Friday, January 17, 2014

Rise of the Independent Editors?

I'm trying something a bit different with Dragon than how I did things with Nobody.
I wrote Nobody in separate chapters and sent each chapter out separately to be edited. My thinking was it would be easier on those who were doing the editing to do it in small chunks. Instead, it proved to be a bit of a logistical nightmare. I would get the pieces at different paces from different people, sometimes after I had already decided that a given chapter was set. Going back and forth between chapters, writing corrections or making alterations, introduced continuity errors. It also broke up the flow of the story.
Another issue that popped up from doing the chapters separately was assembling the final document. I figured all that needed to be done was simple cut-and-pastes of each chapter into the final document. This introduced a lot of potential for error that I didn’t expect. It took a number of attempts before I finally had the completed file for Nobody ready to be converted into an ebook.
My reasoning to do each chapter as a separate document wasn’t a bad  technical choice, either. Inside an EPUB file, each chapter is actually a separate HTML document. If you want to construct an ebook by hand, you would separate out each chapter to create a unique document. On that basis, I was on the right track.
It just proved to be a bear to manage.
With Dragon, I’m writing the manuscript as one, large document. Everything included. So when it goes out for editing, everyone will get the complete story instead of chunks of it. I figure this will also help avoid any continuity errors. It should also help with everyone being able to help correct the flow of the story.
One of the prime arguments against self-published books is the lack or poor quality of the editing. I will say that this is a valid argument. A few years ago, I did my own survey of self-published ebooks that were being offered for free. I downloaded a bunch of them and started reading. One stood out from all the others. It’s summary was superb and the story idea had a lot of promise. But the way it was written suggested the author’s compositional skills didn’t extend much beyond fourth grade. It was so terribly written and  hard to read, I couldn’t finish it.
Yet, there were gems in there, too. Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess by Wesley Allison. Written so badly (on purpose) it’s good. I got a such a good laugh reading it, I also downloaded Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress. Both stories are now included in his new book—just released on January 1, 2014, The Many Adventures of Eaglethorpe Buxton. I haven’t read it yet, but it is definitely on my “To Read” list. Probably the best wasted $3 you’ll throw away this year. Costs less than a greasy chesseburger at a fast food restaurant and probably about as healthy for your brain as the cheeseburger is for your body—but based on the quirky humor of the first two short stories I read before, it ought to be just as satisfying.
Back to today's subject…
I like to think my raw, unedited writing is better than most. But the evidence proves otherwise when copy comes back from proof readers and editors with all the errors circled, highlighted, and commented. It happens.
A writer needs an editor. A self-published writer really needs an editor.
You could edit your own writing. That’s a part of my process. But I really slow myself down when I do that. I stop focusing on creating the story. I probably could edit my own work, but it would take twice as long. When I’m done writing something, I set it aside for a while. A long while. When I return to it, I can usually catch most of my mistakes.
Having an extra set of eyes looking at my work makes things go much faster. Those other people will also catch things that I completely missed.
There is so much talk in the media about the rise of the independent writer. How the existence and wildly growing success of self-publishing writers is reshaping the publishing industry.
But there has been a quiet growth in the second part of the publishing industry: the appearance of the freelance editor.
A lot of self-publishing writers turn to friends and family to do their editing. To look over their writing and help uncover and smooth over any rough patches that appear in their manuscripts. Unfortunately, in most cases their efforts aren’t enough.
I’m lucky. I have family and friends who have a real talent for doing the editing work. One in particular has the skill to do this work professionally—and, happily, is taking steps to do so.
One of the things I noticed in reviews of my book on Amazon, is many of the readers have commented that it was well edited. This should come as a warning to wannabe self-publishers: your readers do notice and it is an issue!
Now that self-publishing authors are becoming mainstream and the talk of the media, I see a new trend on the horizon: the rise of the freelance editor.
I think 90% of the independent writers fail because even though their story ideas were good, their books and ebooks were poorly edited. Yes, spelling and grammar does make a difference. Writing the way you speak—I do—is not good. When you speak, people can hear the inflections in your voice, see your facial expressions, and they can hear the rhythm of your speech. But the written word cannot express all this. The way it is done, is through proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Get that wrong, and reading your work becomes tedious.
The growth of independent writers means there is now a wildly growing market for freelance editors.
There is even now, the Editorial Freelancers Association. A good place to turn to if you are looking for an editor. There are freelancers represented in each of the many genre’s of writing. It’s a good place to start looking for potential editors you can hire to go over your work. 
The story I mentioned above that had a good premise but was written terribly comes to mind. I wonder if this person could have found a mentor who could have helped the writer wrestle that idea into a real story.
I think back to the very first—and last—time I ever tried to submit a story for publication. 
I was just fourteen.
I had a story idea that suddenly popped into my head. So I typed like crazy to get it down onto paper, popped it into an envelope, and mailed it off to Omni Magazine. I titled it, Landship/Starship.
To the person who actually read that dreadful piece of drivel, you have my sincere apologies. Even after I sent it, I began to rethink what I had written and realized that the story was not beyond the concept stage.
It was absolutely terrible.
I knew it was going to be rejected. But I was surprised that I got a letter of rejection from Omni. Someone read it—again, I apologize—and judged it.
Even now, I look back on that story in my memory and I can see so many technical details that were wrong in the story. Yet, there is still a part of me that sees the potential in it.
The adult me can slip into my memory and talk to the adolescent me and explain that the story was nothing more than a framework describing the idea of the story. Not a readable story in itself.
That framework could be hammered into an outline, characters sympathetic could be created, and a more compelling background chiseled and that story could potentially fly. Maybe someday I’ll dredge it back up.
But it is recognizing those very things that is why writers need editors. The writer can get too caught up in the excitement of putting their imaginations on paper for others to read. So much so, that they may forget how to properly tell that story. Often, the writer can get distracted by an idea in the story and go off on a tangent, away from the main narrative. I’m certainly guilty of this.
It is the job of the editor to reel in mistakes like this and put the writer back on track.
So on the heels of the rise of the independent writer, I see the rise of the independent editor. When these two beings begin to join together, we are going to truly see a change in the publishing world. Perhaps the rise of something new. Something that is not a fad but a trend. And the industry will begin to respond.
It’s kind of exciting to think of what might come in the next few years.