Editing – hold on to your garter belts

I was talking to an editor friend of mine, and she laughingly told me how she’d just sent off her first round of edits to her author. “I thought she was going to drench me with a fine spray of perspiration.”

Whyzzat? I asked. After all, she had been expected to be edited, right?

Oh yeah, she said. She just had no idea there was going to be so much redlining.

Ohhhh…I can relate. I’ve told authors how much I loved their manuscripts, how clean they are (the manuscripts, not the authors), and was excited to dig into the editing process. When they got my edits, they were convinced the nice lady who signed them had been replaced by the daughter of Satan.

I could hear the screaming from my batcave. “I thought you said it was clean!” they’d wail. “I’m bleeding red ink on every page! The horror, the humanity!”

Let me explain. When we read your manuscripts, we take a mental note of all the mechanics – spelling, punctuation, syntax, blah, blah, blah. There’s a point where our “Ick O’Meter” dings and we realize the mechanics need a lot of work. Next, we look at the story, the flow, pacing, and organization and let our “Ick O’Meter” ding…or not ding. Based on the dings we hear, we can measure the cleanliness of the manuscript.

So in our way of thinking, something may be deemed “clean,” meaning the foundation is solid and marketable. That doesn’t mean you produced an edit-free story. It isn’t until we get into the nitty gritty of editing that we find the warts and hit them with wart-off. We may have lots of comments about rewording a sentence, or reworking a scene – but to us , it’s still “clean.” To you, it looks like I made merry with a red pen on crack.

All I can say is don’t sweat this stuff. Your writing didn’t come from the hands of the Great Cosmic Muffin, so you’re gonna see lotsa red. Revel in the fact that your editor is working on little sleep, burnt coffee, and cheap booze to make your work rock its bad self into the hearts and souls of readers.

And yes, this takes faith. But then, you wouldn’t have signed with your publisher if you didn’t have faith they knew what they were doing, right??

10 Responses to Editing – hold on to your garter belts

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    My suggestion for avoiding so much red ink: Have somebody you trust proofread every single manuscript before submission. The best way to do this, mind, is to marry an editor…

  2. Vanessa Russell says:

    Clean article, Lynne – enjoyed it! But, come to think of it, what a goal I’ve set for myself: to get to the point where I can “wail” to an editor. As a writer, I must be part masochist.

  3. Sally Zigmond says:

    Red ink is not only inevitable, it is to be welcomed. Proof-reading is only a small part of it. However much an author edits, find an army of beta readers or drags unsuspecting adults off the street to edit it, it’ll still need editing from an experienced publisher’s editor.

    Anyone who thinks otherwise is not ready to be published.

  4. Bill Webb says:

    MY editor thinks she knows grammar but she only knows a gram. Still, I do what the youngster says even if I do have socks older then she is.

    I used to debate with my editors but after the editor of Kiplingers sent me a note explaining that my writing was fine for the first three paragaphs but after that it sounded like I was preaching from the pulpit and if I didn’t fix it, it was nixed. Nix is a technical term meaning I don’t get paid. Well, I fixed it.

    I really love editors, I do.

  5. Lev Raphael says:

    I edited my spouse’s magnum opus on therapy for shame-based syndromes and Springer said it was the cleanest ms.that they ad ever received and they did minimal editing. 🙂 They also agree with me that the chapter head quotes we too long, something the author disagreed with, but we had the votes. Double 🙂 Greetings from Heidelberg where I am near the end of an almost two week book tour.

  6. Lev Raphael says:

    Sorry for spelling mistakes. Lack of sleep and too much time speaking and thinking in German.

  7. Mark says:

    Aloha Lynn,

    I kept my first red-lined copy from my first newspaper gig, and every now and again, I take the pages out and re-read it, marveling in the knowledge I have come so far, and kan now rite well, really.

  8. God, how I long for the soul-deadening glare of a red Editor’s pen on my manuscripts! These are hard ti9mes for debut writers, however. Especially if you don’t have deep pockets and can little afford a full professional editing job before pitching your work. There are scores of editing trolls out there, too, lurking in the guise of impartial book reviewers. My first born is now too old to be expected to go along with any re-assignment thereof. What to do? What to do?

  9. … or just a doctor who specializes in keyboard dyslexia.

  10. Richard, debut authors are published all the time – every day – and many of them have never used an indie editor. This is where honest beta readers and/or critique groups are a godsend. Authors are expected to know how to edit themselves, so really, I admit that I worry a bit when someone does hire an outside editor because I can’t gauge who’s responsible for the finished product. Been totally burned in that arena years ago.

    Lev, totally jealous! Give Heidelberg a big kiss for me – how I miss it!

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