Friday, March 18, 2016

Edit Schmedit

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” ― Colette

As you all know self-publishing has grown exponentially over the past five years. There are still concerns by the reading and authoring community regarding the saleability of some of the books being self-published. We know the value of editing and the self-pubbed books worth reading have been thoroughly edited - they are professional and ready for prime time.

When I first started writing for publication I longed to write a beautiful first draft that leaped off the page with its glorious phrasing and description. What I've learned in the past sixteen years is first drafts are never perfect.

There are tons of books and software out there on how to edit and I've read some and used one or two. Here are my recommendations (these have a permanent place in my library):

  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King (personal fave that I've shared a lot)
  • On Writing Well  by Zinsser
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk & White (I've already worn out one copy)
  • Writers Digest magazine has a great section called WORKBOOK with exercises & tips for honing your craft
  • Grammarly is a great tool for catching passive voice, wayward comma's and repetitive phrases
 "Find out what works for you and exploit it." ~Mark Twain

If you can afford to invest in a professional editor, that's great. Your manuscript will no doubt be much improved, but your pocketbook may be thinner.

A critique group is one of the most valuable tools out there for editing. By sharing your work with other authors they often see things we've become blind to. And if two or more of them remark on the same issue - well, it would definitely be worth a second look.

WORD to the WISE: Careful with critique groups, however, they are not all created equal. Critiques should be positive and motivate the author to make the story better. Criticism is negative and can destroy the fragile creative flame. And EVERYONE should have equal time to share their work and get the group's input. No diva's, please.

This post is not advocating self-publishing, although it is a more viable option now than it was six years ago. What I do recommend is stepping back from your work and look at it with an objective eye and if that doesn't work for you, get some help from your author buddies. It's a struggle for all of us to "kill our darlings."

Enjoy the journey.
Bonnie (BD) Tharp, author of women's fiction: Feisty Family Values and Patchwork Family. With a new Young Adult mss ready for an agent or publisher, whichever comes first.
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Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Bonnie,

Everything you've advocated in your blog is excellent advice. I don't self-publish; however, I do carefully edit my writing. I never ever send out a first draft. As you observe, there are always errors--sometimes embarrassing one. All of the books you mentioned are ones I also have read and found helpful.

Bonnie Tharp said...

"Great minds think alike." Thank you for the comment, Jacqui. It's a joy to hear from you and get your insights, which are Right On. Best to you.