Writing on Wednesday: Three Things I Learned During Edits

For the past few months I’ve been in the editing process for Aphrodite. Edits happen in several stages. There’s content edits, which looks at global issues like plot, sub plot, character development, and pacing. There’s line edits, which keeps those in mind, but mostly looks at things like consistency. The character had green eyes here, blue here. She picked up a cup twice, she walked in the door all ready.

Then there’s copy edits. Copy edits are the nitpicks. Mostly it focuses on grammatical stuff. Is this comma in a right place, did you capitalize your random special magic words consistently, ect.

Most of the time, the books go through each set of edits twice, with the second time being a review of the changes made or questioned. Every time I have a book sent through edits I learn something new. Here are three things I learned this time.

  1. Pointed out and realized are not dialogue tags. Which basically means I can say “Pointing out some random detail.” She pointed out. Not “Pointing out some random detail,” she pointed out.
  2. Editors hate the word like,preferring instead to use the phrase “as if.” Most of the time they leave dialogue alone because it’s less formal, but not always. So avoid it when you can, and be prepared to defend it when you use it.
  3. It is really humbling how many major errors you can miss. Before my book even makes it to my publisher, I’ve taken 2-3 drafts of it through my writers group in 5,000 word chunks. THEN I send the whole thing to a friend who content edits for a living, THEN I send it to a friend who copy edits for a living. THEN I give it to the publisher where it’s run through the gauntlet of edits. I’m thorough when it comes to editing. I don’t just go through and accept changes blindly. I try to learn from my mistakes. After I take the time to review, analyze, and understand each change, I go through and read my story out loud, generally to someone, to check for errors I might have missed. I have a system. Before turning in content edits, I put the whole manuscript through my writers group to make sure none of the global changes I made contradict or slow the pacing. This, I hope, saves my editor some time. Before I turn in line edits, I do a run through of the audio book, before I turn in copy edits, I read the story out loud to my amazing husband. Page proofs, I read to myself and send to a friend or two for a beta read (these aren’t edits, it’s catching things like when formatting leaves a word off). There is a whole team of people staring at/listening to every single word of my book, and I’ll still get all the way to copy edits and find glaring errors I never should have missed. Technically I learn this lesson every time, but it’s still shocking to me.

Edits are a special kind of torture. I love them, I really do. I’d edit all day long to procrastinate on writing something new. Editing takes words on a page and makes them BETTER. It’s a thousand times easier than coming up with entire chapters worth of new words. But it’s still tedious and it’s still really hard not to get defensive when you’re staring at a document that’s hemorrhaging tracked changes. It’s so worth it though. And I’m always so unbelievably impressed with how thorough my editors are. They’re amazing. I could never do their job.




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