1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    How Much Editing Is Enough?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Catrin Lewis, Dec 6, 2016.

    I've been editing and re-editing my WIP the past year or more. Some of that is in response to feedback from beta readers. A good chunk of it is me trying to lessen the word count. But a lot of it is basic reshaping, reworking, and repolishing.

    All good things, right? But take the chapter I'm working on today. Previously, I thought it was fine. It was perfectly all right a month or so ago when I went over it before emailing the latest version of the novel to a beta reader. But today I'm noticing awkwardnesses, redundancies, a lack of clarity, all the rest of it. Why didn't I see that before?

    I've fixed those problems, I hope. But what if it needs another pass, and another pass, and another pass, and I don't discover it until I've hit Publish and posted the ms to Amazon?

    At what point do you say, "This book is good enough"? and let it take its chances in the big world?

    (And no, I cannot afford to hire a professional editor. Not if I want to keep the mortgage paid.)
     
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  2. A.M.P.

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Contributor

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    First of: do you really need the mortgage?

    I think that you're continuously improving and getting sharper skills at detecting issues.
    I've read books by big names where I cringe at certain passages because they're god awful.

    The way I see it, you will always be able to think of a new way to improve a piece.
    When are you done? Probably never but you have to also develop the skill to see whether it's good enough to be presentable and professional.
    You'll always be able to improve a piece but at some point you need to go past the editorial stage.
     
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  3. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    It's like anything that you've been intimately involved with for a long time, you lose some perspective.

    I don't think there's any getting around the services of a talented professional editor, one that has a history of getting his client's work published.

    The book Malisky and I are writing is destine for such a fate. After we've done all we can do to make it the best it can be, it's left to the care of a first-rate editor. I've already set up a savings account and squirrel away some money every week in preparation of that big day, when we see how much polishing our work needs.:)
     
  4. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    No matter how good something is, or how well you think you've done it, a bit more time and effort will always make it better. Its true of art in any medium. You as a person are constantly improving, constantly growing and getting better, more adept. At some point you have to cast your line out. Only you will know when that is.

    It's really the same with anything in life, right?
     
  5. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    That's a very good question. I'm actually reading through my WIP and can count hundreds of things that need editing (minus the big ones) but I'm sure enough will be enough. Yes, words can be replaced. And yes, dialogue can take that other route you were thinkin of going but not really wanting to go.

    Are you a perfectionist by chance?

    I don't think I am but I love a good story and one is not good with such inconsistencies. I'll just say, we can read it as the writer, a reader and a publisher. Everyone will have preferences on books so putting so much on what beta readers think/say will not matter as much as you think unless you give it to several and they all fuss over the same things but for the most part just write what you enjoy and send that baby of yours out there.
     
  6. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    Hahaha that got me chuckling.
     
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  7. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    How long to you take breaks between sessions? I've noticed that I can edit until I'm blue in the face, but if I leave it completely for a month and go back, I'll find some cringe worthy parts. I also find it important to read a lot during that break to sort of flush your brain out. It feels smooth to you because you know what's coming next.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Me? A perfectionist? Never!
    Bwhahahahaahahahaaaahhh!!! :superlaugh:
     
  9. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    A good piece of advice from a friend who has published about 40 books (David Poyer) "Edit it until you can't stand to look at it anymore, then you are done."

    Sounds like you are doing all the right things, @Catrin Lewis. Do keep up the good work. If you can afford a professional editor, take advantage of that , but make sure they are good. If you can't, get a serious beta reader, like a writing teacher or author, to take a look for free. Or critiques from your writing group. Best to catch your mistakes before launch, as you are doing; you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
     
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  10. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Here's the sort of thing I'm talking about:

    Just a few minutes ago, I noticed that I'd started three successive paragraphs the same way: "X grinned." "He relaxed." "X laughed." I've dealt with it, but why didn't I see that before? And how much more of the same am I still missing?
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  11. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I know it's not too useful, but catching stuff like that really is where a good editor will shine. Fresh eyes mean a lot.

    Absent the editor, I agree with Lew's friend - you do it until you're sick of it. I get sick of it fast, so I'm lucky that I have some good editors who catch at least some of what I missed!
     
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  12. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I am on Rev 6 of my WIP and at 240K words, that means I have read 1.5M words. And I still catch stuff. Some things are very hard to see: "to to" repeated, a dropped "not", and the same word used twice or three times on the same page, sometimes the same paragraph. And always some change to the story line.
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Given what you've already done, @Catrin Lewis , I'd say the best thing you can do right now ...without a doubt ...is walk away. Walk away from it for a good long while. A couple of months, while you discover creative ways to pay the mortgage.

    Don't be tempted to look at it. Don't be tempted to think about it. Work on something else. Give yourself at least 2 months ...more if you can. And then go back and read straight through. Don't skip anything. Quickly mark any place you think needs work, but don't stop. Keep going. Read at the same pace a reader would do. And see how it hangs together.

    It's not the occasional typo, repeated phrase or three sentences starting with the same word on a single page that is going to scupper the book. It's the overall flow. How does it read. Does it all make sense? Are there parts where you - yes YOU, the author - are tempted to skip? BIG mark there ...but again, don't stop. Keep going. Get all the way to the end. Then go back to the beginning and give attention to those spots you marked.

    Obviously keep an eye peeled for plot holes, but pacing, emotional involvement and overall story arc should be your goal here. It's really tempting as an author to read the story in bits, but don't. Read it the way the readers will read it. Start at the beginning and keep going.

    Once you've done this once ...or even twice ...then maybe you should let it stand and advance to the publication stage. However, I think the main reason so many people self-publish awkwardly-written books or can't get an agent to look at their work is because they skip (or rush) this 'walk away' stage. Leaving it for a week or two won't do. You really have to leave it long enough so you don't 'remember' writing it. Then and only then can you be objective. And objectivity is what you really need here.
     
  14. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I hear that a good way to cope with the odd errors is to print out your ms in a larger size, in a different font (like Courier), then start at the end and read each paragraph out loud. They say that reading the whole ms out loud from the top is effective, too. Better yet, have someone else read it to you.
     
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  15. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Even though I want heartily to get this thing out and done, what you suggest might not be unthinkable. Oh, I'm not going to lay the text aside until I've considered/accepted/rejected/incorporated my latest beta readers' feedback. And there's a character development issue I need to solve before this lump of dough can go into a warm place to rise. But once that's done, fasting from editing would give me a good couple months to teach myself HTML so I can do the layout and to get good at GIMP so I can produce a decent cover. Not to mention I need to work up pre-release publicity on Facebook and so on. Frankly, I've used the need to edit as an excuse to avoid these tasks.

    I'd hoped to publish before the end of the year, but that ain't happening. The end of February might not be so bad.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
  16. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    A good way to avoid the hard to fine "to to" or the occasionally typo (like where I used fine instead of find) is to load the whole thing in a text to speech sythesizer.

    [​IMG]

    Humans read what they expect, computers read exactly.
     
  17. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Talk to me about GIMP, I am looking at covers and never heard of it
     
  18. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Isn't GIMP that free Photoshop program?
     
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  19. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    GIMP is an image manipulation program. It's mostly used and developed on Linux since there is no Photoshop port for that platform. It's got all of the same tools as Photoshop, just a little bit of a learning curve on where they are. We all use it professionally in my office, I think there is one of us here that's actually paid for Photoshop. Do you need to know anything specifically about it? Like I said, I use it constantly.
     
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  20. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    You could set yourself a standard and keep editing until you believe you've reached it.

    Like:

    1. Is anything in the story unnecessary?
    2. Is everything clear and coherent?
    3. Is everything engaging?

    Once you've completed the check list, edit it until you know longer find SPAG and then you're done?
     
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  21. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    @Catrin Lewis

    I spent a month with the hammer on my own novel. Then I let it sit and be for like a year, mainly because I did not have cover art for it.
    Using it in ref to the sequel to keep the cannon correct, I tweaked things here and there (mainly SPAG and trim the fat for the most part.)
    I reread the entire thing before epubbing (crap the cats out of the bag) to make sure it flowed, and kept tone be it a lull or a peak. It had
    been beta read by a few people before, several months before I got a cover image made up ( I used GIMP and it took me like 10-12 hours
    to get it better than what I originally had. Christmas color scheme was a bad choice :D. So yeah GIMP has a steep learning curve and I am
    not a rocket scientist, more of a trial and error type). Is there a few spelling errors in it, sure. Cut it back from 127-123+K, kinda hard to
    police something that large while being green as a writer. But I did the best I could between the feedback and my own thoughts.
    So get a fresh set(s) of eyes on it with an objective brain attached to them.
    So best of luck, and I hope you get it the way you want it.:supersmile:
     
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  22. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I agree. At some point you've done your best writing/editing and you have to let it go as it is. I'm reaching that point with my work. After seven years rewriting and editing two novels it's one of the two: accept them, or delete them. Since I think they're too good to delete, I'll have to accept them.
    Then move on to write better things.

    @Catrin Lewis: From your words, I suspect you're not waiting long enough between edits. I found it takes at least a month between edits, for me, for my editing work to be effective.
     
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  23. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    If you think you need another go-over to catch stuff and you don't want to wait a month (or longer):

    a) compile it into an e-book and read it on a device
    b) compile it into pdf and read it on a second device
    c) change the font/size and go back to a)
    d) print it out
    e) read it during a longish break at a train station
    f) read it in a coffee-shop

    Any break in routine for you - the author - lets you catch something new because your angle of view is different.

    This is very good advice. Stick to it, in addition to a)-f)

    Good luck!
     
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  24. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Contributor Contributor

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    Are you sure GIMP is worth it? How much does it cost? Because for my ebooks I've been using Pixlr. They're not the best quality but I can get to do whatever I want which is why I still use it.
     
  25. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    GIMP is free.
     

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