were based on her personal dislikes and I should never have listened to her. I liked what I had before I made changes.
- Choose beta readers in your genre. I think that was part of my problem with number four above. The person who disliked aspects of my book doesn’t read or write in my genre. Sometimes this can be valuable, but usually having a beta familiar with your genre can help with tropes etc. and tell you if you hit the nail on the head or missed the mark. (Usually if you are an extensive reader in your genre, you’ll know without being told.)
- If you’ve been writing for a while, you may not need an editor. Hear me out. You may only need a proofreader so you can publish a clean copy of your work. As you’re writing evolves, you’ll become more confident and you won’t second-guess yourself like I did with Wherever He Goes, or even when I listened to my beta reader with the first couple of books when deep down I didn’t want to.
In closing, I’m not going to go all crazy with the editing of these books. I don’t want to edit my voice out of them. I want my characters to sound like themselves and that is a real risk when you over-edit. You can edit the spirit right out of your characters so they sound like every other character you’ll ever write.
You don’t want to publish a first draft, but you don’t want your editing to take longer than the actual writing either. There’re a lot of stories out there. Go write them.
If you want to hear Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s talk, she spoke at the 20booksto50k conference in Vegas last year. I think I might have referenced this video once before on the blog, but I’ll post it again if you’re curious.
Also, if you’re curious about a couple of good editing books, I just recommended these two to a friend on Twitter:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is a fabulous book and it’s highly recommended by a lot of writers, agents, and editors. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Self-Editing-Fiction-Writers-Second-Yourself/dp/0060545690/
And a new editing book that just came on the scene not long ago by Tiffany Yates Martin called Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing is fabulous! I heard about it in one of the FB groups I’m in, and it is awesome! I recommend you check it out! https://www.amazon.com/Intuitive-Editing-Creative-Practical-Revising/dp/1950830020/
Thanks for stopping in! Until next time! 🙂
Over-editing? Why yes, yes I do! But I’m working on doing better. Really! 😄
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We’re all guilty of it! Thanks for reading! 🙂