Editing, Editing, and then, well, MORE EDITING-Advice from Publisher Authors

At a recent NJ Author’s talk on “Getting Published” (Click here to read my post from that night), many authors on the panel spoke about the importance of editing.  No brainer, right?  Well, you might be surprised.

There are a lot of people out there who have written a “great story” and sent it right out to agents, burned their bridges, and never had a beta read.  I know you are nodding your head.  Hopefully it’s because you KNOW someone, and you are not the culprit.

I ALMOST did this around a year and a half ago (Wow, has it been that long already?)  I finished HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.  I edited the heck out of it with only my own input, and I was about to send it out.  I had trouble finding someone to read it for me, and I was confident, so I was going to skip this step…. but something told me to go out and find a beta reader.  I found a guy I didn’t know, and we exchanged manuscripts.  That’s when I found out that I had a great story **Yay**, HOWEVER, my presentation stank.

Author Jon Gibbs said “People send their work off too soon” He noted that when we read someone else’s work, we read what they wrote.  (Duh, right?)  Well think this over — When we read our OWN work, we read what we THINK WE WROTE.

How true is this?  I never noticed my lack of setting or character description, because I KNEW what everything looked like.  (Among many other problems my beta reader pointed out)  You really need to get a few people to look at your novel while you are editing to make sure you are writing what you THINK you are writing.  It actually took me about four beta readers to whack me upside the head and set me straight on this.

Jennifer R. Hubbard admitted that she didn’t edit enough when she started out, and that she was getting rejections.  The book she revised 12 times and had others read was the one that got published.  (I guess she is talking about “The Secret Year”)

Danielle Ackley McPhail suggested having different kinds of readers in the editing phase… Beta readers will help make your writing better, and “just plain readers” will tell you if the story flows and is enjoyable.  She also suggested making sure one of your “just readers” is someone who does not normally read your genre to get a different perspective.

So, if you are like me, and have people in your life pushing you to get your stuff out there… stick to your guns.  Do your beta-read drills.  Edit after their comments, and then DO MORE BETA READ DRILLS.

I am excited to say that I am sending out HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT for the third round of beta-reads (and three “just plain readers”) shortly.  After six beta readers, and editing and revising it with reckless abandon for well over a year, I think I’ve finally really written what I think I’ve written.  If not, I have full confidence that my readers will “Let me have it”.

I am going to look for new readers too, so I can get some fresh perspectives.  I am really looking forward to seeing if all this hard work has paid off!

Jennifer Eaton


27 responses to “Editing, Editing, and then, well, MORE EDITING-Advice from Publisher Authors

  1. Pingback: What Writing Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Self? | | Savvy Writing CareersSavvy Writing Careers

  2. Pingback: Lesson Twenty-Two from a Manuscript Red Line: Does your Protagonist “Grow Enough?” | Jennifer M Eaton

  3. I agree. Sunch a vital component. I’ve learned so much in just the last year. One site I use a lot is http://www.critiquecircle.com – I highly recommend it for line edits…

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  5. Pingback: What Writing Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Self? | Savvy Writing Careers

  6. Great advice. I had first hand experience with this very subject. The short story I threw together for the contest, needed a second pair of eyes. Thank you for checking out my story and for the very helpful suggestions, which I will use to fix the short story and the book, I’m editing now.

  7. Congrats.
    but don’t wait on someone to give you permission to publish. Publish it yourself.

    It’s fine if you still want a traditional publisher -but you will have a better chance if you can show real sales.


    • Self publishing is always an option that is open, but I am looking forward to the feedback I can get from agents and publishers if I can find the ones who actually mark-up their rejections. Hopefully, I can get some backing. I’d like to be in book stores, as well as on-line.

  8. Absolutely dynamite advice…and I’m going to file this away as a very good piece that someday, when I have a novel written, I will take!

  9. I’d love to read for you, if you need anyone else to do so, it would be a learning curve for me as I’m just starting my writing journey (as you saw with my messy 250 words for Brenda Drakes contest!). I’m not sure how useful my comments would be, probably more as a ‘plain reader’ than much for editing, but happy to give it a go in any respect. I would love it if you could read over my first work when I am closer to the edit/read/edit cycle!? 🙂

  10. GREAT post, Jennifer.

    When I write I see the movie in my head and think I’m taking the reader on the journey with me. Not so! At a Margie Lawson Immersion Master Class, we did method acting on segments of our WIPs. That’s when I discovered I had flying characters in my non-paranormal. Moved from Point A to Point B with no transitional sentence or scene break. LOVE kford2007s advice to read your work out loud. That’s when I catch cadence issues.

    Writers are great beta readers for brutal honesty, catching general plot issues, and writing related “goofs.” (head-hopping). My biggest challenge is finding non-writers to beta read and give the honest, ugly truth. Despite requests that family/friends “tell it like it is” and “I’d rather learn it from you that from a rejection letter” I feel they sugar-coat. Where do you find yours?

    • Yes, “regular readers” are tough. I started out with 12, but none of them finished. That was my first clue that I had “issues”. That’s when I I started a major over-haul and got some beta readers.

      My sister and my son read it after the first over-haul. My sister was a bit harsher than my son. My mother in law (very convervative 80 year old) asked to read it, and she put sticky notes all over it for spelling errors. Funny. She didn’t flip over the parts that I was afraid conservative publishers would balk at, and she didn’t flinch when she heard my son read it. (I edited the version he read)

      I may have picked up a few fresh “just readers” from this blog. People have contacted me and said they were interested.

      I agree, though. Finding these people outside the cyber-world can be difficult.

  11. Great post. I admit, I did this with my first novel. Fortunately it turns out it is the prequel of a series so it can sit on the desk as I write the others. THEN I can come back to it, this time doing PLENTY of Beta-reads!

  12. I never thought of that before: we read what we think we wrote. It’s embarrassing, but very true.

    I know I don’t realise how silly/awkward/confusing I’ve written something until someone else points it out. Then it all makes sense as if I knew it all along (further embarrassing me when I think, “why didn’t I pick this up earlier, then?”.

    Great post. I share your thoughts!

    • Welcome, Rebecca.

      Isn’t it funny that you can read right over something twenty times, and then someone else point it out and you get that “Duh” feeling? Yeah, you feel dumb, but everyone does it.

      • I know! I basically summarised (the nice way of putting bad writing: I “Told”) what happened at a crucial part of my climax!

        Whaaatttt? Yes, I thought the same thing. I had completed 6 drafts by that stage, and looked it over many more times, too.

        How did I miss something that obvious? Don’t ask me for the answer … at least now when people read it, I think it should be more heartbreaking — and boy do I love making people cry. I must be evil.

  13. Thank you for restating what I needed to hear. Sometimes I just get so ansy to “get there” and I want to just be done! Revising is a long process and not only do I have a weekly crit group, but I have several beta readers along the process and they point out the craziest stuff that I never would have seen. But it takes time to send it out, revise, and repeat. And it’s hard to wait, too!

    • Yeah, I hate waiting. I usually like to send it out in managable “hunks” of 50 pages or so… whateve I think someone can get through in a week or so. Otherwise, I’m biting my nails.

  14. I think that is a wonderful idea. I cherish my beta readers and have picked up a couple of new ones as well. You can’t go wrong doing it this way. I expect great things from you in 2012, Ms. Eaton. Magellan is going to wiggle his way into peoples’ homes by the end of next year. I can feel it. Sending you the good, positive vibes. Your novel is worth all the pain and loss of hair. It is. Really. Trust me.