Editing is a reader’s and writer’s friend
2013 was my most satisfying year for my writing. For some context: a predatory publisher closed up shop and with that, I recovered the rights to eight of my publications. Some I’ll rewrite, others I will bury. I was happy to see the publisher cave under the weight of its own unwarranted hubris.
Through that experience, I discovered rampant bad editing in those books. One print book had my name spelled wrong on all headers. The editing procedure at this particular publisher, my first publisher by the way, was frustrating to say the least.
With my first book, we got within a month of release, and still I had not heard from editing. In my naiveté, I actually thought I had written the world’s first perfect book. When I wrote to the publisher about it, she said that they “just hadn’t gotten to it,” yet, though they’d had it nearly six months.
Shortly after that, the wheels moved quickly. I got one round, very light, then another, lighter still. Boom, done. Almost like that guy at the red light that doesn’t go through when it turns green – you wonder if he’d just continue to sit there if you hadn’t blown your horn.
I asked about a galley stage and they told me, “Nah, we don’t do that here.” I was new, so I didn’t question that After all, they were publishers. Only later did I find out that they had no proofreaders either.
I got my cover three days before the release. This, I found out, was the norm at this publisher, which made promotion nearly impossible.
Through another experience, I had an editor so profoundly rude, I wouldn’t recommend the publisher to anyone. Whenever “WTF were you thinking” appears on a manuscript, run. While I learned a lot, the editor’s rudeness and inconsideration ended my relationship with that publisher.
Okay, so we have two ends of the editing spectrum. Laid back and sloppy and then one that wants to change everything from start to finish. There is a middle ground.
I am glad I had these experiences, despite the misery it has caused me. Why? Because I recognize good editing, good timing, respect, and consideration.
A common myth is that if a book is accepted by a publisher, it is nearly flawless. Editing will clean up the comma confusion, easy-peasy, and release day will arrive soon.
My experience says that when a publisher accepts a book, they do so for a variety of reasons – the story is interesting, they see potential, you’ve pubbed with them before and they trust your style, they liked the synopsis, the first three chapters were scrubbed to perfection, and many reasons in between. Rarely, I suspect, is it because it’s flawless.
Some authors fear editing, thinking it will destroy their author voice. Or that editing will point out their mistakes and make them feel bad. Indeed, it will, no doubt about it. But there’s nothing worse than sending a book out there and having reviewers rip it to shreds because of poor editing.
Editing isn’t, or rather, shouldn’t be, a humiliating experience. We should take each session in the context of a classroom. Learn all we can. Yes, some comments might be brusque, but they should never be humiliating, demeaning, or hurtful.
As authors, we shouldn’t get defensive if the editor suggests we take out sentences, fill in plot holes, write for clarity, eliminate a character, even gut an entire scene. My editor at Dreamspinner suggested I remove a thousand word scene from Tarnished Gold. It didn’t “truly” advance the core story, but rather introduced a character that later proved pivotal. In my own reread of the book, I felt something was off, but couldn’t determine what. When she pointed to this scene, she was right on the money. I took it out, and things came together much more succinctly.
If we want light edits, with no critique, with nothing uncomfortable, then we haven’t opened ourselves up to the realities of publishing. To mature in publishing, we need to stop thinking our manuscripts are perfect and that no one should attempt to change them. That is a fatal flaw in an author’s career plan.
We also buoy our confidence with glowing endorsements of our work from friends and family. Major mistake. They wouldn’t tell you if they didn’t like it, remember everyone wants peaceful holidays. Have you ever seen the audition shows on American Idol? Every one of those poor souls had friends or family who told then they were the next American Idol, even though they sound like rival angry cats in an alley.
We must grow thick skin, because reviewers and readers will tear us up with much more efficiency than an editor should. We shouldn’t take personally anything said by an editor, unless they address it that way – see the above “WTF were you thinking.” In that case, take it to someone in charge. Most houses have a policy against such things. I had no such recourse, as that editor owned the company.
Edits are daunting, sometimes they look like you’ll never finish, but each one represents another lesson. Learn the lesson, and you’ll have less of those same comments next time.
A great myth is that we don’t have to write well because they’ll fix everything in editing. Writing is a craft, not a hobby. If we aren’t willing to study and learn, we shouldn’t write.
In 2014, my monthly columns on The Novel Approach will delve into the many aspects of writing that have helped me to streamline my writing. So many amazing things I’ve learned. I hope that the learning never ends.
On a whim, Boston doctor Bryan Newcastle books a Caribbean cruise for gay men, hoping for two weeks of sexual exploration with someone who’ll bring out the daring soul inside him.
With a simple slide of a keycard across a table, newspaperman Phil Sanderson plunges Bryan into a world of sexual freedom where longing for more comes as naturally as breathing. As Phil takes Bryan to new heights, the cruise ends with so much unexplored.
During a visit with Phil in Des Moines, Bryan receives a call that changes everything. Together, they travel back to Boston, but Phil’s protective nature gets in the way of Bryan’s need to handle tragedy in his own way. While Bryan struggles to come to terms with all he thought real about his past, Phil must trust that Bryan is strong enough, or he might lose the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
Hollywood’s Golden Age is not all glitz and glamor. Mob boss Frankie Monetti controls the unions and the studios, which makes him and the syndicate very rich. But after five years, Frankie runs afoul of the law and those who put him in power.
Primo hit man, and Frankie’s lifelong friend, Arvin “Gent” Vitali, goes west with orders to clean up the mess and then bring Frankie back to New York to answer for his double cross. But as the noose closes tighter around Frankie’s neck, Gent questions where his loyalty truly lies. Is business just business or is freedom worth the risk?
More about Brita
Born in a small town in Upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee. All their children are grown.
Given her love of history, Brita writes both het and gay historical romance. Many of her historicals, as well as few contemporaries, have appeared on category bestseller lists at various online retailers.
Tarnished Gold, the first in her Tarnished series for Dreamspinner, received honorable mention, and is a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards, historical romance category.
Brita and her husband love to travel. They’ve taken no less than twenty-five cruises and countless long car trips, as well as completed a Civil War battlefield tour, and visits to many sites involved in the American Revolutionary War. Their 2013 anniversary tour of England, Scotland, and Wales gave Brita fodder for many new tales.
On a trip to Hollywood, California, Brita stood in the footprints of some of her favorite actors—Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power, and many others, at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and has even kissed Mickey Rooney.
A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter. Brita Addams is a mash-up of her real middle name and her husband’s middle name, with an additional d and s.
Readers can find Brita Addams at any of the following places: