We all edit our own work, striving for that impossible dream: perfection. For the self-published, it’s a rather unfortunate fact that the author’s edit is the only one performed. This is a shame and causes the publication of many good books that are seriously flawed. Freelance editors can be expensive, but any writer worthy of the name will employ such an experienced examiner to ensure the work is as good as it can be: we owe that much to our readers.
For those who are published, whether by mainstream or independent publishing houses, our own edit is only the start of the finishing process. We submit what we hope is the best piece we can produce, knowing as we send it off there will be faults, suggested improvements, and some culling of our darlings. A writer is usually too close to the creation to view it in a truly objective light.
Last week, I completed the final work on my latest novel. War Over Dust, book 2 of the Generation Mars series, is due to be launched on 2nd September at Fantasticon, a fantasy/scifi/gaming convention held in the UK City of Culture 2017, Hull.
I’d spent much of the winter actually creating the book. Then began my own edit. This, in itself, is a fairly thorough process, involving a line by line check for errors, a read through aloud from a printed version (the eye misses too much when reading from the screen), comments from a beta reader, and feeding each chapter through an online editing suite. I use https://prowritingaid.com/; others are available. That whole procedure takes a few weeks. Only then do I send the piece off to the publisher.
Dan Grubb, owner of FantasticBooks Publishing, employs a team of dedicated editors (rumour suggests he has them chained to desks in the dank basement of his rural headquarters; so isolated is the place that their moans and groans of distress go unheard by anyone who might feel inclined to rescue them!).
By return email, I received the first suggestions in the form of a couple of dozen minor alterations, which I passed back the next day. There followed an emailed document, 8 pages long, detailing suggested content changes (this sounds a lot, but many of the comprehensive comments required only a sentence or two to fix). Also, in the same email, was the full MS marked with Word Tracking comments, deletions, additions, queries and suggestions; the line edit.
I spent around four days, working between ten and twelve hours each day, addressing these. Again, it sounds as though a lot of errors were discovered, but, in practice, most were stylistic or typos, with a few easily addressed queries, some minor alterations, and a few inconsistencies that required the odd change in a number of chapters (often no more than a word or two). This is work that requires intense concentration coupled to an ability to expunge the previous version of the book from your memory in order to approach the task with an open mind.
So, there you have it. The writing of a book is more than simply allowing that inner artist to express your thoughts. It requires a degree of discipline and the help of eagle-eyed analysts to transform that basic word count into something that can be enjoyed by booklovers whilst giving those readers the respect they deserve.
The cover is now also complete and the book was with the typesetters when I last enquired as to progress.
I’ll do a full reveal of that excellent cover in the not too distant future. For now, the picture at the head of this post is a taster.
You can follow the editing process in more detail by visiting my website here and searching for ‘Progress on the WIP: SciFi in the Making.