As I work on reviewing, writing, and editing, Jackie's post is exactly what I need to read--it makes my editing feel valued, and gives my writing hope. So please read on for some excellent tips, and over to you Jackie; Thank you so much for visiting my blog.
Why do we Edit?
When I completed the final chapter of my first murder mystery, Piercing the Veil, I patted myself on the back. After months of writing and revising, I felt very self-satisfied. I asked a publisher friend to read it. She said she liked the story and the protagonist. Then she asked if I had considered working with an editor. Her comment took my breath away. I am a well-educated attorney and have been a college professor for many years. Surely, I know how to write. Why would I need an editor?
I consider myself a reasonable person, so I asked the editor my friend had recommended, to look at my manuscript. What an eye-opener.
The simple truth is that editors help writers raise their work to a higher level. My friend told me something that I have repeated to several of my author friends: The ability to tell a story is a gift. A gift that writers should cherish and nurture. However, the ability to look at a manuscript and ferret out the typos, inconsistencies, hyperbole, etc., is the gift of a good editor. For those of you who possess both talents, hats off to you.
During the editing process I learned simple things like one space between sentences—not two. And that darn comma/period goes inside the end quotation mark, not outside. In the heat of writing, I put the comma/period outside the quotation mark over and over and over—much to the chagrin of my editor. In my defense, I pointed out that British novels often place commas and periods outside the quotation marks. I was reminded I was not in England.
I also had an obsession with the word “was.” She was, he was, it was. I soon realized there are other words in the English language other than “was.”
And what about the proper use of an ellipsis? When a character’s words or thoughts are incomplete, those three little dots come in handy. Especially when I’m writing in the voice of my impatient protagonist, Anne Marshall, whose thoughts frequently drift. I wondered, do you put three dots or four? Do you put spaces between them? And what about …
Mysteries have their own set of rules. A “get-to-the-point” style versus more flowery writing found in many other genres. My natural style was flowery (a polite term for “wordy”.) Because of my legal background, my sentences tended to be long and complex. My editor had no trouble breaking one sentence into two or three. And she was right. The narrative read better.
And then the rule that you should “show”, not “tell”. Instead of “He was really angry,” I now write “His face reddened and the veins in his neck protruded.”
My advice to any new author is to find a good editor and listen to every word of advice you receive. Don’t take the criticism personally. It is intended to improve your writing and mold your wonderful story into a great one.
I raise a glass to editors everywhere. They accept the challenge of helping writers like me to take a raw manuscript and transform it into something worthy of publishing.
Jackie Fullerton is now retired and living in Florida with her husband, Tom, and dog Flash. Flash just made his debut in the third Anne Marshall book, Ring Around the Rosy.