It’s more than likely you have drawn up a timetable for the writing of your book, and perhaps you have in mind a publication date. But how well have you scheduled the bit that comes in-between?
Many new authors tend to underestimate the time needed to pass thoroughly through all the editing stages. In their eagerness to get the book ‘out there’, they might either skip a stage entirely, or give it just a cursory glance at best.
But if you bear in mind that a traditional publisher can take anywhere up to two years to release an author’s book, you begin to get a feel for the amount of time and work needed to make the book fit for purpose in the marketplace.
A publisher wouldn’t release a novel that had not passed through all the editing stages; to do so would be putting the reputation of both their business and the author at risk.
Why then would a self-publishing author release an incomplete novel?
We live in a thoroughly exciting and fast-moving age in terms of book publishing. The industry is changing rapidly and, where once publishers were the gatekeepers in control of who and what was published, authors are now bypassing these once-insurmountable barriers and taking charge of their own work and writing careers by publishing themselves.
This is a seismic shift that is awash with opportunity for the newly coined ‘independent author’, but only if they are prepared to fully comprehend what the process and business of publishing involves.
Are you still with me? Great. Let’s get to grips with this editing lark then...
If you can get into the mindset that your book won’t just start and finish with the writing of it, that there’s a whole process of rewriting and checking and tweaking, then you will be in less of a hurry to skip these crucial stages and a lot further forward in understanding the business of book production.
Having said that, I know how complex, confusing and disconcerting the process can be. And so in the weeks to come I’ll be posting a series of blogs that will talk you through each editing stage, what editing professionals look for and how you can take on some of these tasks yourself.
A greater awareness of what editing involves can help you to become a better writer, as well as save you time and money when you hire a professional.
You are hiring a professional, right?
For many indie authors, the idea of hiring professional editorial help is a contentious one, and I understand why. Aside from the expense, editing itself seems nothing short of a quagmire, with lots of confusing terminology and conflicting advice.
For a start, how do you even know whether you need an editor or a proofreader? Can you get away with just hiring one of them rather than both?
Well, in truth, it’s not as confusing as it seems. So let's begin by getting to the nitty gritty.
No matter what Editor A calls it compared to Editor B, and no matter what Editor C says about Editor A’s working methods, all you need to know is that there are only three main stages to the editorial process of writing and publishing. Traditional publishers have been following this three-step method for quite some time, and now it’s your turn to make sense of it too, so that you can get the right help at the right time for the right thing.
So here are those three stages in their purest form:
Aside from the varying terminology, the reason for the confusion can derive from the fact that manuscripts will often need more than one pass (one edit) at each stage. Likewise, some of these three editorial stages occasionally cross over.
For example, a developmental editor looking at the big issues of your narrative may point out glaring inconsistencies such as spelling irregularities or different names used (this is what a copy-editor would look for). Or, a copy-editor may correct typos or punctuation errors as they work line by line (the proofreader’s job).
But regardless of whether you hire a professional at every or any stage, it remains vital that the editing and proofreading of your book follows this particular order: Stage 1 (Build), Stage 2 (Sculpt), Stage 3 (Polish). Without this structure, you risk getting forever lost in an endless editing and proofreading loop, potentially spending much more time and money than necessary.
By knowing the clear and logical order for editing your book, not only will you save yourself time and money, but you will also be able to break down what is a large part of publishing into manageable steps, resulting in a more structured and smoother process both for you and those you hire to help you.
In Part 2 of the series, I’ll be helping to demystify the Build stage of the editing process – the developmental edit. I’ll begin by discussing what it involves and consider some issues to look out for in relation to the structure of your novel.
Part 2: Developmental Edit (Structure)
Part 3: Developmental Edit (Plot)
Part 4: Developmental Edit (Characters, Setting, Timeline)
Part 5: Copy-Edit (Narrative Voice, Point of View)
Part 6: Copy-Edit (Characters, Setting, Timeline)