Editing: What The Hell?

Posted by on Sep 14, 2011 in Uncategorized | 14 comments

Sadly, editing is a part of every “want to be a published writers” life. Maybe I shouldn’t say sadly, because I know some people really enjoy it. I may be one of them…okay not yet, but I’m getting there.

I’ve been looking forward to editing SHIFT, the Sequel to EXILED for a while now. In fact, I’ve been talking about how excited I am to jump into edits for nearly 6 weeks. That’s right, I was supposed to start the first week of August. I gave the manuscript time to breathe, I read it, I made a list of major and minor edits, I was ready. Since then…I’ve done 2 chapters. Sad I know.

There’s a lot of reasons I haven’t actually got it done, mostly because I’ve been procrastinating, but that isn’t important. What’s important is, it’s a part of the publishing process.

I don’t love editing. I love writing. Straight up, blank page that I’m going to fill up with words I’ll despise editing in the future, writing. A lot of writers fear the blank page. I am not one of them. I love the blank page. The blank page is endless. The opportunity to create on the blank page is infinity. The lack of editing on the blank page is wonderful. But I’m rambling again aren’t I? We’re not talking about the blank page…that’s for another day. Today we’re talking about editing.

As I said in yesterday’s post about publishing, I’m not going to give you advice. If you want an opinion, I’m happy to share. Today I just want to talk about it.

Everyone has a process for editing, and every way is different. Some people love it, others hate it, some are undecided. I don’t love editing for the simple fact that it’s not creating in the way I like to create. When you’re editing, a minor change in one chapter, can mean hours of revisions in other chapters. It’s the butterfly effect of writing a novel. If it’s a major change, it can mean weeks of rewriting. Those rewrites, technically, are in first draft form, which means revising them to bring them up to par with the rest of your story. In other words, *WARNING – The following sentence may use…okay, DOES use, vulgar language* editing is a bitch. Yeah, I said it. I’ll say it again. Editing. Is. A. Bitch.

Alright, now that I got that out of the way…

Editing – for me – is the longest process in it’s entirety. I’ll spend four times longer editing my book, then I will outlining and writing the first draft combined. But, editing is a must have, don’t even think about moving on without it, necessary evil.

Yes, you heard that correctly. Straight from the mouth that just wasted 3 minutes of your time, complaining about it, and procrastinating to get to the point.

What’s that point again? Editing has to be done.

Why am I bringing this up? It’s not because my books are perfect, or error free in any way, if you think they are, I’ll spare you the heartache – they’re not. I’m saying this because of the lack of care I find some writers take in their own books. This isn’t a stab at anybody, just an observation.

Editing is expensive. Believe me, I know. I’m not sure about my U.S. counterparts, but I spoke with over a dozen professional editors in Canada for EXILED. The cheapest price I was given (keep in mind this is just a basic edit ie. grammar and spelling) was $1500. The most expensive was $4000. Yes. FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS! I’m sure it’s needless to say, but I didn’t go with the $4000 editor, but it still wasn’t cheap.

Does the high price I pay for editing mean I can’t publish the sequel as quickly as I’d like? Yes.

Was I happy with the result? Absolutely. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Editing needs to be done. I’m not saying you have to go out and spend $2500 of your hard earned money on editing, but at the very least, get some great beta readers. Try not to use friends and family. Get someone who will be straight up with you. And by straight up, I don’t mean harsh, and mean in ripping your hard work apart, I simply mean honest. You don’t have to be mean to be honest. If you don’t have anyone like that, spend some time on Twitter, they’re are a ton of amazing people there. Aspiring writers just like yourself. At the very least, get a fresh sets of eyes to look over your book for grammar and spelling! Sometimes, that alone can make a world of difference to your story.

I’m not saying any of this to tear anyone down. Of course, there are exceptions. Some writers are amazing writers, who also happen to be incredible at editing their own work. I am not this way. Most of the writers I know, are not this way. We have beta readers or critique partners, some – like me – hire a professional editor as a final proof reader.

I’m definitely not saying everyone needs to hire a professional editor, although I personally would recommend it, but if you’re going to take something you’ve worked incredibly hard on, and throw it to the masses for consumption, you owe it to yourself to make sure it’s as great as it can – and deserves – to  be. And sometimes, you need to accept you just can’t do that alone.


  1. I so understand the need to edit, but I wonder why editors are SOO expensive. I recently posted about this topic on my blog too, and I still don't understand why. I mean, the economy is a good answer but still it doesn't mean that you practically have to steal from my pocket.

    And most editors don't seem to consider the fact that some people, like me, are college students who simply cannot afford 1,000 bucks to edit only one of their novels. It's just ridiculous. I really do not understand this drive to hit authors with these ridiculous prices. So yeah. End of rant.

    Nice post though. I've never seen a rat as high as 4,000 bucks. Good Lord Almighty. My pocketbook just hit the door. 🙂

  2. I don't mind going in and editing my own work, the hard part comes when I get opinions back from beta readers and my MS is covered in red. I think with enough beta readers, you can forgo hiring an editor for the meat of your story, but I'd still recommend one for proofreading. That's what I did with Being Human. I know I'm hopeless with punctuation and grammar so I hired an editor for that. We're twitter friends now too. =)

  3. Almost always you can tell the difference between a manuscript that's had “real editing” touches and one that hasn't. As a writer, you're a business, and you have to be willing to invest in it. Great post!

  4. Larissa – I've no idea whats with the price. Some editors that I found here, charge up to $0.07/word, which seems minor, until you realize your manuscript is 100,000 words.

    When I found out it was going to cost me $7K, I laughed and the editor cut me a deal to $4K. I still wasn't willing to invest that kind of money for a standard edit. The editor was legit, and had 20+ years experience with references, and part of the Canadian Editors Associations so maybe they can get away with that, but as a writer who is just starting out, that is defintely not in my price range.

    Patricia – I edit my own work anywhere from 3 – 7 times before I send it to a professional editor, and I have beta readers in between. I know that seems extreme, but I really want to make sure I'm delivering.

    The professional edit is personal preference I guess…I like it, and you and I have very similar writing styles so it makes sense that once again, our minds think alike. You know, that whole greatness buisness 🙂

    Amber – You can totally tell, and usually within the first page! Even traditionally published books, which go through a few substantial edits, each with a professional editor, have mistakes, and as a person with many flaws, I'm okay with that, but I think we can agree that it's very obvious when someone hasn't put much care and attention into the book, which is unfortunate, because it's so much work writing it, developing the characters, building the world, why wouldn't you want to take the extra step and give it that professional look?

    You're right, this is a business. YOU'RE business. If you're already investing your heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, time, patience (I think that about covers it), what's a little bit more? Within reason of course.

    Thanks for the comments!

  5. You have an awesome blog! Can't believe I haven't popped in yet 🙂

    I agree 100% Writing is easy. Editing is a pain in the ass. Draft 1 and 2 are usually okay for me, but Draft 3 (converting edit notes onto computer)is what I hate most about being an author. I whine. I procrastinate. Then usually I freak out that it'll never get done and do it all in two weeks hehe.

    Lovely blog, once again. I'm going to stalk it now 🙂

    Good luck with the editing, don't let it turn you crazy!


  6. Claire – I'm on the same page as you. Draft 3 (which I've been putting off for 6 weeks) is the major edit for me. It's the one just before I do the hand off to my betas. It's easily the most work.

    Thanks for stopping by, look forward to seeing more of you!

  7. $2500 (or more) SOUNDS like a lot of money, but as someone who has performed substantive edits on a manuscript before, I can tell you that it's a completely fair wage for someone with the education and experience. Editing a manuscript takes more than giving it a quick read. It's labor. It takes hundreds of hours. Editors are not being unreasonable or trying to steal.

    That said, just because it's a reasonable rate doesn't mean we can afford it. (I sure can't!) That's when you need a great team of betas and a LOT of time and effort on your own part to kick the book into the best shape you can manage. Hopefully, we all become ragingly successful and can pay editors a fair wage someday soon.

  8. SM – $2500 for a substantive edit is absolutely resonable. But I'm not talking substantive, I'm talking copy edits(or line edit). Simple grammar, punctuation, and word usage.

    Unless I'm confused, a substantive edit is a major edit, overhauling the entire book. Rewriting entire chapters, rearranging chapters and/or paragraphs, revising entire sections for clarity. Rewrites to properly develop characters, worlds, plot points.

    The quotes I got for substantive edits were much higher than the prices I gave. The quotes I recieved were for copy edits only.

  9. Thanks for the insight into a process most readers do not spend time thinking about. I am one of those people who notice typos, spelling and grammar mistakes, but I never really thought about how a revision to part of one chapter can have ripple effects that require edits throughout the rest of the book. It gives me a new appreciation for the work that goes into the process. Looking forward to reading Exiled, soon I hope!

  10. I feel your pain, I too despise editing and I'm ready to just pack up the manuscript and send it to the editor I've hired, but I'm resisting till I have it polished off enough that he won't paint the entire thing red. So far I've done enough of that myself. That's what I get for doing a 90,000 word rewrite in 5 weeks and working full time with a family and kids.

    Whining aside, I have been reading in my spare time and stumbled across a book recently that is screaming poor editing at me. The story seems intriguing but the bad grammar and punctuation looks as if they just hit spell and grammar check on their MS Word. That really doesn't work, I would know, I use MS Word 2010 and that's pretty fancy but it still misses fragmented sentences often and punctuation baffles it. The author even wrote an acknowledgement to his editor in the beginning. First page I began to wonder if the editor was even qualified.

    I know that's harsh, but I just can't believe how someone would take something they created, half finish it and throw it into the world. It's like having a kid and then when he's 12 you toss him in the streets to fend for himself and become a man. He'll be dead before he's 18. Or on drugs, in jail, or both.

    Oops, rant. Exiled was great and I didn't see anything that upset me with the editing. I saw 2 typos that I remember but can't remember where, and they really didn't matter. It flowed perfectly.

  11. I'm a freelance editor and did a post about why it seems like hiring a freelance editor seems to cost a lot last may (http://www.camarshall.com/2010/05/why-hiring-freelance-editor-seems-to.html)

    I'm also a fellow writer and I know how daunting even a $500 edit can be to some writers, especially in this economy and so I'm happy to negotiate deals with my clients. For instance, just this last month I did an edit for a client with a large readership and I knocked the price down to half in exchange for an ad on her site. I've also been known to work with crafty people in exchange for crafts that I can give as gifts or giveaways. It can't hurt to ask around and see if you can make mutually beneficial deals 🙂

    I also don't believe in just rewriting entire sections of a clients book. I'm a teaching editor and I point out flaws and suggest ways for the writer themselves to fix it. That way they can use what they learn in this edit in subsequent books, making the cost an even better value.

  12. thoughtcrimes – There is so much that the reader doesn't know when it comes to the work a writer goes through, but that's part of our job! If someone reads a book and thinks “That seems easy.” Then I guess we've done our job.

    TL – You and I have such a simliar though process when it comes to everything (including preferences in cereal) that it is starting to scare me. And your rant is very much apprecaited.

    CA – I didn't know you did freelance editing. I hope I didn't paint a picture that editors aren't worth the money they charge, I believe they very much are (Just not $4000), it's just a hard pill to swallow at times.

    I like you're idea's of negotiating something that works for both parties. I tried when I was searching for the right editor for EXILED, but I didn't have much luck. Now, granted I didn't do everything in my power, but I did put in some effort to working out agreeable terms.

    That being said, I did all the major rewrites myself. Mostly because I didn't want the voice of my story to be lost, or muddled, which I believe it would've had someone else made major changes outside of grammar/spelling. How can they possibly replicate the voice of any specific writer?

    I totally agree with your perspective on rewrites as well. I learned so much working with my editor, even she was surprised by how much I had improved by the end. I look forward to seeing what she thinks of SHIFT when it's ready for her.

    It's not cheap, but I appreciate the work an editor does. They took my story and turned a manuscript, into a book.

  13. Need an editor? Make friends with English teachers 😉 that's what I do.

  14. AJ – I have an editor…and the only english teachers I know are the ones who taught me in highschool…She didn't like me very much. I think if I asked for her help, she would probably bit her thumb at me

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