So I’ll admit it. I hate being edited. It’s why I’m the editor not the writer. I always find it funny when people read through my writing and find errors. Hey, when I say everyone needs an editor or proofreader, I’m not kidding. Even the best of the best can easily miss things in their own work.
What is editing?
Oddly, what most authors think of as editing isn’t actual editing. It’s proofreading and one of the simplest tasks in the world of editing. I’m here to help define the different components of editing and what they entail. Like much of this business, there is a certain amount of subjective-ness so the best thing you can do when getting an editor is to ask; what exactly you are getting?
· Proofreading- grammar, spelling and punctuation
· Developmental editing- a start to finish involved edit
· Copy Editing- sometimes called line-editing and is the main editing that people refer to. It involves sentence structure, wording choice and, at times, re-writing.
· Substantive Editing-structural editing and over all flow
What can I do for myself?· Take a writing class. It might seem a little obvious but I have recently taken a few and feel there are a lot of things budding authors often miss. This is prime time to get professional criticism and tools to improve.· READ. If you read a genre then you know the expectations in that genre. It’s a common notion among authors that reading in the genre they write will influence them. I counter that not reading in that genre will make them out of touch with the base and leave a defined disconnect with readers.· Read editing books. I’m actually reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers that I feel should be every author’s bible. It has sound advice and offers real solutions.· Have beta readers. I know it is common for many writers to use critique groups. I have no problems with this for novice writer since there is some value but I will caveat this by saying a writing class would be the equivalent to this and often more productive. Seasoned writers often have their manuscripts voice lost by people who have little interest in their genre. Instead I suggest getting a few trusted beta readers with a critical eye.
Editing is the least favorite part of many an author’s writing careers. I’ve read the editor jokes. I understand. But much of this can be alleviated by being aware of both the editing process and your own problem areas.
Be it strong and loud or quiet and meek, authors should seek out a voice that makes their characters both believable and memorable. One of the worst things a reader can say about a book is that the characters were forgettable. This may seem odd coming from an editor but makes total sense really. I can clean up a plot, dig out inconsistencies and proofread until the cows come home but there's little an editor can do for the voice of a character aside from explaining why it's not working.
So the question is, how do you pick a unique voice? Well this is where things get a little tricky. People, in general, tend to fit into certain molds. The same goes for characters. I think the best thing to do is to look at them, instead, as caricatures. More pronounced in certain ways without going into bobble head territory. These characters have to be more than what we find in everyday life. I don't have to like them but they should leave a mark.
Another nice way to establish this is through quirky dialog or unusual ticks. If you've ever seen the movie Amelie then you know how completely unforgettable each character is. And her father, the one very normal character, is made non-normal but circumstances. The beauty of this is the flexibility of the setting.
In the end, the character voice is what should set you off from the pack. This is your stamp, as the author, on your piece that makes it totally original. Without this a book will fall flat even with a great plot because no one wants to read an interesting plot when they feel indifferent for the characters. Connection is the first step to the hook.