...about editing...again.

Monk is one of the few television shows I watch...still watch, even though it’s in rerun mode now. Part of the show’s charm is the quirkiness of the main character, Detective Adrian Monk, who has OCD. His disorder creates problems, but it helps him at times, too. And he has said of it, “It’s a blessing...and a curse.” I can think of other things the saying would apply to, but the one most recently on my mind is the ease with which authors can publish their works today. 

No longer does an author have to spend months or years writing query letters or proposals and mailing packets to agents. And there’s no waiting for months while a manuscript is under consideration by a publisher. Or further long stretches of time while the manuscript is prepared for publication once it's accepted.


Today’s revolution in publishing makes it possible for an author to skip all that. He/she can format a manuscript, upload it to CreateSpace, Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble and, voilà! It's available for sale.

It’s a blessing. And a curse.

Because now, too many authors are rushing to publish their works without due diligence in preparation. Making errors is a facet of being human...so, no matter how perfect an author believes his work to be, it needs editing, sometimes lots of editing, to make it ready to meet the world of readers.

And when I speak of editing, I’m not referring only to correcting typos or errors in grammar or punctuation. I’m not talking about finding accidentally omitted words or places where a character’s name magically changes from Steve to Roy. No, I’m talking about clunky phrasing that needs to be streamlined. Redundant words that need to be eliminated. Adverbs and adjectives that need to disappear. Clichés which need to be replaced with fresh imagery. Faulty story logic that needs to be straightened out. And revising behavior and dialogue that isn’t true-to-character (would that particular character say what he’s saying in chapter four? And do all the characters sound alike when they speak?)

Some have pointed out that they've read traditionally published books which have errors. So have I. But that doesn’t justify a sloppily prepared and published manuscript from a do-it-yourselfer. If anything, a book from a self-published author should be even more error-free than a traditional one, because the author doesn’t have to rely on employees at a publishing house to catch and correct any problems. He cares about his story, and he has the opportunity (and responsibility) to ensure his work is as good as he can make it. 

And if he later finds a mistake he overlooked initially, he can and should correct it. I spent four years editing, rewriting, polishing, and re-editing my first novel, High on a Mountain. And guess what? After it was published, I found a couple of errors, which I corrected. I wouldn't want errors to ruin the reading experience for anyone.

My point in saying all this is not to criticize my fellow self-published authors. It’s to encourage us all to take the time to make our work the best on the market. Bar none. (Hey, is that an idiom? Or a cliché? Oh, well...)

Image © Marc Garrido i Puig via stock.xchng


P. Creeden said...

Lots of truth - and the more I learn, the more I know it is true! Even when you're a first time novelist, there is much editing to be done before submitting to a trad-pub house. If it's not almost ready for the press, they'll reject it for that reason, alone.

Cecilia Marie Pulliam said...

Well, Tommie, you are correct. As with any endeavor it should be the best humanly possible before being released. Too many rush out to publication with their eagerness to share. In this case (and deliberately using an old cliché), haste does make waste - a waste of what could be a good story, made unreadable for lack of proper editing. Great points, best taken into every writer's heart.

Anonymous said...

@P. Creeden - you're exactly right.

@Cecilia Marie - so true...haste can be the enemy of excellence.

Lynnette Bonner said...

This is great advice. As an author just delving into the self-publishing world, this has been a concern of mine. Sadly, it's mostly the ones who think they have it all down, that need the most help. I'm hoping that my realization that I don't know everything, will be my saving Grace. ...Pressing onward and upward.

Connie Ward said...

I have published things that weren't quite ready for prime-time and had to go back several times and fix, fix, fix. I know what you're talking about.