I do a lot of editing as well as book and cover design. True confession here—I find editing far more difficult than writing.
When I’m writing the first draft of anything—this post, a book, a magazine article, doesn’t matter—I just click right along, my hand(s) and head working as fast as they can so that I don’t miss out on that great phrase that’s whipping across my neurons.
I don’t have to worry about commas, syntax or even spelling (though I do try to do those things correctly) because I know I will revise it later—and probably more than once.
Editing is far, far slower than writing, and requires intense focus because you’re testing every word and every sentence: Does it make sense? Is it in line with the movement of the whole book? How about those details such as spelling, grammar and punctuation?
Editing also takes the dexterity and balance of a tightrope walker. Do you rewrite a sentence that you know is awkward? Sure, if it’s a single sentence.
But what about a paragraph? A chapter? Heck, a whole book? (I’ve done that and it’s tedious work, take my word for it.)
Like every other skill, managing the rewrite issue (what writers like to call “changing my words”) is always a tough call because the inclination to “just fix it” is strong. For new editors, that impulse is all but irresistible.
When I hand my work off to an editor, my instructions are simple: Do not let me go out there and make a fool out of myself in public. In other words, tell me if something doesn’t work, if my plot has fallen apart, if a character doesn’t ring true. Correct my grammar, correct my spelling.
I care deeply about my readers. I know that I get only one chance to impress them with my work. If I disrespect them with a badly done book, they will never come back to visit me again.
Now I’ve been hanging out in the writers cafe for a long time now, and at this point in my career, I know that I write well. So what I need from an editor is a pointing finger—this doesn’t work, this does. I can fix it if you point it out to me. I don’t need or want someone to rewrite my paragraphs or chapters. But if you’re my editor and you’ve got a better idea how to craft a sentence, please show me.
Like I said, fine line.
From what I see on websites dedicated to this newish “crowd editing” phenomenon, that line is being crossed regularly by inexperienced (or wannabe) editors, and it is resented by inexperienced (wannabe) writers.
And the whole experience devolves into an ego clash with resentment on both sides.
So would I recommend this path to publishing?
You do get what you pay for.