Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stuff and Editing

These last several weeks have been difficult.  My grandfather became very ill and passed away. Grandpa lived one month and four days past his 95th birthday.  On March 26, we gave him a bang-out birthday party where family and friends came from far and wide to celebrate.  Grandpa died exactly one month later.  I felt blessed to have lived close enough to visit him once a month.  He was one of my dearest friends, and I miss him very much.

When tending to personal matters, something usually is put on the back burner.  In my case, I was not able to keep up with my blog.  However, I am back now and thinking about the many aspects of writing.  Some of the writer’s forums I frequent have long and heated discussions on editing and the pros and cons of hiring professional editors prior to publication.

Some writers say you must always send your manuscript to a professional editor before submitting to an agent or publisher.  Others say you must forget about professional assistance and learn how to edit your own work.  In these discussions, I have seen more members teeter on either side of the fence than tread the gray area in between. I, of course, have my own opinion.

Freelance editors are expensive, charging anywhere from $300 to $1,500 or more to edit a manuscript.  In the editing business, experience, expertise, and success rate cost even more.  We all want our manuscripts to be in pristine condition before we start the submission process.  I don’t know many writers who have the money to spend on freelance editing.  Besides, the cardinal rule in writing is that money flows to the writer, not away.

Editors are invaluable.  When an agent chooses to work for you, then somewhere in that process is an editor.  It is part of the package of landing an agent, or at least having one interested in your work.  However, I believe there is one situation where retaining a freelance editor prior to publication can work for a writer. 

For example, if you want hands-on assistance to learn how to edit properly, a freelance editor might be the right professional for you.  If you utilize this experience properly and pay someone who has a good track record with editing, then your money has been spent well.  Once you know how to edit, whether you learned it from a freelance editor or a book such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, you have skills necessary for a writer. 

Please do not hire a freelance editor if you just want someone to edit your work.  You are wasting your money.  Think of it this way.  Say you hire someone to do this work for you, and then you submit it to agents and publishers,  Said agent or publisher asks for changes, but you don't know how to properly edit, because you had the freelance editor do it for you.  Face it, you are stuck. If you don’t understand the principles of successful editing, how can you make a decision on which changes to make and which to leave alone? 

As mentioned earlier Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Brown and Dave King is an excellent resource.  I also like Strunk and White and good old fashioned books on grammar.   
Get to work on that editing now and.....

Happy writing!

11 comments:

Vonny said...

Sorry about your grandpa, Susan. Sounds like a part of him will always be with you though. What a blessing it was to have had such a wonderful person in your life.

Susan Littlefield said...

Thank you, Vonny.

I've got a lot of stories about my life with Grandpa I would love to write. Maybe later on when I have worked through my grief and loss.

He truly was speacial.

Dead Man Walking said...

Nice post. Another danger in allowing a free-lancer to edit your work is he/she may not have the same 'voice' as you. And if your voice sounds the opposite of his/her tastes, it seems as if there's a very real chance the editor could actually take the 'specialness' out of your manuscript.

Susan Littlefield said...

Ron,
Thank you for the nice compliment.

I agree one hundred percent. As writers, we need to trust ourselves, our voice, and our style. We need to take full responsibility for work we submit to agents and publishers. The only way to do that is to know how to correctly edit our own work.

K.R.J. said...

May grandpa rest in peace.

So sad it is that gone are the days when a writer wrote. A publisher who'd accepted the manuscript provided editing, as well as all the other services that a publisher provided (hence the term, "publisher"), AND sent a check TO the WRITER.

Nowadays, in so many cases, it's up to the writer to fund nearly every aspect of a book's publication, as well as do much of the other leg work.

When I began my writing career, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I had no intention of becoming a publisher. Silly me.

Susan Littlefield said...

Hi KRJ,

From what I have heard, it is so true that authors now do a lot more than they did way back when. I guess it's all about changing times and going with the changes.

Thank you for posting.

Bryce Daniels said...

Sorry about your loss, Susan, and sorry this is so late in coming. Just ran across your blog tonight.

I agree with your opinions on editing. It's like the old proverb. You can feed a man a fish and curb his hunger for the day, or you can teach a man to fish and
curb his hunger for a lifetime.

Something to that effect. (Smile) I've never been good at paraphrasing.

Hey, like the look of the blog. Any fan of August Rush is a friend of mine!

Continued success in your career.

Susan Littlefield said...

Bryce,

Thank you so much. Grandpa has been gone for about five weeks now, and I miss him more than I can say.

Thank you for reminding me of the proverb too. Teaching someone else to edit is so much better than just asking that someone else do our editing for us.

K.R.J. said...

Yes, of course we need to edit our own work. But final edits must be left to a second pair of eyes. I'm a writer. I'm also an editor. I don't mix the two. A writer who depends solely on self-editing, like an attorney who represents himself, has a fool for a client.

Susan Littlefield said...

KRJ,

My point is that there is no need to hire an editor on one's own before submission, unless the writer is utilizing said editor in an attempt to learn how to properly edit. If a writer does not know how to properly edit their work to get it ready for submission, then they have no business submitting to agents.

I have heard from numerous published authors that changes are made to editorial order of the agent and/or publisher.

No amount of outside editing will make a poorly written book good, and a good book that is properly edited by the writer stands on its own.

Susan Littlefield said...

RJK, as for--A writer who depends solely on self-editing, like an attorney who represents himself, has a fool for a client--is like comparing apples and oranges, not apples and apples. Two different ballgames.

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