Friday, 23 April 2010

The Value of Editing

I recently received an email containing one of my beta's comments on my manuscript.  A lot of the comments I felt didn't really apply, for instance when the comment was that only one character seemed to be introduced (there is only one main character introduced in the first two chapters)  whilst other comments were essentially lost in translation (I will continue to spell artefact with an e; sorry, but I know I'm right and spell checker agrees with me.  So does the Oxford English dictionary.  :p   )

And some comments blew me away.


My novel is about an old warrior who heads out on one last battle, and discovers the only way to win is to die.  In some ways it has been vastly influenced by David Gemmell's Legend.

I love Legend, so no big surprise there.

There's a scene in Legend where Death comes to Druss and warns him that if he goes to war he won't be coming back.  If he stays in the mountains he can have another twenty years.

Druss goes to war.  He's a hero, that's what heroes do.

There's a scene in my book just like that.  It wasn't until it was pointed out to me and I thought about it that I realised it does nothing for the story.  It slipped in out of my love for Legend.  It's coming out.

This is the importance of editing.

I sent the full manuscript out to two beta readers.  They knew nothing about the manuscript before they started reading.  I told them I wasn't fussed about crits, I just wanted people to read it.  At least 1/3rd of my story is flashbacks, an entire second story within the novel.  I didn't tell them this; I needed to know if the flashbacks were confusing to people who had no idea they were coming.

I'm waiting on them coming back in.

When they do I will do a full, intensive revision.  I'll do the fact-checking edit myself.  It's something I feel I can do myself; with every fact I'll check in 3 sources to make sure I have it right.  I'll edit my grammar and spelling again.  This is something else I feel I can do on my own.

At school I was sitting Higher level past papers at standerd grade, and at Higher I never did a single piece of work except assessments and exams, yet I consistently had the highest grades in English in the entire school.  So I know I have talent in that area.

I've managed to get someone to agree to do me a free grammar and editing pass.  She is studying editing and needs the experience, apparently.  So despite the fact that I'm confident in my own abilities, I'm still having someone else look at it.

I'm considering having someone edit the whole thing for story.  I know it will be cost prohibitive (seriously, I have a budget of £0)  but there's no underestimating the importance of a good first impression.  I don't want to turn readers off future books because the first one is a mess.

And I need to make enough money off of this one that the next will be paid for (cover + editing).


  1. That is so weird, I just got an email back from my (one and only) beta. It was refreshing to see it from some one else's eyes. This is the first time I've ever found someone willing to rip my work to pieces, I'm a little too excited about it. :)

    I would love to get a professional edit done but I'm also with a budget of zero here. I commend you for aiming for the best first impression possible. It is so easy to hurry it just to have something out there.

  2. I would seriously think twice before contracting out for an edit. Consider this part of the learning process. Use your crit group, kck it out for beta, be patent, and no matter what, commit yourself to editing your own manuscript. It will take longer, and the frustration factor will be much higher, but you'll be better for it.

  3. I do want the book to be the best it can. There is no way I can afford a professional edit. No way.

    I have said before now I want it published by September. But, on the other hand, if it comes to publishing it on time or putting it off and making it better, I won't think twice about putting it off.

    And I will look at every option before I part with any cash. I'm Scottish, being frugal is part of my national identity. :p

  4. If frugality is a consideration -- and isn't it always with writers -- you might want to check out the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It's awesome at finding problems in your ms. I love it.