A couple of years ago, I worked as an editor for an e-publisher. What I learned could probably fill a book, if I was inclined to write nonfiction. Not only did I become a better editor as the year wore on, my skills as a writer also improved.
My authors ranged from the experienced to first time published. The blunders of both groups ran the spectrum from point of view problems to back-story dumps.
How much easier it was to see the foibles of other authors than to see my own. But what I came to recognize were my own weaknesses. When you’re removed from a manuscript, you see the pitfalls so much easier. I love my manuscripts like a baby and, like all mothers/fathers, I don't necessarily see the imperfections. The phrase I worked so hard over and is so clever has no history for the editor. Pretty easy to slash and burn. When I realized this, I was able to more easily step back and use the same technique on my own manuscripts.
We’re told to write without fear of our inner editor; to ignore her and lay our story down with abandon. I have a multi-published friend who requires little, if any editing, once she’s completed her manuscript. I’m convinced her inner editor works side-by-side with her. She’s at the point in her career, after having written so many books, she and her inner editor are one and doesn’t disrupt the creative process. Editing other authors has given me some of that ability. Kind of the practice-makes-perfect syndrome.
But, and this is a big but, I will always need an editor. In my opinion, an author will always be too close to her work to see all overused words, illogical plot lines, flat characters, questionable POV issues and unneeded verbiage to name a few. I also have great respect for editors. It’s hard work. And every suggestion from my editor gets a thoughtful consideration from me now.
What I found most amazing about the experience was hearing my voice in other authors. How many times had I disagreed when told to cut paragraphs of back-story? It hurts. We create this wonderful history, and shouldn’t everyone want to read about our well-rounded characters? You really have to know this! Or “but Nora Roberts” switched POV in the middle of a scene – why can’t I? Some edits are hard to make.
What I found most amusing about the experience was a comment my husband made to me one day when I was an editor as I toiled over one of my own manuscripts. My editor had sent back the first round of edits. I cringed at the amount of red. “My gosh, this is going to take me longer to edit than it took me to write it,” I complained out loud. My husband didn’t look up from his paper, but snickered, “Now you know how your authors feel.”
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