Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Editor's Rant

As a freelance editor, there's nothing more frustrating than reading a story that lacks focus, has underdeveloped characters, or reads like a draft. Too often authors finish the last sentence of their first draft and immediately think they are ready to work with an editor. That's not the case. The editor's role isn't to rewrite the story, or give the author a crash course in the art of writing. No, no, no. Novel writing is a lot like baking a cake. The story idea makes up the ingredients. Writing the first draft is mixing the ingredients together. Rewriting and tweaking the storyline is the baking process. Turning the manuscript over to the editor is the icing on the cake. The icing completes the cake by giving it a better presentation and a sweeter taste, but even without it, the cake is still edible.

New authors often make the mistake of thinking that writing is a solo effort. That's not true. Creating a great story requires input from other writers and readers. Writers should belong to a writers or critique group. The honest and raw feedback provided from the group will help one grow as a writer.

Writers definitely need to hone their skills by taking writing related courses, attending writing workshops, and reading craft books. I get embarrassed for authors who don't take the time to learn their craft. They are doing themselves and their readers a disservice. An author should be familiar with terms like: allegory, alliteration, antagonist, character, dialogue, flashback, genre, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, motif, narrator, point of view, protagonist, setting, simile, and theme. When an editor tells an author that they are "head-hopping" throughout the manuscript, or add tone/expression, or vary up the sentence structure, the author should know what the editor means.

Another big thing with new authors is telling instead of showing. Too much telling makes a manuscript feel rushed. Manuscripts should flow and have a rhythm. Also, characters should not be robotic, they should be placed in scenes emotionally.

I could go on and on, but it would take way more detail than I'd be able to provide on a blog. Therefore, if you're serious about being a writer, take the time to study the craft and hone your skills. Don't rush to finish your manuscript. Take your time and write a quality piece. It'll save you time, money, and heartache on the back end. You may be wondering how can that be. I'll tell you. If you want to be traditionally published, a quality manuscript could save you time from being rejected over and over again. If you hire an editor to clean up a poorly written manuscript, the price goes way up. The heartache comes in from having your work rejected repeatedly.

Should you decide to self-publish without putting in the work on your manuscript, you may be forced to pull your poorly written book and rewrite it. That would take time, cost you money, and break your heart.

Some of the best writers are students. They are always learning. Whether in a classroom or independent study, they are open to learning, and you should be too.