Sunday, 17 June 2012

Professional Editing? (Part 1 of 2.)

I had many concerns and anxieties when finishing my first short story and the looming prospect of actually submitting it to the world. It was what I wanted and I was really pleased I had taken the step to self publish but the thought of it becoming real and not just something I idly chatted about hit me in many ways. One of those slap-myself-in-the-face who-do-you-think-you-are moments I want to talk about here. Editing.
Okay, so I finished my story, I re-read and re-wrote it several times; I gave it to some friends to read and give me feedback, I left it for days and came back to it fresh and re-read it (several times); I printed it out in a few different fonts and sizes and re-read it again. Then it got to the point where I hated it and the thought of reading it one more time would make me convulse and doubt my sanity. The moment came where I either published the damn thing or forgot about writing forever. So I clicked the various buttons and went to bed. In the morning I tentatively went on to Amazon and with equal pride and happiness to horror and regret, saw that there it was, online and available to the world.  A couple of weeks went by and I was busy working on my next story when I started to get feedback from people, some of whom I knew and again to my equal pleasure and fear, from people I didn’t. It was very exciting, there were lots of questions about the story and theories on the character and elements of the story and I was happy discussing it.  I decided to get a few copies printed so that I could refer to it and as I was converting the file I flicked through it again to make sure the layout was okay when my eyes glanced over a paragraph and my brain stood to attention…a spelling mistake. I closed my eyes and swore to myself before opening them and swearing out loud. A spelling mistake! How many times did I read through it and check it! And now it has been online for a few weeks with a spelling mistake…and then I read the whole thing again and there were a couple more spelling mistakes. It wasn’t a disaster but I was annoyed.
            So here’s the thing. What is the balance between getting your story out and not delaying and taking the step to get professional help? I didn’t even consider paying for editing services when I started because I thought that I was capable of doing it myself, they were only short stories, how could I not deal with it? I didn’t want to pay (even though I hadn’t checked to see how much it would cost) and I didn’t like the idea of someone else reading it. I also thought that as a beginner I was somehow allowed to get away with it. Sure enough I continued to self publish the next two short stories without getting any professional help.  Now I am wondering if I did the right thing. I told myself I could always revise the early stories and get another edition out but do I really want to do that? Is that not a convenient excuse for overlooking issues that should be resolved before publishing? I convinced myself that I didn’t want to lose momentum by waiting longer than necessary. But is that a reason to allow something not perfect to go out under your name? I’m still undecided as I think it is a fair thing to say that time is precious. I work full time so have evenings and weekends to write and even though when you actually sit down and focus there is actually quite a lot of time and you can get a lot done, you don’t want to waste it, and there is something compelling about needing to write on your story with other things become secondary. That’s the issue I am writing about today. I am a novice writer and I have lots of short stories I want to finish and get out this year. I am struggling to finish my current one as I have spent a lot of time working on the promotional stuff, website, social media…this blog; which is great because it is something you need to do and it benefits in the long run. So shouldn’t I take that same attitude to the most important thing…the actual quality of my story!
I was in contact with a ghostwriter/editor this week and it reminded me of this subject. I can see now that I had fears about giving my story away and somehow losing control of the plot, the character, the voice and feel of the piece, as if somehow it wouldn’t be mine anymore. I think I need to reconsider this. I still feel like I want to learn more about editing and become good at it myself, as a tool, as a skill and as part of being a good writer but working with an editor is probably a skill in itself.
I’ll post part two of this blog straight away for another take on this subject. It is a guest blog by Karen Cole, Executive Director of Ghost Writing Inc. a professional editor and ghost writer.