Hiring an editor is often one of the best things that a writer can do, but most of us don’t have the hundreds or thousands of dollars needed to have a second set of eyes to objectively check our writing. While editing your work will dramatically improve the effectiveness of your piece and it has the potential to enhance sales, you can do the work yourself. Every editor will obviously check and correct your grammar, but that’s often the last thing on the editor’s mind. Here is everything else that you should look for when editing your own piece. Remember, it’s more about making the book work better, not impress your English teacher.
An editor is very concerned with consistency. Does Sarah, the blonde cheerleader on page 12, still have blonde hair on page 146? Does Randy, the Southener with the heavy accent, still have an accent on the fifth chapter? Readers are quick to notice these consistency issues, and it will often take them right out of the book.
Character consistency isn’t the only thing that an editor will check for. What about the points and ideas that you are presenting? Does your non-fiction book about conflict suddenly go from pro-war to anti-war without any logical reasoning to support the change? Does your description of a device, historical figure or object suddenly change without reason?
The editor will ensure that everything that you write about remains consistant. It’s fine if something changes, but only if there’s a logical reason for it changing (for example, Sarah dyed her hair, Randy faked being from the South and you’re show the opposite side of your original argument to ensure objectivity).
This is probably the hardest thing to do without an editor. Every book, especially fiction ones, have internal logic. For example, a character might decide to handle a situation in a certain way, or a society in your novel might be forever changed by a certain event. The editor will consider the logic behind these situations to see if they fit in the real world. They will also check for “cheating” (ie: deus ex machina).
You’ll have a harder time objectively checking the internal logic of your book because you know exactly why the character is doing whatever he or she is doing. Your reasoning might make sense to no one else (which is the problem), but it can make sense to you. Try to examine every situation by using outside logic from the real world.
Being your own editor is difficult because you have to be objective about your book, the thing that you slaved months away to create from your soul. At the same time, being objective and pretending to be your own second set of eyes is the only way to be your own editor. If you’re worried about a part sounding weird, then you can always ask a friend to read that part and give you his or her opinion.
Filed under: Publishing
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