The Editing Nightmare: A Writer’s Death By Razor Cuts

As an English teacher, I hammered the difference between editing and revision. Editing covered mechanics and revision covered content. As a writer, more specifically a recently published writer I’ve discovered an irritating amount of variances in the single term, edit. Enter primal scream here. Students need clarity. Much of their thinking is black and white. My job encompassed easing them into the grays. I couldn’t be imprecise or chaos would ensue. Okay, Chaos frequently ensued, I’m a crazy teacher….just ask the overhead projector and one of my 7th grade classes. I digress. Editing. Turns out it’s much more complicated than I ever imagined.

I finished the first draft of The Esau Emergence in a little under a year. The next year I spent participating in a critique group filled with amazing writers revising and polishing. Year three I received some incredible guidance from a dynamic writing consultant that tightened up my plot and pacing. The next step in the process was a good line edit. You can’t edit your own book beyond a certain point. That’s a commandment I think. Between the Beard and I, we read the book probably one hundred times. I don’t know about you, but even my favorite books I’ve only read five or six and I wasn’t looking for editing notes. The hunt began.

I tapped an editor recommended by a friend. She took the book, had it for three or four weeks and then let me know she couldn’t work on it because of scheduling constraints. She gave me two names. One of those names took the book and had it for four or five weeks. That editor managed 20 pages of edits, but nothing glaring then informed me that SHE couldn’t finish editing the book because of time constraints. I researched editors and contacted six or seven other people. Every one of those ‘editors’ were‘writing coaches’ who hold a writer’s hand from the beginning of the process to the end. They couldn’t be bothered to line edit a book they hadn’t helped shape.

We fast approached our desired release date gnashing our teeth and cursing prima donna writing coaches. I made one more pass through, knowing I missed some things. We put the book out into the world. That was a complicated process in and of itself, but different story. The books arrived. I grabbed one and went through pencil in hand. Funny how much easier it is to spot groan inspiring errors in the print version versus the computer file. Oy! We made some changes and put out a second edition. There was a whole new round of things I spotted in that version that I missed in the first version. Cripes! We needed some fresh eyes.

I’ve posted on Facebook that I discovered one of my author acquaintances is also a line editor. A reasonably priced line editor. I hesitate to mention her name here because I don’t want her to be over scheduled. It’s like keeping a great hairstylist. You really want to refer clients to your stylist so that he or she will still be working, but then they start to book up and you can never get in! This new editor had the book a few weeks and sent the book back. Not because she couldn’t finish the work, but because she’d spotted my glitch. That nasty habit of writing that we all have in some form or another. She loved the book, but thought with what she’d marked, I could fix my nasty habit and tighten the book up independently. She was right.

I frantically and as though possessed, edited out my bad habit. I cut four thousand words in the process. She enthusiastically offered to take a look at the book after I worked the edits to see if there were any places I could really shine the book. I may take her up on that offer. In the meantime, I was able to apply her suggestions to the sequel. Thankfully, my glitch happens with much less frequency. No, I’m not going to tell you what it is. In any case, a third version will be out soon and I’m sure to open the page of that book and find something that’ll make my teeth grind.