One Is the Loneliest Number: Understanding Where the Editing Process Begins

Saturday, September 26, 2015

By Ellie Maas Davis
Writing is lonely business. By the time you finish a book you’ll have whiled away long solitary hours, peck, peck, pecking away at a keyboard.

Deleting this. Removing that. Choosing words, re-choosing words, ratcheting up your plot and subplots. There are conflict and rising action to think about. There’s the climax to consider and reconsider, then rethink a few more times for good measure. You’ll develop characters and scene upon scene upon scene. Your imagery must be spot-on too. You’ll do all of this solo.

Like I said, writing is lonely business. That is until you find an editor.

I’m convinced the editing process begins with the realization that no writer writes in a vacuum, at least no writer who’s looking to publish her work. 

The editing process is first and foremost about being self-aware; it’s about knowing as humans we’re fallible. It’s also about knowing that as authors we often can’t always see the forest for the trees. Self-editing is necessary, but from there editing is about having someone review your manuscript objectively. Let me say this again: editing is about having someone review your manuscript objectively.

Editors aren’t beta readers. They’re not your mother or your neighbor or your neighbor’s friend who’s found a few typos. An editor is someone who collaborates with you to ensure your book is ready to meet the world. They’re sharp, they listen, they guide, they question, they correct. A good editor has an instinct about what works and what doesn’t that supersedes the technical and reaches for greatness.

The editing process begins with the realization that your readers shouldn’t be bothered with unnecessary shifts in verb tense or have to put up with sentence fragments. Nor do you want them thinking a two-dimensional supporting character makes your book less relatable. Almost more important are the subtler areas of sentence rhythm and flow, or tightening those sections that just seem a little off. A good editor will know how to guide you to these spots and help you strengthen them. This is no passive undertaking. And if you’re writing fiction, you ought to have characters that will become as real to your readers as their own friends and enemies.

The sure-fire sign you need an editor is if you’ve written a book. The good news, dear author, is on this front, you’re not alone and that two is better than one. In my next few posts, I’ll offer insight on what to look for in an editor, how to secure an editor, the potential for the author-editor relationship, and further insight on the editing process.

Ellie Maas Davis owns Pressque, a publishing consultation firm located in downtown Charleston that offers editing and ghostwriting services to authors and publishers.

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