Editing


Few Americans have heard of my friend Anna Jacobs, but she is highly popular in Australia and Britain. In particular, she is my wife’s favourite author.

Anna once said, the time you have edited a book enough is when you can’t stand to go through it again.

I agree. Unless it’s late at night, or as part of ultra-multi-tasking, I even read my emails three times over, in order to catch misbehaving keystrokes.

I usually have several writing projects going, though not as many as Isaac Asimov has been credited with. So, what I tend to do is to write something in one project, re-read it a couple of times to pick up typos, and also to improve both wording and content, then I put it away and go onto something else.

That may be another bit of writing, or editing for a client, or work for one of the many organisations I belong to (why do I always end up on the committee?), or something that actually requires me to get out of my recliner chair.

When I return, I do my best to read it as if it was someone else’s writing. This allows me to pick up typos — but never all of them, something I am proud to be able to do in other people’s productions.

Then, after a project is complete, I put it away to get cold, before doing a complete line edit. Finally, it is time for beta readers.

So, by the time a book is ready to fly, I will have read each part of it at least 20 times.

Mind you, whether I am editing my own stuff or someone else’s, editing is always work. Even the best piece of writing requires carefully stumping through line after line, waving a mental metal detector. We need to look for finger stumbles, grammatical glitches, pathetic punctuation, incorrect word usage, run-on sentences, befuddling expressions… and that’s only the line editing.

Then there is content. Victor Volkman, the publisher at Loving Healing Press kindly allowed me to revise Ascending Spiral because I caught two content problems years after publication: one character changed name, and Bob the Buddhist scholar got the fourth Noble Truth wrong.

In my editing work, I catch things like that quite frequently. The silver lining of course is that this is exactly the kind of activity that keeps the frontal lobes honed sharp.

Um… maybe I’d better change that metaphor.


Everyone commenting below will be rewarded with a big blast of loving energy sent through spiritual space.

Also, please read why my fellow bloggers have to say on the topic:
Rhobin L Courtright
Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
Beverley Bateman
Diane Bator
Connie Vines
Helena Fairfax
Anne Stenhouse
Margaret Fieland

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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14 Responses to Editing

  1. I laughed at the publisher’s name being mis-spelt. That is a great example of perfection being an impossible ideal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Bob, Great post as always. I did try NaNoWriMo one year and the book I wrote is the one I feel had the most energy. However, I did find the process, just write; do not edit as you go, very hard. I enjoy editing but I do understand exactly what Anna means. anne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      It would drive me crazy to pass be mistakes I’ve spotted and not correct them. I am the secretary of various groups, and always take minutes on my computer. By the time the meeting is finished, the minutes are free of typos.
      🙂

      Like

  3. Connie Vines says:

    I enjoyed your post. Your comment about the publisher’s name being mis-spelt cause me to chuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. okwriter says:

    Love what your friend Anna Jacobs once said, the time you have edited a book enough is when you can’t stand to go through it again.
    I think that pretty much sums up editing. And you edit everything about twenty times? That puts me to shame. I’m going to have to think through my process and see if I can improve it. I do use editors and count on them to catch a lot of errors, but I’m going to reread your process and see what I can incorporate. Thanks for sharing.
    Beverley

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Hi Beverley,
      Well, it’s not 20 times slogging through, but more like this:
      I haven’t been working on my currently unfinished novel, “The Invaders,” for about a month. So, yesterday I got it out, because I came to a thinking stop in the short story I am writing. In order to refresh myself on the novel’s content, I started reading from the beginning, and made half a dozen little changes.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rhobin says:

    I know from experience you are a very good editor. Your post has an interesting perspective, but a truth about editing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Skye-writer says:

    Guess I don’t have to worry about my frontal lobes getting “UNsharp” – Editing is a way of life for any author. Your comment that putting it aside for a bit while working on something else, or even for a couple weeks, really does give your eyes and edge. Sometimes you can read right over the same mistake a bunch of times and I often think that’s because you’ve seen it that way so many times it looks right and until you go away and let it rest, you’ll never see the errors.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. sandra214 says:

    Editing advice always emphasizes that you should NOT edit your own work. That came home to me big time with my latest book, Obsessed By A Promise. After it came out, a writer friend took me aside and gave me a list of a few errors that needed to be changed, which I was easily able to do. After those errors were corrected, another writing friend found a few more. I was mortified, of course, but thank goodness for the great Kindle Print machine that allowed me to make the corrections shortly after they were found. Although I’m not condoning errors in my books or anyone books, I’m often reminded of all the great books out there from major publishers that get into print with errors in them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Sandra. Feel the blast of loving energy?
      In the 1930s, a big publishing house was going to produce the typo-free book. They went over it a gadzillion times.
      The publisher’s name was mis-spelt on the title page.
      🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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