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A not-by-the-book approach to professional editing.

I’ve opened things up a bit and have started offering editing and proofreading services and I already picked up my first client via the website. Its a proofread job, the story is great so far, and I’ve not had to do a whole lot with it. That is what you like to see with proofreads.

With the magic of the brain and the internet, I’m seeing a lot more questions being asked about the various stages and types of editing could be needed.

I’ve given my perspective on a few of them, but thought it might be easier to write up a blog post about it here and share it whenever I see the question come up.

I’ve already mentioned a few times that I rarely do things “by the book” but there is always a method to my madness. There are a few absolutes that I believe should always be adhered to though.

1) The more eyeballs on a manuscript you can get before publication, the better.

2) Grammar and spell check every time before you send it to someone else to look over.

3) Ask for specific feedback, not just “hey, read this and let me know what you think please?”

I write mostly short stories so I do a lot of “crowd-editing”. I used to call it self-editing because I don’t pay for professional edits on short stories, but I don’t do the edits alone either. I enlist the help of a number of readers (at least 12) willing to provide feedback, and edit accordingly myself.

Then I run the entire thing through The Hemingway App, browser edition, and do a few additional read throughs. If errors make it through that process, I feel they have earned their place. I’d be editing instead of publishing if I didn’t. There is always something.

Now, for the longer stuff, I do go more extensive and hire out edits. I’m good with grammar and have a sold grasp of the English language, but even I struggle with keeping track of plot, perspective, and consistency in a large project. I’ve got a great friend and professional service provider that I use and highly recommend.

So, all of that being said, I want to answer some of the questions I’ve seen being asked with a bit of a guide on how I approach and handle edits.

As I said, I don’t necessarily do things by the book. I read what is written, note where my editor brain goes haywire, write a note explaining why my brain went haywire and include a recommended fix. I leave it to the writer to make the changes they want to make.

I think many times we get it in our heads that its an editor’s job to fix our mess. It isn’t. Its their job to read through and make recommendations that will improve the prose. The making of the changes falls to the writer. Part of that is pointing out errors that were missed by the writer’s word processor grammar and spell checker.

When you send a project to a professional for edits, you want it to be as clean a copy as possible. It saves time and money for both the writer and the editor. As a professional a writer should always do their own spell and grammar checking before sending a draft to anyone to read.

Read your work out loud. If you dont have the patience or right state of mind to read the story (I get that way sometimes), set up text to speech and have a device read the story to you. I recommend you do this at least once as a proofread, but I do it with every round of editing. Hearing it read out loud will catch a lot of errors even the best eyeballs can miss.

Hands down though, the best piece of advice I think I can give is to learn how to write as a reader. It sounds easy enough, since most writers are avid readers themselves, but it isn’t usually the case.

Ordinarily, we write a story as we see it play out in our minds. We write what we see. When we switch that up and wrire as a reader, we force ourselves to be aware of how we want a reader to respond throughout every scene. It really brings things to life and you get far away from one of the most common complaints I hear. “Show, don’t tell”.

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