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.
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Rhobin L Courtright