I am an editor, as well as an author. I work for StoryShopUSA, and I do freelance editing for select clients. I self-edit my work because I can detach from my writing, look at it with a critical eye, and tell myself, “This is boring, unclear, wordy, or unnecessary. Fix it.”
However, every writer, regardless of experience, genre, training, or skill, needs editors/readers to give feedback on a work in progress. A writer cannot produce a quality book alone.
I have a set of Beta readers to critique my manuscripts. They each have different strengths. One points out historical errors: things and words that are out of place and time. Another is detail-oriented. She picks on mechanical faults and points out plot holes and makes suggestions to fix them. A third is very sure of what she likes and doesn’t, and has no qualms about telling me. All are avid readers of a variety of genres. One of them even reads in two languages.
My husband, Cameron, is my editorial assistant. He’s a computer engineer, and he thinks like a computer. He’s logical, quickly gets bored with “fluff,” and he notices everything I’ve done wrong. He reads the stories at the second draft stage, to pick on big errors before I spend a lot of time fine-tuning syntax and word choice. He then rereads them just before publication, to analyze and critique Every. Little. Thing. (He is a lucky man who can say that his wife wants him to point out all her mistakes!)
I appreciate the input of all my Betas, but even kind criticism can be hard to take. As a writer, you become very attached to your work. Sometimes I need a day or two to think through another’s comments before I can focus on rewriting the issues. (Cameron says I have to think about it long enough to start believing that the changes are my idea!)
It’s far easier to accept criticism on small points that are easy to fix than on bigger ones that take more time and effort to repair. After all, changing a repeated word is neither difficult nor painful. Rewriting a character, a scene, or a story thread that spans the book is another matter entirely.
My biggest editing issue is what I call The Curse of Author Omniscience. I know everything about the story I am developing, including what happened before the action started and what will happen after it ends. I know what everyone looks like, the minutiae of every setting, and what is going on in everyone’s thoughts. Many of the details in my head will never make it into the text.
But because I know everything, sometimes I assume that my reader does, too, and I leave out important details because I feel they're redundant. After all, I've been thinking about them for months. To me, they're ingrained and obvious.
When my husband read the second draft of my work in progress, Guardians of Caledon, he came to a place where my heroine started lying to her brother and thought, "Why won't she tell him the truth here? Maybe she's resentful for how he treated her...?"
Sure enough, she was, but the sentences that showed how she was feeling in response to her brother's behavior - the motivation for her lie - were several paragraphs further along. I had left my reader guessing. The details were in the wrong place.
Cam suggested that I move those sentences up to just before the heroine starts lying - and the scene took on a whole new level of energy.
In spite of my Editor Hat, I couldn't see the problem when I was revising. I know the story and the character too well. The Curse of Author Omniscience had struck.
Never underestimate the power of a reader who doesn't know everything to help improve a book. I’m very grateful for my Beta readers and the constructive criticism they offer.
Check out my interview with blogger Fiona Mcvie! https://wp.me/p3uv2y-75n