The edit.

posted in: News, Writing | 2



There are those who think that they can edit their own writing. I know of a few self-published authors who don’t bother with professional edits for their work. Personally, I think that the cards are stacked against self-published authors as it is. There are those in the book trade who don’t like us and what we do, why give them another chance to dismiss our work as poorly prepared?

As far as I’m concerned, my physical products must be as good as or better than any mainstream publication. Along with the importance of good cover design that means that the words have been properly edited and formatted, by experts.

I’m lucky to have a wonderful editor. She has just sent me the results of her first look at my latest manuscript, the first time that anyone apart from me has seen it, together with extensive notes and a list of comments.

Now it’s up to me to try and sort it all out and turn it into a document that is ready for beta readers. Hopefully, by the time that I’ve finished, it will resemble more of a completed novel than it does at the moment.

So I thought that you might like to see how I go about that.

The first thing that hits you when you look at your edited manuscript is how little you really knew of it.

It’s easy to say, “I’ve been working on it for months, I know every word and comma,” and naturally you’re in love with what you’ve written. The trouble is, your familiarity has blinded you to its faults, and if it’s anything like one of my first drafts, it has a whole load of faults.

Just as an example, here’re the editor’s comments on the proposed blurb, as you can see it’s only a few lines of text but I thought that my version was pretty good at summing up the stories themes without giving too much away.


And the rest of the 254 pages go in a very similar vein. The remarks are all concise, detailed and pertinent.

When I got the first edit that I ever submitted back and saw all the red and blue and yellow, it looked like some demented spider with inky feet had crawled all over my beautiful prose. I thought that I had failed in some way. I wondered if or even why my superb creation deserved such a savaging.

It took me right back to school and all the feelings of fear, which was often helped by the psychological warfare waged by teachers.

Mine mistakenly thought that by telling me I was lazy, it would make me work harder. In fact, it just made me think, ‘if you can’t be bothered to be constructive and help me, then I can’t be bothered to try.’

But now I embrace the spiders because they mean that I can get closer to perfection, or at least to create a better version of the tale I want to tell. They point out the things that my familiarity didn’t let me see.

Basically, they are a reader’s view.

My editor might not like my genre, in fact in some ways it may be better if they don’t. They also refrain from being anything other than neutral in their comments. That’s great; I don’t want praise, just the errors pointed out and an unbiased view of the document as a whole.

Once it has been honed, that will be the time for the beta readers to have a look. They’re not editors, just people that I trust, the ones who are part of my target audience.

I went off on a bit of a tangent there, to get back to where I was, I’m faced with this document and I have to start correcting it.

I tend to concentrate on the comments, they’re the important bit at this stage, the formatting and such are sort of beyond my level of expertise so I just skim through them. Unless I can see that a comma, for instance, has been put in the wrong place and messes up the sense of what I want to say. But that’s pretty rare; my editor knows what they’re doing with the presentation of my work correctly on the page. I can leave that to them, I want to get into the comments.

The comments are more important because they show me what the editor thinks I’m trying to say. They show me what a reader will think, such as  “?” or “but didn’t you say…x…?” And they point out things like repeated words and other bits and pieces that slow the action down.

This is what I couldn’t see because I was too close, they are the first things that my editor saw, so they must be the first things that a reader will notice.

And that’s valuable information. That’s what it’s all about.

So, I will address each comment and see the sense of it. Then I will amend it, or not, all depending on what I think it does to the progression of the narrative. It might be that the comment will stay and it’s the surrounding text that gets altered.

In fact, the act of re-reading the comments often changes my mind; it gives me a starting point for changes or amplification. The whole direction of a scene or of a plot line can hinge on a comment such as “why did they say/do that?” In fact, I have written whole sequels based on the comments of an editor.

So far from being the destroyer of your work, the edit can often bring out the best in your writing.

and here’s the new version of the blurb, after revision.

“What has happened to Horis Strongman since we saw him last? The events in Aserol and beyond have changed him and given him adventures that he could never have imagined. His life is now completely different in every respect. He had travelled far and wide and seen things that he would never have thought were possible.

But those who were against him have recovered and can still do him harm. Before he and those he cares for can be truly safe, he must face his foes again, and this time, the stakes are raised. Before his journey ends, he will find that he has allies in the strangest places for the final confrontation that he hopes will secure his future.

The story takes in foreign lands and new dangers as Horis fights for the freedom to live in peace.

A new Life in Ventis is the sequel to The Rocks of Aserol.”

Is that better? What do you think? Let me know via a comment below.

And if you want my advice, get a good editor; they’re worth their weight in Gold!


2 Responses

  1. David Tubby

    In your new version of the blurb, there are two consecutive sentences beginning “Before”!

    As a reader, I completely agree that a good edit is vital. Forget what the publishing industry says – it’s the readers who matter. Look at the number of Amazon reviews (not yours) which say something along the lines that the story was fine but there were too many typos. Poorly thought out language can hinder the flow of the story and make the difference between enjoying or not enjoying the book.

    Back when I was working (as a patent attorney, so a legal type of job producing vast quantities of words on paper), it was a given that no one could proof read their own work.

    • Richard Dee

      Thank you for your comment. I agree with you entirely. I find it irritating (as a reader), to have my flow interrupted by a misplaced comma, or some other formatting/spelling error. And with respect to the duplication, my work has more than one edit! Usually three! You’ve pre-empted a future article as this project continues and stolen my punchline. Never mind, it’s good to know that someone’s paying attention. I hope that all those who enjoyed The Rocks of Aserol will enjoy this one just as much. Look for it in November if all goes well.

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