Editing is the most crucial part in turning out any written work. Experienced writers opine that editing may even be more important than writing. Whilst writing is an unbundling of thoughts, memories, imaginations and ideas, editing, on the other hand, organizes these thoughts streamlining them for the third eye. Without editing, those words on paper will continue to remain meaningless. This is what makes the role of the editor so important; he plays the role of a critical reader, polishing the writer’s words in such a way that it appeals to the reader without losing the meaning the writer wanted it to have.
Tanya Egan Gibson, a published author of fiction and non-fiction, including How To Buy a Love of Reading, is also a professional editor on Up work. She buttresses on the importance of editing when she says:
Irrespective of whether you have decided to self-publish your book or submit it to literary giants, you do not just want your book to be good – you want to make it great.
Lessons from top fiction editors
One of the lessons we have learned from the world of professional editing featuring top fiction editors like Fernando Trueba and Stefan George is that flexibility is important in editing. They were successful because they realized that the uniqueness of each writer’s story – that each story has its own needs.
According to Zachary Petit, a one-time senior managing editor of Writer’s Digest, “in the editing business, there are no absolutes nor any fixed road to success. No two journeys to the bookstores are alike.” This is a story debut novelists know too well.
Few lessons from top fiction editors match that of Brian Klems, who is both an experienced novelist and top freelance editor. If his advice is anything to go by, the author himself should first proofread the first draft of any manuscript. This should at least three weeks after writing. That way he is more balanced in analyzing the strength and weaknesses of his book before sending it over to an editor. Take note of the places you subconsciously find yourself skimming and try to rewrite the manuscript twice – at least once if you can’t stand the ordeal. The reason is for this action is simple; nobody is better equipped at this stage to take your book to the next level than you and it is best you utilize the opportunity as best as you can.
Guidelines on editing from professional editors of today
Brian Klems bared some of the lessons learned as a freelance editor on WritersDigest.com, imploring on writers to recognize that a professional editor is not a ghostwriter. A fiction editor will not alter your plot or characters for you. So do not send your book to an editor once you have developed an outline, prepared research notes or have gathered interview transcripts. Otherwise, you are more than likely to be unhappy with the outcome.
If you are not editing your work yourself then it is best you follow one of the few important lessons from top editors we consider worthy of sharing. Brian Klems urges writers to choose a professional editor that best aligns with their work. An editor is more than likely to put more effort into a book that he enjoys. Let her like the book enough to show genuine interest in your project. You also do not want an editor that would be interested in converting your horror tale to a romance level or spicing up your Christian novel with some sex scenes. Without the right editor, your work may trail away from the direction it was meant and get lost in the process.
Common mistakes fiction writers make
James Scott Bell is the author of No. 1 bestseller, Plot and Structure. He has a few words of advice for writers when writing or proofreading their manuscripts for the first time. According to him, always avoid creating a utopian territory for your characters in the first few chapters. They do not naturally engage with happy people living in a happy land. Readers are more engaged with a challenge, threat or disturbance. Also, death or the threat of it – physical, professional or psychological – should always be hanging over your characters at every scene. Readers are more likely to skim through the pages that fail to convey the right anxiety to the reader.
Thirdly, dialogue also has to be carefully observed as it can either make a good novel or sink it into oblivion. To check your dialogue, try to hear every character in its distinct voice. Another area of interest for any editor or writer is the predictability of the work. The lesser the predictability of your book the more likely it is to keep your readers engaged. Lastly, let your readers engage with your characters by giving them a backstory. Readers usually yearn for a connection with their characters, and moving backstories can keep your readers fully engaged in your book till the very end.
Applying these lessons from top fiction editors is of paramount importance to getting the best out of your material.