It’s all in the way you look at it.
I’m an author and an editor. So when I turn in a manuscript it’s perfect, right? Wrong. No way. Far from it. I think it’s that whole left-brain-right-brain thing. Supposedly it’s the left side of the brain that is analytical and logical and the right side that is intuitive and creative.
Theoretically, people are usually left or right brain dominant. My brain is split. Well, of course it is. I’ve never claimed to be normal. LOL The truth is, I suspect most people are split. Sometimes we’re logical thinkers and sometimes we’re dreamers. It’s just that simple.
So what the hell am I talking about? It’s like this. When I am in writer mode, I think like a writer. I’m creative. I envision scenes in my head and put them on paper. When I’m in editor mode, I am far removed from the story. I can’t envision the scene unless I read the words. Therefore, if the author hasn’t done the job well enough, I can’t see the action.
As a writer we know everything our characters are thinking and feeling. However, we don’t always get that down on paper. Sometimes we’ll write something and just KNOW that it’s as plain as the nose on a body’s face what we intended. Then an editor reads it and you’ll see CLARIFY marked next to those words. HUH?
When it comes to punctuation, one of the things writers are guilty of is misuse of commas, ellipses, and em dashes. Why? Because inside our writer heads, we input pauses and interruptions and such exactly where we think they should be. We hear all of those little hesitations our characters make. We see their actions hesitate. So we automatically write it the way we see it, which, of course, is contrary to rules of punctuation! LOL
My first two editors told me I was a very clean writer. I strutted around like a proud peacock each time I heard that. But I was dumb. Yep, I was. That was years ago. Long before I realized I needed to study the craft of writing. As we all know, writing isn’t just about where to put the commas. It’s also about a whole lot of other things like POV, characterization, mood, tell vs. show, etc. etc. etc. The mechanics of it all.
You see, I submitted a manuscript to a different publishing house and was accepted. WOW! Wonderful. I was on my way. Right? Wrong. LOL The thing is, I thought I was a clean writer. But at this new publishing house, I was lucky enough to find an editor who knew her business. Yep, it was my first REAL edit. I’m afraid not all publishers and editors are created equal. Unfortunately, we usually learn that the hard way, too. I did.
So my first REAL edit got me on track. I studied like there was NO tomorrow, which is how I ended up as an editor.
I know for a fact that there are authors I’ve edited for who envision staking me down in the desert and pouring syrup all over my body so an army of fire ants will come along and devour me. How do I know this? Because I’ve envisioned doing the same thing to my editors! Except I’m even more evil. I soak leather straps in water and then tie the editor to the stakes, including tying one around the neck. That way as the leather straps dry in the hot sun, they slowly squeeze. So the editor is both choking and being eaten alive by fire ants at the same time! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!
Every editor does it differently. Editing is subjective for the most part. As far as punctuation is concerned I tend to be in favor of how the author sees/hears it in their head. But as an editor, I have to at least try to follow the rules. My main concern, however, is with content. Readers aren’t stupid. They really don’t care too much about commas and ellipses. They care more about the story. So if they see a typo or some punctuation out of place, they generally overlook it unless it’s far too much to overlook—and that’s where careful study of the craft comes into play. While no two editors will see it exactly the same way, there should be enough consistency throughout a manuscript to nix all complaints.
So the next time you receive a round of edits and you open them up and GASP, take a step back. Remember that you’re looking at the manuscript through different eyes. It’s all a matter of perspective. After I’ve gone through an edit with an author, I generally hear back from them. What do they say? Basically, they tell me their book is much much better. I am often told that at first they didn’t trust what I was suggesting, but the deeper they got into the edit, the more they learned and simply GOT IT! Basically, authors hate me at first and we end up as friends by the end of the edit.
It’s an editor’s job to point out every tiny, itsy bitsy thing they see in your manuscript that could throw a reader out of the story. I don’t care how unimportant and minuscule it seems. If your editor isn’t doing that, then your editor isn’t doing their job.
Some writers turn in cleaner manuscripts than others. All that means is that one writer is farther along in the writing craft than the other. Doesn’t mean their storyline is better than the other author’s. Just means they did a better job of telling it. Which is what YOU the author want to do. Study the craft. Become one of those “clean” writers.
I was thinking this morning about the two cleanest writers I’ve ever edited for. And I’m going to give them a shout out. Hey, everyone needs a little pat on the back from time to time, don’t they? Those two writers are Emmy Ellis, writing as Natalie Dae, Sarah Masters, and under several other pseudonyms I can’t always remember, LOL, AND Destiny Blaine, who writes as Destiny Blaine, Natalie Acres, and a couple of more pseudonyms I can’t remember, LOL!!!
Both Emmy and Destiny are thorough writers with an excellent grasp of different writing techniques. They understand the mechanics. And I’m sure both of them would say that in no way does that mean they don’t need an editor. Both of them are smart enough to say just the opposite. That’s all a part of understanding the writing craft in general.
So hats off to Emmy Ellis (who is also the head of the art department at Total E-Bound) and to Destiny Blaine. You can find these ladies at their websites.
On another note, my newest release, Strip Down, from Ellora's Cave is now available at Amazon! Check it out! I'm getting the most amazing reader feedback. Emails have been pouring in. And the verdict is that Strip Down is one damn fine story! I suppose I should be humble. But somehow I just can't be. LOL