If there’s one piece of advice that I will always pass on to writers, it’s this:
EDIT YOUR WORK!
Did you read that correctly? Here it is again…
EDIT YOUR WORK!
That should get my point across, right? If not, I advise you to print those words out and keep them close to your writing station… just like I do. It may sound redundant that I’m hollering about editing your writing when it seems like common sense, but you don’t understand how many writers (including myself) tend to neglect this simple task. In my opinion, editing is almost as important as actually creating a story, and if you refuse to properly edit your manuscript, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
I’ve always been pretty shoddy when it comes to editing and proofreading my work. I remember one particular instance back in college where I wrote an entire 10-page paper about Edgar Allan Poe and didn’t even proofread it.
I’ll never forget my professor’s response when I went to get my grade. His exact response, “Man, you need to proofread your work! Holy God!” Thankfully, I still got a B + on the paper, but that look of exasperation on my professor’s face will forever haunt me.
Later on in life, when I landed my first full-time writing job, I had a nasty tendency to hastily skim my work before submitting it. Needless to say, I had a few conversations with my managers and editors who told me that my writing was pretty sloppy. Afterwards, I made it a habit to at least double-check all of my articles before submitting them. Basically, my rule was that if I could read the article without having to make a correction, then I could submit it. If I saw even one misspelled word, I’d do a full edit of the entire article. It was tedious at times, but let me tell you, it was so worth it. It was the life lesson that I needed.
In my last blog post, I talked about releasing a second edition of my book. The main reason for the re-release was because I was fairly careless with editing the first edition. I was so excited to get my book out there that I didn’t give it the proper attention it deserved before officially releasing it. I probably skimmed it once or twice before officially putting it on the market. To this day, I still regret jumping the gun and shoving out “Dodger’s Doorway” when it clearly wasn’t ready. At least the second edition rectified most of the mistakes.
The point I’m trying to make is, even if you find editing to be the most boring, tedious task on the planet, you still have to do it. For a lot of people, it’s a chore – an important but annoying task that you wish could just be done at the flick of the wand. Trust me – you’re not alone in this sense. I’d rather scrub down my entire bathroom than have to re-read “Dodger’s Doorway” for the 1000th time in an attempt to find any spelling or grammar errors. Unfortunately, it HAS to be done. You can’t skimp on the editing, especially if you ever hope to become a successful writer one day. Not editing your book can cost you in several ways.
First, your readers won’t be happy. I personally get frustrated if I come across a sentence or paragraph that doesn’t make sense because of the way it’s written. I think to myself, “Wow, this could’ve been easily avoided if someone edited it!” Now imagine encountering this situation page after page. It looks sloppy, careless, and unprofessional, and readers will start to think, “Does this writer even care?” If the writer doesn’t seem to care about their work, why should the readers? If they’re willing to support you, the least you can do is edit your work so it’s not riddled with errors.
You might start to think, “Well, who cares what readers think?!” Uh, you should. Granted, you can’t make everyone happy, but that doesn’t mean you should make everyone UNHAPPY. It’s disrespectful to the people who bought your book and expected a coherent, well-written story, and instead received a hastily-written, poorly formatted story that looked like it was written by a first-grader.
In addition to this, those readers can have major control of your writing reputation. Do you think a poorly written/edited book will get stellar reviews on Amazon or Goodreads? Highly doubtful. Negative reviews are a nuisance, but they can have a huge impact on your reputation as an author. A lot of people look past the negative feedback because they understand that everyone has different tastes. What one person calls terrible, another will find stellar, and vice versa. But if there is a negative review because of all the misspelled words and poorly structured sentences, then you have a problem. That’s not a matter of opinion at that point; it’s a fact. It’s not like you’ll have someone say, “Oh, I actually prefer my books to be badly written and edited.” If you know anyone like that, please give them my information. I’m sure they’d love a first edition of “Dodger’s Doorway”.
One more thing: don’t just edit your manuscript by yourself. Ask a close friend to look it over. Also, don’t be afraid to dish out a little extra money for a professional editor (professional editors can be costly, but in my opinion, they’re totally worth it).
Before I submitted the second edition of my book, I sent the manuscript to an editor to review it from cover to cover. Then, I had my friend look over it. Sometimes, another pair of eyes can pick up things that you’ve missed. It happens all the time. You’d be surprised at how the most glaring mistakes can slip past you, only to be picked up by another editor.
The professional editor caught stuff I never even thought about, such as my tendency to over-explain certain scenes or actions, or an instance where I essentially repeated the same character action twice. My friend caught a pretty glaring plot hole where a character was supposedly in two different places at once. This is the kind of stuff that can sneak past you, and you’ll be thankful for hiring an editor!
I want to clarify something: it’s very difficult to edit something to perfection. You can re-read your manuscript over and over and over until your eyes bleed, and when you finally publish it, you still may find an error here or there. The truth of the matter is that we are not perfect. Small mistakes slip through the cracks. I’ve found errors in prominent series like “A Song of Ice and Fire”, “The Lord of the Rings”, and “Harry Potter”. These are all from major authors who actually worked with professional editors to perfect their manuscripts, but there were still minor issues that snuck past them. Some mistakes are unavoidable. If you manage to create a perfect story with literally no errors or mistakes at all, congratulations. If not, don’t beat yourself up too much. I highly doubt misspelling “going” as “gonig” is going to ruin the overall quality of your work.
With all that being said, I’ll leave you with these wise words:
EDIT THE &*%$ OUT OF YOUR WORK!
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