It’s almost the end of October and there’s nothing better than fall weather in Minnesota! November is always fun because it’s my daughter’s birthday month (she’ll be 16!) and mine, too, but I won’t be sharing how old I am (haha!). I took Thursday off for Thanksgiving and I plan to make a turkey like I did last year–though I overcooked it and I’ll do better this time. There’s only two more months left of the year, but I don’t have any particular plan besides working on a new WIP because I miss writing. I could edit something, but I’m a little tired of that since I just read through and fixed some inconsistencies in my six-book King’s Crossing series and I need to cleanse my palette before more editing. I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo–I don’t need the motivation to get anything done, and the month is terrible for me all around. I do wish everyone who is participating very good luck, and I hope you all meet your goals!
Editing a Series
I didn’t have a plan for today’s blog post, but I did want to talk a little bit about how difficult it is to edit a series–especially if you don’t have help. You would think that after a few years of writing and publishing I would have enough coming in by now to afford an editor, but I don’t and the reality is, I’m not alone. Indies seem to make the same mistakes and that holds us back. Not always–some indies know exactly what to do to get to where they want to be–but others, such as myself, we flounder as we learn “the rules” of the publishing industry. What we don’t gain in royalties is made up in knowledge, but that’s small consolation when we were hoping our beloved hobby would help us pay a few bills here and there, or, at the very least, nudge us into the black after expenses.
Anyway, I have a beta reader who’s going to read them all for plot and consistency issues, and he’s a writer friend who will do it for free. He’s not a professional by any means, and all I can do is hope that I took care of everything on my end and that he catches the rest (if there is anything).
Because this blog is geared for the bootstrapping authors who pretty much do every little thing on their own like I do, I made a list of things that can make it easier on you if you’re editing a long series alone. No, it’s not optimal. I hope you have someone who can help you like I do (even if it’s just one person), but even if you do, you’re going to want to do the bulk of the work yourself to make it easier on the people who do take the time to help you.
Write them as quickly as you can. What was helpful was I didn’t spend a lot of time writing them, meaning, I didn’t leave a lot of time between books. I wrote them all in a smooth sequence that took about ten months because it’s all one gigantic story. There wasn’t time for me to forget anything, and if I had a question, I knew where to look because it hadn’t been that long ago I wrote it.
Use a series bible. I depend on my memory a lot more than I probably should. I remember eye color, hair color, features, pets. As I write, my characters become real people, and it’s easy to remember how they look if they are real to me. That doesn’t always mean things stay consistent, and during this last read through of my series I wrote down eye color, hair color, names, bits of background. You might already do this when you start a series or new book, and I do too, but this series was completed a while ago, and I’m not 100% sure where those notes are. I grabbed a new notebook and jotted down everything that was important. One of the saves I made this time around was thanks to my story bible. I had changed one of the character’s names from Alan to Nolan.
Give it a rest. I take huge chunks of time between each editing read. It’s how I can credit the two saves I found this time around. One save was at the beginning of book one when I mentioned the director of the FBI, but in later books I had demoted him to an agent. It was an easy fix, but I had already read these three times before I caught it. The other big save was when Zane, my MMC, knew something at the beginning of book three, but I didn’t reference in book two how he came into the knowledge. I had to reread almost the entire book to a) make sure I didn’t forget that someone told him what he knew and b) look for the perfect spot in which to write it in. Giving it a rest is probably the most helpful thing you can do, especially if you work on something else while you wait. If you can go back to the story with a clear head, it will feel like you’re reading it, maybe not for the first time, but the story won’t feel so tired.
Trust your reader. You may be tempted to repeat things, especially if your series is long, but all that does is give you opportunity to mess up details. I try not to repeat things, especially if I catch myself thinking it’s for the reader and doesn’t further the story along. Readers are smart–it’s why a lot of authors turn fans into beta readers. They have great memories. I remember one interview with Marie Force on the Self Publishing Show and she said she has betas who read her entire series over from book one whenever she writes a new book because they read for inconsistencies. If you have a beta reader who starts a 20 book series at book one to help you with plot issues, then you better believe she’s got a great memory. Readers picture your characters in their heads how they think they look. It’s not necessary to harp on the physical attributes of your characters. You don’t have to go over plot point after plot point, but if you do mention a gun in a drawer, you better remember to use it because your reader will remember you put it there. If you’re interested in listening to that interview with Marie, you can watch it here. She offers so much useful information, I loved it!
Proof your proofs. Lately I’ve also been listening to my books before I format them and create proof copies. Listening to your novel can point out syntax issues, typos (it’s funny when the voice says a word in a funky way), repeated words, etc. That’s a more micro editing step, and as you can tell, I’m more concerned with the bigger picture–especially when you’re dealing with so many books at once. I like listening to them, and I make the most changes when I take the time to listen. It’s a very time-consuming step.
Reading them in book form does something to my brain, and I find a lot of mistakes, both proofing-wise and content-wise. I binge them like a normal reader would, and since they feel like a book and smell like a book, they have a cover and all the back and front matter, it’s a different kind of reading experience. I used to print them out at Office Max, but that got to be too expensive and wasted paper. Creating a proof copy is cheaper, even if you pay for expedited shipping.
As far as using a software like ProWriting Aid, The Hemingway App, or Grammarly, I find those only work if you already know the rules and can decide for yourself if you’re going to take their suggestions or not. Not everyone has a degree in English, and I get that, but you should also learn the fundamentals or software like that will hurt more than they help. I don’t use any software, nor writing/plotting aids like Scrivener or Plottr. Among the edits I do on screen using plain old Word, listening to the manuscript, then proofing the proof, I hope I take care of most of the issues. At least, as far as I can tell. I don’t have any reviews indicating my books could use another edit (which is a terrible thing for a book–reviews won’t go away, even if you’ve done another editing sweep and your book is 100% better).
The biggest challenge I’ve had with editing these is boredom, and if your heart isn’t in it, that can make you miss things. I’m tired of reading them and taking time between edits helps. Not that I want to give anyone an impression I don’t like my own work. I doubt authors like EL James, Sylvia Day, or Stephenie Meyer are ever caught saying they’re tired of the characters that made them famous. I love them, but it will be nice to write something else while these breathe–again. I was hoping to start releasing them over the summer, but I don’t know how that will work out. I can only work as fast as I can work–especially alone.
Do I have any resources for editing a series? There’s nothing really out there that can help you edit alone. There’s no argument that a second set of eyes can go a long way–as long as that second set of eyes comes with a good memory and can remember inconsistencies and plot issues. The best you can do on your own is to remember your own work. Remember the plot points, remember your character arcs, write down plot twists so you can refer back to them later to keep details straight.
It’s tough not to have help, or be able to afford it. I have a couple of prolific readers in my real life who I know from work, and I maybe could ask them if they would be willing to proof the final copies before I hit Publish, but we’re talking six books here. I don’t know how long it would take to get through them all. It would probably be wise if one of them agrees, and I can afford to pay small fee, say $50 a book. That’s cheaper than you’ll find anyone to do it online. As I like to say, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I still have plenty to do before I reach that point. Until then, to give myself a break, I’ll write another stand alone. You can never go wrong writing another book!
I suppose that’s all I have for today! Have a great week everyone!