Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why every writer needs an editor

A couple posts ago, I showed a proof copy of my new novel with 22 yellow tabs that marked my editor's queries. This was a proof for a book that had gone through nine drafts, a thorough editing, a spell check, and four exceptionally careful first readers, all of whom found something to question or correct. By the time I uploaded the file to CreateSpace, I was confident the book was entirely clean. I was wrong.

I'm not going to cite all 22 queries, only enough to suggest why every writer needs an editor.

Every yellow tab a query
For example, in the sentence, "She sounded as if she would seriously consider, too...." the context requires an "it" after "consider."

The mystery takes place in 1986. To indicate the time, my narrator looks at a newspaper headline: "Apparent Attempt Made to Kill Indira Gandhi." Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984.

The setting is an appliance/TV retail store and in one place I described the avocado and harvest gold major appliances. By 1986 appliances were almond and white.

In the sentence, "I heard a woman in the stereo console display..." makes it sound as if she'
s part of the display.

A character says, "This business has been a fixture on North Street for more than fifty years...." Fifteen pages later another character uses the identical words. A hundred pages after that, a newspaper article uses the same words. No.

A character is Hanna in one place, Hannah every other place. A character works at Dunkin' Donuts sometimes and at Dunkin Donuts—without the apostrophe—other times. (Dunkin' Donuts is correct.)

The sentence "I figured things weren't going well at the Jonkers..." has one too many words: "the."

The sentence "Are there any any questions?" has one too many "any."

The sentence "Like she made his was too dark" is missing something; it should be, "Like she made his coffee too dark."

Listed like this, these flaws are obvious. Hiding in a 70,000-word book, they're easy to miss. No one of them changes the setting, the characters, or the plot in any way. I believe most readers, caught up in the story, will skip right over them. Some readers, however, will see them and be taken out of the story momentarily—the last thing I want.

I want my readers to be immersed in the story, not distracted by avoidable glitches. And that's why every writer needs an editor.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent point. We all think we have scoured the manuscript clean, and then these little things come to light. Writing is a complex process and one has to be an excellent juggler to bring it all together. Thanks for the guidance.

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