Author Topic: Editing Rant  (Read 30102 times)  

Offline T.L. Haddix

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Editing Rant
« on: February 02, 2012, 11:16:25 AM »
I sat on this overnight. I was that frustrated. I would truly have blown my stack had I posted yesterday. Had to get up and walk away from the computer and had a migraine because of this, because it makes me angry, sad, and there's little I can do about it.

I just want to say that I am sick and tired of seeing good people get taken by any Joe who hangs a shingle out and calls themselves an editor. I'm heartsick that I have to type up emails and let people know there are problems with their manuscripts, when they are expecting there should not be because they paid someone to fix things for them.

Please, please, please - if you are a writer, if you have friends who are writers, or even talk to strangers on the street who write - stress the importance of a good, solid, reputable editor. Heck, I'm ready to print up a t-shirt and wear it everywhere.

Some of you may remember that I offered editing services a while back. I shouldn't have. I'm not an editor. I still have guilt over that. I didn't do it with malicious intent, and I don't think a lot of misguided souls who offer editing do. But that doesn't change the fact that a lot of people who offer editing, shouldn't. It's still frustrating to the highest level, though, to see this happen over and over and over again. To nice people. Who deserve better. (Coincidentally, anyone who feels this way about what I did for you - contact me via email. I want to try and make it right. Somehow.)

So, all that being said, just please be mindful of who you use for editing. Make sure they have a portfolio with references. Make sure they provide a free sample edit. Spell out everything you expect from them up front. Ask for actual references. Don't just assume, because they can write well, (like I did with my first "editor" - mistake) that means they can edit.

And no, I'm not directing this at Red Adept. Lynn, et al, is wonderful. I just wish everyone could have her or someone like her.

Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2012, 11:29:52 AM »
Part of the problem is that too many people don't understand what an editor is actually supposed to do.  And many of the people offering editing services are too timid to do what an editor really does.  A lot of folks who offer editing services are so terrified of "stifling the writer's voice" that they won't recommend the hard changes that need to be recommended.  Editing is more than commas and stray typos.  It's knowing when to use first person and when to use third person.  It is knowing when to use past tense and when to use present tense.  It's knowing how to identify a data dump and make suggestions on how to resolve it.  It's knowing how to separate narrative voice from character voice. 

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Offline bnapier

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 11:33:13 AM »
Well said, Bards.

I've toyed with the idea of freelance editing but fear it will cut into my writing time.

An editor for fiction, DOES need to have a sense for story-telling.  This is why I think it's also a good idea to ask a potential editor which genres they prefer.  Someone that's a big romance fan would likely have a hard time editing a horror novel simply because they aren't accustomed to the pacing and structure of horror.  If the story is hard for the editor to engage with, the editing will probably show it.
        

Offline Jon Olson

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 11:36:39 AM »
Part of the problem is that too many people don't understand what an editor is actually supposed to do.  And many of the people offering editing services are too timid to do what an editor really does.  A lot of folks who offer editing services are so terrified of "stifling the writer's voice" that they won't recommend the hard changes that need to be recommended.  Editing is more than commas and stray typos.  It's knowing when to use first person and when to use third person.  It is knowing when to use past tense and when to use present tense.  It's knowing how to identify a data dump and make suggestions on how to resolve it.  It's knowing how to separate narrative voice from character voice. 

And reorganize, if necessary. It's a hard art, as you want to be constructive, even as you're being critical. A hard hand in a velvet glove, sort of.

as editor

Offline Rex Jameson

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 11:39:35 AM »
Or "I'd recommend a full rewrite with these things in mind."

Offline dalya

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2012, 11:51:08 AM »
Here, I will give the best one-size-fits-all editing advice:

Take your second draft and remove all or part of Chapter One, then finish your third draft.  Take out a bunch of words from the first half and add a bunch of words to the second half.

There you go!  Now have someone with excellent grammar proofread it.

Back to the OP: I've seen some editors-for-hire with abysmal text on their web sites.  Good editing is expensive.  Cheap editing is probably better than no editing.

Offline MikeAngel

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2012, 11:55:37 AM »
Part of the problem is that too many people don't understand what an editor is actually supposed to do.  <snip>  Editing is more than commas and stray typos.  It's knowing when to use first person and when to use third person.  It is knowing when to use past tense and when to use present tense.  It's knowing how to identify a data dump and make suggestions on how to resolve it.  It's knowing how to separate narrative voice from character voice. 
Thanks for filling me in on what an editor does. I guess I can now call myself an editor, since I do all of those things when editing my own stuff.  ;D

Offline Vaguely Piratical

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2012, 12:14:27 PM »
Another big problem I see is people purchasing an actual editor and not understanding what the service offered entails. I've seen complaints from people hire an editor who suggests character and voice revision, and then curse the editor to high heaven when there are still typos in the finished work.  I've also seen people who assumed they had a really strong manuscript because their "editor" (actually a proofreader) only suggested small typos and grammar errors be changed.

I'm not saying there isn't a problem with people hanging out their shingles who have no business doing so.  There's a huge problem.  But there is also a problem with a lot of first time writers not knowing what different types of editors do.
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Offline T.L. Haddix

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2012, 12:24:48 PM »
Back to the OP: I've seen some editors-for-hire with abysmal text on their web sites.  Good editing is expensive.  Cheap editing is probably better than no editing.

I strongly disagree. Good editing does not have to be expensive. It can be the college English major who lives next door and has a true gift at picking out problems within manuscripts. They'd probably do the work for very little money and some food.

And while I know there are differences in types of editing - line editing versus content editing, etc - at the very least, I expect someone whose manuscript has been 'edited' to not have improper word usages in every paragraph, tenses that change mid-sentence (much less mid-paragraph) and then back again, and have periods in the right places. Periods, people. Periods. *Bangs head against desk*

Please understand, I'm not blaming the writers here. I'm saying I'm sick of seeing people paying for a service and not getting quality results. I've been through that, like I said, with my first editor. She wasn't being malicious - she just had no business doing the work. I had no business seeking her out for it. Hindsight is 20/20.

That said, the writer does bear some responsibility. It's up to us to vet our editors, make sure they're qualified to do the job we're hiring them to do. I'm entirely pleased with what I've gotten from Red Adept - and thankful I found Lynn. So if I want to see things change, see less of the scenario I've been dealing with that set me off on a rant, I need to try and get that message across to other people who might not know the difference.

And Mike, et al, who think you can do a good enough job editing your own work - that's not what this is about, either. Bully for you. I'm glad you can do that. You're missing my point.

Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2012, 12:38:39 PM »
Periods, people. Periods. *Bangs head against desk*

I'm sorry, but I started laughing at this.  I just sent two rewrite requests to authors today that said "Unless your name is William Faulkner, periods are your friends.  Use them."  Seems to be an epidemic in fantasy writing.  People feel the need to smash four or five sentences into one and link them together with an assortment of commas and semi-colons. 

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Offline Danni

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2012, 12:40:23 PM »
periods are your friends. 

Yes, nothing good ever comes from a skipped period.

Offline Sean Patrick Fox

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2012, 12:41:31 PM »
Vet, vet, vet. If you're going to hire an editor, make sure they're who they say they are, and they have the qualifications and experience to be editing your manuscript.

Offline Rejean

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2012, 12:43:36 PM »
Something else. Some writers will pay an editor and then not accept their recommendations. Can't blame the editor for that one.

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Offline T.L. Haddix

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2012, 12:58:29 PM »
*grins at Julie and DDark*

Perhaps one could suggest that if it takes more than a deep breath to have enough air to read said sentences aloud, it should have periods added to it? Although some folks can read aloud very quickly.... So that might not work. Be an interesting suggestion, though.

Something else. Some writers will pay an editor and then not accept their recommendations. Can't blame the editor for that one.

Rejean, this is very true. I just hit my tipping point, I guess. I can't say for certain, but I don't think that's what happened with the experiences I've had this past week or two.

And now I have had food, so I'm going to be a little less snarky. But only slightly.

Offline Greer

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2012, 12:58:42 PM »
Speaking as someone who edits for a small press (my real life alter ego, anyway) I thought I would add my two cents.

One of the problems with this situation is that there are different kinds of editing. There's substantive editing (story and logic focused), copy editing (grammar and sentence structure), and then there's proofreading (typos and formatting). So if the customer is expecting substantive editing and gets copy editing instead, obviously they're not going to be a happy camper.

Another problem I've noticed is a lot of people don't seem to realize that a good, thorough editing job takes a lot longer than just reading the book, especially if it's a substantive edit. In my opinion, a good substantive editor is a story critiquer, a logic checker, a plot-hole-finder, and a fact checker - and doing all that takes time. And I think a big part of the problem stems from the fact that these people who throw up an internet shingle and call themselves editors are so intent on undercutting the competition's price that they wind up working for slave wages if they take as long to do the job as should be taking. So they blast through it, and leave their customers with sub-par editing. (Or there's also the possibility that they just really don't know what the heck they're doing.)

The bottom line (again, IMO) is that you get what you pay for. If you're getting quoted $100 for a substantive edit on a 75,000-word manuscript when the going rate among freelance editors would be closer to $1000 for that amount of work, then you're probably not going to be getting the professional quality edit you're expecting. Because a person who makes their living freelancing can't afford to work for the kind of money/hour that $100 would work out to be.  I'm not saying you'll never catch a break on the cost - I'm sure there are a few people out there who edit because they enjoy it and not because they're trying to make a living on it, but if the price is too good to be true, then you should be aware that it very likely is.

Offline Lynn McNamee

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2012, 12:59:46 PM »
Yes, nothing good ever comes from a skipped period.

 :D :D :D

Offline T.L. Haddix

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2012, 01:09:41 PM »
Speaking as someone who edits for a small press (my real life alter ego, anyway) I thought I would add my two cents.

One of the problems with this situation is that there are different kinds of editing. There's substantive editing (story and logic focused), copy editing (grammar and sentence structure), and then there's proofreading (typos and formatting). So if the customer is expecting substantive editing and gets copy editing instead, obviously they're not going to be a happy camper.

Another problem I've noticed is a lot of people don't seem to realize that a good, thorough editing job takes a lot longer than just reading the book, especially if it's a substantive edit. In my opinion, a good substantive editor is a story critiquer, a logic checker, a plot-hole-finder, and a fact checker - and doing all that takes time. And I think a big part of the problem stems from the fact that these people who throw up an internet shingle and call themselves editors are so intent on undercutting the competition's price that they wind up working for slave wages if they take as long to do the job as should be taking. So they blast through it, and leave their customers with sub-par editing. (Or there's also the possibility that they just really don't know what the heck they're doing.)

The bottom line (again, IMO) is that you get what you pay for. If you're getting quoted $100 for a substantive edit on a 75,000-word manuscript when the going rate among freelance editors would be closer to $1000 for that amount of work, then you're probably not going to be getting the professional quality edit you're expecting. Because a person who makes their living freelancing can't afford to work for the kind of money/hour that $100 would work out to be.  I'm not saying you'll never catch a break on the cost - I'm sure there are a few people out there who edit because they enjoy it and not because they're trying to make a living on it, but if the price is too good to be true, then you should be aware that it very likely is.

Shayne, you make excellent points. And I agree that in the majority of cases, to get good, quality editing of any variety, you're going to have to pay more for it than a month's gas money. I'm still not discounting the value of the kid next door, though.  ;)

That said, it still comes back to educating writers as to what editing is, I suppose. I've tried to steer people to Kindleboards, and whenever the topic comes up, I pass on the names of the reputable editors I know and have worked with. So maybe I should accept that I'm doing what I can, and move on from there.

I do feel better for having ranted, and isn't that the point of a rant?

Now, all these missed periods..... Hope it isn't something in the water.  :o

Offline Vaguely Piratical

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2012, 01:16:46 PM »
Yes, nothing good ever comes from a skipped period.

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2012, 02:28:56 PM »
Something else. Some writers will pay an editor and then not accept their recommendations. Can't blame the editor for that one.


Or some authors will take an editor's recommendations and then make other mistakes in the final draft.....

I think the biggest thing before you hire anyone is to make sure you are using the same terms to mean the same thing.  Be clear on what you expect from an "editor" and honestly, I'd say have them do a short sample to make sure they are doing what you want.

As those of you who've worked with me know, I can't just proof read even when that's I'm supposed to be doing.

But lastly, remember that no-one is perfect.  I did 3 run throughs of someone's work and didn't notice a glaring inconsistency until after the book was published.  Ultimately, you are responsible for your work, so don't just rely on someone else.

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Offline Krista D. Ball

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2012, 02:41:06 PM »
How many people have come by on KB and said they love grammar and are setting themselves up as an editor? Too many to count. When I ask for qualifications, I get "I love to read."  ::) Or, "I would never change the author's voice."  ::)

I'm of the opinion that my editor needs to have more experience than what I have.

One of the best things that traditional publishing has done for me is to show me what editing really is all about.

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Offline foreverjuly

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #20 on: February 02, 2012, 02:41:47 PM »
Or some authors will take an editor's recommendations and then make other mistakes in the final draft.....

This. An editor can do a great job, and there can still be problems with the published text, and that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the editor's fault. Proofreading is really it's own stage, and over-looking it is what causes typos and little errors to creep in. It really is easy to be fixing recommendations from an editor, make new mistakes, and think you've got perfectly polished text. Trust me, I know. One more read-through back before I published my first book would've saved some embarrassment, of course so would've five more years of publishing experience.

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #21 on: February 02, 2012, 03:17:29 PM »
I agree with everything that's been said here with one exception. While it's important to check out an editor's previous work, it won't help if the author's knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and spelling is lacking. If he doesn 't know the right instance in which to use its and it's, he won't see anything wrong if the editor misuses such words. That's why it's imperative the author study a grammar book inside and out, and not depend on the editor to fix everything.

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Offline Greer

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #22 on: February 02, 2012, 03:23:35 PM »
I agree with everything that's been said here with one exception. While it's important to check out an editor's previous work, it won't help if the author's knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and spelling is lacking. If he doesn 't know the right instance in which to use its and it's, he won't see anything wrong if the editor misuses such words. That's why it's imperative the author study a grammar book inside and out, and not depend on the editor to fix everything.

Joyce

I second this wholeheartedly.

Offline AnitaBartholomew

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #23 on: February 02, 2012, 04:01:43 PM »

I just want to say that I am sick and tired of seeing good people get taken by any Joe who hangs a shingle out and calls themselves an editor. I'm heartsick that I have to type up emails and let people know there are problems with their manuscripts, when they are expecting there should not be because they paid someone to fix things for them.

I agree with you on all counts, and I'll add a few, because I am a developmental editor. I always do a sample edit, not just for the sake of the client, but for myself. There are some books I just can't fix. There are some that I'm just not the right editor for. A sample edit tells author and editor what to expect from the other.

I always send a contract that spells out exactly what the author can expect, and that I'm working on a work-made-for-hire basis, and am not the owner of any text I might suggest to the author.

I provide references/testimonials on my website from authors I've worked with, including a couple whose books have made it to bestseller lists, here and elsewhere.

That said, most indie authors simply can't pay what I charge. Realizing this, I haven't bothered to advertise on the Kindleboards. My clients come to me primarily via referral.

That, I suspect, is the larger issue: money. Lots of people will offer to edit a book for $300 or so. I can't. Or won't--take your pick.

Structural editing takes a hell of a lot of time and thought. My rate for a manuscript of 60K to 95K words is $2,000. Anyone with a similar background is charging about as much.

Having read a few indie novels that desperately needed structural editing, I can tell you that I believe it's worth it. However, there's one indie that's been on the bestseller lists for some time now that I found unreadable, yet readers seem to love it.

Does that mean the services of a good editor aren't always required? Depends on what you want, I suppose.

Anita



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Offline T.L. Haddix

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Re: Editing Rant
« Reply #24 on: February 02, 2012, 04:23:42 PM »
I agree with everything that's been said here with one exception. While it's important to check out an editor's previous work, it won't help if the author's knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and spelling is lacking. If he doesn 't know the right instance in which to use its and it's, he won't see anything wrong if the editor misuses such words. That's why it's imperative the author study a grammar book inside and out, and not depend on the editor to fix everything.

Joyce

This! I was going to mention this. I'm also going to throw my husband under the bus as an example. He's smart, but grammar/technical skills/spelling are not his strong point. He still spells "Indiana" with an extra 'i' - "Indiania". And we've lived here 12 years. So, say he wrote a book and sent it to an editor who didn't have strong skills - he could easily think he's getting what he's needing.

Something else I want to make absolutely clear - I'm not upset that I had to email someone today about their book because it was more work/more stress for me. I'm upset on this person's behalf, because my honesty hurt and disappointed them. Whenever this sort of thing happens, I always hesitate before sending the person the notice. What if they yell at me, hate what we've done, decide we're overstepping our bounds? What if it backfires? I hate confrontation, as much as I like a good debate/argument, and I always get a little sick/nervous when I have to send one of those emails. But then I remind myself that it's the right thing to do - someone needs to make the person aware of the problem. Whether they decide to fix it or not is up to them, and we'll abide by their wishes. I would want someone to do it for me.

Anita, you asked about the one book that is selling well and needs an editor. That success is something that makes me very sad, because it perpetuates that whole "well, so-and-so did not use an editor, and look what they've accomplished," mentality. I think it depends on the genre - some are much more forgiving than others - and a lot of other factors that, if I knew the formula to, I'd be rich. (I'm not upset the author is successful, but the unedited manuscript.)