Much is made about the art of editing, and it is an art. In fact, it’s more art than technique, though technique must be mastered first before one can adequately edit.
For instance, we know there are several levels of editing: content, line, and proofreading. But beyond that, there are points such as:
- Which “rules” should be followed 100% of the time and which can be fudged in a few select instances to maintain authorial voice and not detract from the story via too much intervention? I believe the answer to this comes with experience. In other words, there’s not a “must do it this way” list that’s right every single time.
- Do you edit a manuscript time after time not really knowing what you’re looking for, only to end up finding typos and punctuation gaffs and not much else? If so, I’d recommend a good book on editing such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.
- Editing is most effective for me when done in layers. For instance, I do a first pass especially intent on removing filter words or some such, and if I see other things in the meantime, I take care of those too but don’t lose focus. The next time I watch for weak areas such as dialog tags or lack of description, an overabundance of “he turned,” “she spun,” and other annoying phrases, etc. When I feel I’ve cleaned up most of those sort of things, I do a nearing-final pass dealing with specific and beautiful word flow, sentence structure, and try to ratchet up the musicality of the piece so it reads very well. I don’t fly heedlessly through a manuscript just to say I’ve done it; I have a purpose and I approach it armed with knowledge and commitment.
- I keep reading, learning, researching, experimenting with the editing process so I can continue to become a better writer and editor, and ultimately, a better small press owner.
Editing isn’t a one-off pass, and not even a two or three pass wonder. If editing isn’t deep, wide, and repeated, I doubt if the book will be much worth a reader’s time, and certainly not his money.