The Craft of Writing: Editing

Normally I would go from formatting to point-of-view or verb tense when writing about craft, but last week I read two items that I wanted to share.

  1. According to UNESCO over 2.2 million books are published each year. The word “over” is because the count only includes books with an ISBN. There are also many self-published books that haven’t been included in that number. Books published in one year
  2. Amazon (according to the article) will soon begin a warning system or will stop a book from being ordered if it has too many reported errors either in its facts or in typos, etc. Kindle adding warning

Your writing is and will be in competition with every other article, short story, non-fiction or fiction novel in circulation. You, personally, must make sure your facts are correct, the grammar and punctuation are correct, and the piece has a minimum of typos. If you have an agent and/or editor, they may catch these errors, but ultimately it’s your name on the piece, you are the one who is responsible.

Catching every single error may not be possible—I know I’ve read many published books that I’m sure were proofed by the writer, agent, and editor that still have typos or misspellings—but with so many writers now choosing to self-publish, way too many books are being offered for sale that make me, as a reader, cringe.

Amazon has been allowing book buyers in their Prime program to return a book if it wasn’t what they’d thought they’d be getting or if it had too many errors, etc. Some of these people are simply using this system as a way of reading a book for free, but many are disappointed because the book simply wasn’t up to standards. Also, books that get a lot of 1 star ratings and comments that the book was full of errors won’t sell well.

The first step in writing an article, short story, or novel should be to get the idea out of your head and into a form that can be read. At this stage, the writer shouldn’t worry about spelling, grammar, context, or any of the other steps in writing. Of course, it makes the second step easier if the writer knows good grammar, can spell well, and has an understanding of how to develop a story, but those things can be worked on later.

Once the story idea has form, then the editing begins. I will talk about this in detail in a later blog, but this is the time for the writer to go through the manuscript and correct grammar and spelling errors, put in the proper punctuation, eliminate repetitions, and make sure the story or article flows from beginning to end.

I’ve often been asked how long this takes or how many times I go through a manuscript. There is no magic number. I go over a manuscript until I feel I have everything right, then I put it aside for a while and then go over it again. And maybe again and again. Then I give the story to others (Beta readers) and ask them to look for errors. And when they give the piece back, I go over it again.

The embarrassing truth is, even after the book or story has been published (which means a line editor and copy editor also went through it and made any necessary corrections), I still find errors. But if I’ve done my job, those errors will be at a minimum.

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16 Responses to The Craft of Writing: Editing

  1. Melissa Keir says:

    Editing is important. One of the things that I become frustrated with is when you have had your book edited by great editors and there aren’t the errors, yet someone who thinks they know better start ripping your book apart. Sometimes the reader thinks they know more than the professional paid editor and even say so in the review. That’s when I sigh and throw up my hands.

  2. Maris Soule says:

    That is frustrating, especially if it’s in regard to information you’ve researched and know is accurate. Responding to reviews like that rarely helps. I’m afraid there will always be people “out there” who feel they know better.

  3. Lots of helpful information in your post, Maris. I’m glad to see there will be more editing, especially in the formatting. I can skip over a misspelled word or to but it’s distracting when the formatting is all over the page. Sometimes, the author isn’t to blame but ends up being remembered for the book’s poor execution.

  4. Ann Bennett says:

    I have read several kindle editions of books with errors. I have thought of noting the flaws and sending them to the writer. I have not because it may be an insult. I would want to know though. None of your books are in that group.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks, Ann. I guess some readers are telling Amazon about the errors, either directly or in the reviews. That’s the nice thing about having an editor, there may still be a few errors that slip by, but it’s rarely more than a few.

  5. Jacqueline Seewald says:

    Hi, Maris,

    Like you, I always edit my work carefully. However, I still do miss errors. We human beings are imperfect creatures and that includes authors. I find the 2.2 million books published each year a staggering statistics!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Remember, Jacqueline, that’s worldwide. And it includes self-published if the writer has an ISBN number. Even if only 1% of China’s citizens wrote a book, that would add a lot of books to the count. But you’re right. The number took me aback when I saw it.

  6. The need for “as accurate as possible” very succinctly put. Nice informative blog, Maris.

  7. Kathy Crouch says:

    Great post. I hate to get a book filled with errors and I have to figure out what’s missing.

  8. HiDee Ekstrom says:

    Great post, Maris. It’s very frustrating to read a book with numerous typos, but I know how easy it is to miss them too. We often see what we know it should say, instead of catching what it reallly says.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I’m a good example, HiDee, of seeing what I think should be there. That’s why it’s good to have someone else read the ms. I’ve also heard changing the font helps.

  9. Lucy Kubash says:

    It is so frustrating to find an error after something has been submitted or worse yet, uploaded to publish. I’ve done both and recently I uploaded a second copy of a book because I found a couple of things after it was live on Amazon. Luckily they let you do that. Thanks for the suggestions on how to keep this from happening.