Mar 16th, 2021
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Welcome back to another episode of, we make books, a podcast about writing publishing and everything in between. I'm Rekka. I write science fiction and fantasy as R J Theodore.
I'm Kaelyn Considine. I'm the acquisition editor for Pu... Pu... Wait, I'm the acquisitions editor for Parvus Press. And we can edit that out.
Yeah. Is that a line edit?
Oh God. You know what? That's a good question. That, uh, I think that would be a line edit. Yeah. Uh, yeah. So today we're talking about editing. Um, I know it's something we've talked about before. I think we, we really were very focused on developmental edits.
Well, sure. Because that's your favorite, right?
Yeah. You know, there's, there's different components and different people you're going to encounter through the process of editing a book and they'll all want different things from you and be asking you to change different aspects of the book. So—
Oh, one thing we didn't say: that you are the author and your name goes on the cover. So all of these edits come from people who are hired because this is their specialty. However, this is your story. So it is up to you to stand by these edits. And if you don't feel comfortable standing by the edits, then you should not accept them.
Qualifier. I will have there: check your contract. Your book may have been accepted conditionally pending you making certain changes. So there's uh, there's contractual obligations for edits. But you know, as Rekka said, at the end of the day here, his name is on this. We talk a little bit at the end of the episode, about how, you know, people are, might yell at you online about things that you had absolutely no control over. So control the stuff that you can.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So anyway, um, there are lots of kinds of edits and they are variably painful each in their own way.
Some are far more excruciating than others.
And on the other side of this lovely ditty, we will tell you about them.
...that landing devices on Mars is becoming as routine as something like that can be, is, is very, is very cool. So yeah.
Yeah. Speaking of routine. How's that?
You've probably heard us say things like developmental edits, copy edits, line edits. And if you're going okay, well, what the heck is all of this art? Don't I just edit the book. No, you don't.
Sometimes you edit the book. Sometimes someone else edits the book, sometimes a third person edits the book. And sometimes you get a stack of pages and you hope that someone edited the book real well.
Yes. There's three main kinds of edits. You're going to come across while working on a book and then a fourth step in this order: developmental edits line edits and copy edit. Then after copy, edit, typically comes a proofreading. We're going to go through these step-by-step and instead of giving you definitions upfront, explain what they are as we're walking through them. So Rekka, as somebody who's gone through this process, what would you say your favorite part of all of these edits are? if you had to pick one of the three, what's your favorite?
Really? Even as a writer?
Yeah. No, I mean, cause you're almost there. This is the point where you are just making sure that nothing weird happened in the process of getting this into a layout and you get to reread the book. You're in theory, looking at an immutable copy. So you can't keep fiddling with it. And all you're doing is checking to make sure that there's not like a weird space before a period, or something strange like suddenly you've got smart quotes and—.
Let's save that for when we get there.
That was the wrong answer, folks. Apparently I wasn't supposed to say that. I was supposed to say the dev edit is my favorite.
And that's because that's everybody's favorite because the dev edit—
No the dev edit means you have to tear out your heart and write it all over again.
The developmental edit though, is the part where you're still writing.
I'm not in this to write. I'm in this to have written.
Fair. Um, yeah. So the first thing you're going to hear about, you know, with the first one you're gonna encounter is developmental edits. Developmental edits are where it is what it sounds like you're still developing the story. Um, this is what's going to happen generally um, at any stage of this before your book is finalized, pretty much. So anytime you're getting feedback from anyone, be it a writing group, um, a friend, an agent and editor, uh, some random guy that you started talking to and told the story.
No, don't start talking to those guys.
That is, that's a developmental edit. There's obviously different levels of intricacy and sophistication to this. Um, if you're working with an agent, they'll probably give you some high level stuff, especially for the beginning of the book. If you're working with an editor, however, they're gonna be much tougher on you. This is the part where they're going to say, "okay, I like all of this. Here's the thing. Your magic system doesn't make any sense." Or "it seems to have some rules and then it's breaking them" or "the world-building is inconsistent" or "there's a plot hole here." Um, a lot of times you're going to start big, you know, like, all right, let's like, I've had authors where I'm like, ""I need you to send me a document of how magic works here. Or "I need you to send me a timeline of the events before this story because there's characters referencing things and they're contradicting each other. And I don't think it's a case of an unreliable narrator."
There's a lot of those. So your developmental edits are where you're finishing the big parts of the story where you're narrowing— you're nailing down, um, the rules of the world, the world, building the characters, addressing any plot holes. In some cases you may be making massive changes to the book. Sometimes it's not "this sentence contradicts something another person said," sometimes it's, "Hey, um, I don't think you need this character. They're really not doing much. Get rid of them."
Right. And in which case, all the threads of the story that have to change as a result.
Developmental edits can be, you know, for as much as they are probably the most fun, I guess, of the book, writing process.
That's a big question mark in your voice, there.
Well, they're the most fun for me certainly, but, um, you know, I think, uh, I would hope that people writing enjoy working on their books and look, it can, developmental edits can be like, they can be brutal. Um, a developmental edit can result in a significant overhaul of what you were writing. Now, this isn't to scare anyone because the thing is, if you're working with an editor at this point, they wouldn't have bought your book if they didn't like it and think there was something good in there.
So remember your editor just wants what's best for your book. You maybe not as much.
Well, what about for people who are self publishing?
So for people who are self publishing, you know, it depends on how you're doing this. Did you hire an editor? Maybe that's the person who's, uh, who's doing this. But if you're doing this on your own, hopefully your developmental edits have been more of the process of writing and refining your book, getting feedback, incorporating it into there. But that's where this is all coming from because somebody reading it and saying, "yeah, I like this" is different from somebody going, "okay, well you have this character, Laura. And she went into the bathroom and then we never heard from her again."
Look, this happens sometimes.
Sometimes people go into bathrooms and never come back out. Um, but that's, I mean, developmental edits is so broad compared to the rest of these because it's all of the work that gets your book to a point where it is quote-unquote done in terms of developing the story. You've stopped developing the story, everything after this now is grammar and syntax and prose and making sure the story is coherent and flows well. Um, Rekka, as someone who has gone through some pretty significant, uh, developmental edit overhauls...
How'd that feel?
Is 60% significant?
Oh, that's nothing.
What about when you do it twice?
Well, that's 120%.
Okay. So I've rewritten 120% of SALVAGE. Um, yeah, it's— look, it's funny because it's a lot of work, and I'm the type of person who will grind myself into the earth to get work done on a deadline, regardless of what that deadline's reasonable level is.
Well, now let me ask you this, because your books specifically, you know, especially as you got farther into the Peridot Shift series with various POVs and everything, when you change something, the, I imagine it's a bit of a butterfly effect.
Okay, let me rephrase that. I know it's a little bit of a butterfly effect.
No, but it even goes beyond that because the first revision was to add all the POVs.
Yes. Yeah, that's true.
Um, the, the first book was one single POV and I felt as though that was now a requirement of the series. Um, specifically an earlier editor that I contracted to help me revise FLOTSAM told me, "dump all these other POVs and just follow Talis." So that's what I thought I needed to do for book two, because that's what I had set up as an expectation for the reader, I felt. So it came as a shock when the publisher's editor that, um, I started working with on SALVAGE as a new editor, came back and said, "I think you could fix a lot of the issues you're having with this book, if you introduced new POVs." So you've seen that meme of like Cosmic Brain. Like that's what happened to me. I was like, "this is an option?? I can go in and add more POV's and show people more of the mindsets of the different people in the, in this world?" It was amazing. I was, I was pumped. I was ready to go. By adding other POVs I was able to go to where the action was happening and get the information to the reader without it having to pass third hand to my main characters.
You did a really significant overhaul, but then I'm sure that presented a challenge because after you overhauled and rewrote this book to include these other POVs, anytime you made a change, then you have to account for that.
Right? Because like, it was, most of my characters weren't even present, um, in the, between the two drafts.
It's not only, and this is, I mean, we could do a whole episode on this, but it's not only where Talis is, who she's with, and what she knows. You need to track these other characters, encountering other characters, other places, and gathering their own information that they may or may not be sharing with other people. So one change trickles down into all of these other characters and it's something you have to account for. Developmental edits, especially from a multiple POV book: It's a process.
It's probably where a lot of the, um, like the timeline inconsistencies happen that readers catch that no one else seems to during the process of getting it out into the world. Um, it's not that the writer was drafting in a flurry and forgot what they wrote. It's more that they drafted in a flurry, revised it themselves, send it off to somebody else. And then somebody else stuck their fingers in and said, "let's pull on these threads and see what happens." And then you have little details you forgot all about that you overlook even when you reread.
And this, by the way is the reason I am a big fan of having an outline.
Oh, but it's the little details.
There are books that I read that, you know, it's not even just the little details it's "this does not line up. This makes no sense." And in developmental edits, that's where you're supposed to catch things, but you know, a big secret here: uh, editors are people too. And sometimes we, you know, in all the course of all of these changes, miss everything. This is very much turns into, can't see the trees for the forest kind of situation. It's always good to have somebody who is not so in the weeds on this take a look at it, to be able to take a step back and point out, "hang on. That girl never came out of the bathroom."
Right. I know you're still worried about her.
I'm very worried about like, is she okay? Is she having a medical emergency? Was there a portal in there somewhere? What happened to her? So this is, this is making this sound scary and overwhelming. Developmental edits. I find are always the fun part where you really get to, you know, have somebody who's excited to talk to you about your book and you get to tell them all the details and you know, all the secrets and the nitty-gritty stuff going on here. So, um, I enjoy them, but you know, that's just me. I just get to torment people with them.
It is a very, very good thing to enjoy the teeny tiny details of your book. Both as the editor working on it and the writer creating it.
I find one of the most important tools for developmental edits, especially for books with a lot of characters or places is a timeline. Timeline of events before the book and timeline of the events during. I have had books that I've worked on where I've just gotten an Excel sheet to track which character is where at what time to make sure that we're not accidentally saying they were both in this town on the same day. Your editor is going to do a lot of work on this because your editor is going to be your sanity check here, to use the, uh, well, the developer term. Um, you know, does this make sense? Does this work? Is there something here that is very obvious that we're missing? Developmental edits are also where, you know, you're going to, besides all of these checking for problems, you're also going to flesh out characters, their arcs, their motivation, their stories. You're going to do some world-building as well. Probably. Um, again, some of it will be clarifying. Some of it might be like, "Hey, this is really interesting that you mentioned in passing. And later in the story, we need a new setting. Why don't you use this?" So developmental edits can seem a little like, "Oh my God, it's going to be all the mistakes. I'm going to have to rewrite everything." But they're also the time where you really get to have fun with your book. In my opinion.
I get really excited about developmental edits because someone has challenged me on something. For example, like how I handled my POVs or a detail of why my character does this, or suggests that, you know, a stake isn't high enough, or suggests that things are happening too conveniently, you know, dominos are falling in too straight of a line. And by being challenged on these things on a broad level, I tend to get all my gears really cranking and suddenly things that, you know, don't occur to me when I'm drafting on my own from, you know, building the outline on my own, coming up with the concepts and figuring out where the book is going on my own. Suddenly when you have another person reflecting back what your story is saying to them, it gets very exciting and I get very motivated, and inspired, to come up with new solutions that, um, address the concerns and probably do some other stuff too, that weren't even brought up. But like, you know, this is where suddenly like, "Oh, these two characters come together at the end and how perfect that they end up in the same spot and that just sets this up to happen...!" And those are the sorts of, um, it feels like serendipity when all your dev edits make the story you wanted to tell, come out of the story that you actually drafted.
Aww, Rekka, that was beautiful.
So, yeah. Dev edits: they're fun. You know what's not fun? Line edits. Yeah. So once your story's, you know, finished quote-unquote. And by that, I mean that the story exists, it's complete, everyone's happy with, you know, the plot, the character arcs, the timeline, everything going on.
I like how you say, you know, "once your story is finished, QUOTE-UNQUOTE..."
Yeah. You thought, you thought you were done here. Um, this is— so something that you notice in editing, as you continue down the chain here, the burden shifts more and more to the editor. So line edits are next. Line edits, you are probably still doing with your actual editor. This is probably still going to be the same person. A line edit is something that is addressing writing style, language use, um, combing the manuscript for obvious errors, like run-on sentences and redundancies, at a sentence and paragraph level. So this is where— and this is also typically, especially if you're, self-publishing where you do your read aloud. "Did I just use the same word three times in one sentence? I did."
You will not know it until you read that thing aloud.
Um, I did. You know why? Because there's only so many ways to say "rock."
Right. Well, sometimes you have a word that does not stand out when you use it three times in a sentence. Other times when that word is, you know, ostentatious, then you do hear it over and over and over again. Cause you just, when you're drafting or rewriting, you just like you get a groove somewhere in your brain and a word will stick in it and you'll end up using it over and over and over again until you clear that.
Yeah. So you're going line by line and looking at this now. You've got the broad stuff. Every step we take in the editing process, we're going through it with a finer and finer tooth comb. Um, you know, for developmental edits, everybody breaks these out different ways. You know, there's like, "okay, first, we're going to address this. Then we're going to do this. Then we're going to do this." Every book's different with, you know, how to address that. Line edits are much more standardized here. The read aloud is very helpful, especially if you're self publishing, but what you're doing here is you're going and looking for like repeated words, redundant sentences, unclear pronouns, you know, maybe there's like two men in a fight and you just keep saying, "he, he, he, he" it's like, "okay, well, who got stabbed here? Who's bleeding to death on the floor who, who died? I don't even know now." I like to not do line edits right after the developmental edit is finished because you, you become like unable to see things in the manuscript. But line edits are really important because what they're also going to come up with is this is a very, very strange thing, passages that just don't read well parts of the book that to a reader who hasn't been working on this for months are not going to make sense or are going to seem disjointed. And this could be something like a shift in tone or phrasing that is a really awkward. Um, this could be digressions in the narrative that sort of take away from the scene at hand, it could be pacing related. Now let's be clear. This is not the copy edit. We're going to get to that next. You are still going to have to do sentence-level work here where you may have to add, change, and remove things. This isn't like "change 'she' to 'Rekka.'" This is "rewrite this paragraph because the whole thing is very confusing. And I don't know who just died."
Um, I've gone through line edits where I've crossed out entire paragraphs and said, "I need you to condense this down to one sentence, one or two sentences for the pacing of this scene, because it's a fight and this is taking too long." Um, I've added notes where it's like, I mean, my, I think my most common line edit is "describe this more, expand on this."
Expand on this.
Expand on this. Expand on this.
Tell me more. Dive deeper.
Yeah or, you know, this is where a, an editor might say, "throw in a couple words here and tell us what they're thinking or how they're feeling, throw in a reaction." This is where you're checking to make sure everything is coherent and communicating what you want it to. Line edits are an incredibly time consuming process.
They do seem like they might be the worst.
New Speaker (22:42):
They're not my favorite. Um, I personally can't do them for more than an hour and a half to two hours at a time, or things start to wash off your back. And this is where you've gotta be really sharp on what you're looking at and making sure everything is, is making sense. Editors do line edits differently. In some cases I will, you know, when I do this, I put a note in there of, you know, for instance, "expand on this, tell me what this person is feeling at a reaction here." In some cases I will go in and just edit the sentence if it's a matter of, you know, flipping the, uh, the phrases in the sentence, or this sentence should come before this one. Now obviously, you know, all of these, are— none of this is being dictated to authors. If it's that way for a reason, we'll discuss it. Right. But this is the first time probably that you're going to get something back from an editor and have to go through an add and accept changes.
That's a whole new nightmare, if you haven't worked with track changes before.
If you are to the point where you're getting ready for a line out of it, and you've never done this before, maybe talk to your editor and sort of agree on how this is going to be done. There's different ways to track changes and you can always modify it. But, you know, it's just something to keep in mind. You know, developmental edits, you're going to be getting, you know, multiple passes of that. Some of it will probably be a letter then, you know, as you get farther, further into it, it'll be, you know, notes directly in the manuscript and that sort of thing. Line edits are when you're getting back a document that is marked up, that, you know, if it were a physical copy, it will have looked like someone's stabbed it to death because it's just going to be covered in red. There's no such thing as a manuscript that is so perfect it doesn't need line edits. Some of the best writers in the world have editors for a reason, because you need a fresh set of eyes on this. I definitely will. Sometimes when working on a manuscript, if I catch something really glaring right off the bat, you know, just take care of it right then and there. But the actual line edit pass is, it's a very lengthy process to do it well.
I can't even imagine attempting to do a line edit. How do you stay focused and not get swept up in looking at one aspect and forget what else is going on?
I think my record was 2000 changes in like a 90,000-word manuscript. That was changes, not additions and deletions. For the author, this is the first time where something like this can seem really overwhelming because you've got to sit down and go through all of this now, and now you've got to be clear and fresh on all of it. Um, and on top of that, then sometimes your editor is going to hand you something and just say, this paragraph doesn't work and it's unclear fix it. And you're going to go, "well, I'm the one that wrote it. How am I supposed to fix this? This seems clear to me." In that case, you know, you go talk to your editor and you work through it. This is another one where you'll have a couple of calls, probably, you know, minimum, a couple to get through the whole thing. That's line edits. It is definitely my least favorite of the edits. I will. I mean, really my side. I only do two, the developmental and the line. Um, I obviously definitely prefer developmental. Line edits are they're, they're hard, but obviously very, very important. Which brings us to our third step in the editing process and the last of our true quote-unquote edits. And this is the copy edit. Now the copy editor is probably a different person.
In an ideal world the copy editor is a different person, because you want a new set of eyes on this.
Copy Editors are magical creatures who can at a speed incomprehensible to the mortal brain, go through a document and check for things like spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax.
Just a mistaken word. Like you typed the wrong word or, or a homonym.
Yeah. Incorrect hyphenations, inconsistent uh numerical formatting, inconsistent formatting in general. Weird fonts. Weird capitalizations. Any factually incorrect statement that you may have made. A good copy editor will catch things that should have been caught in line edit that weren't for whatever reason. Copy editors are the people that go through and say, "this is correct English." Now, if you're writing nonfiction, this is more straightforward. There is, you know, what typically happens is a copy editor ascribes to a certain manual of style. Then there's also, you know, depending on which dictionary you're using, Oxford versus Webster, um, which that just tends to be American versus English-English. And they'll also have, you know, their, their stylistic format, um, even in non-fiction, you know, there's things you have to grade on, like, um, "how are we writing out numbers? Are they going to be a numerical value or is it going to be a Roman numeral? Or are you going to write out the entire number?" Now when you get into science fiction and fantasy, this gets a little more tricky, obviously. So, um, a lot of times what we've done with our copy editors is provided, you know, a list of characters. "Okay, here's their names. Here's the absolute definite correct spelling. Here's a list of places. Here's the absolute correct spelling."
I would like to suggest as you go over the line, edits from your editor, that this is a good time to catch any name and build a glossary, if you haven't already done it. Any proper name or unique word to your world that people might be like, "huh? I wonder what that is." This is a good time to make a glossary. And then you've chosen the official spelling and you can refer to it yourself. You are going to use this glossary more than your readers ever will.
Absolutely. If you have naming conventions in your world, if there is, um, you know, like "this is how this title is formatted," "this is how you address, um, somebody from this place," uh, "this should always be..." This is what you need to give the copy editor because the copy editor needs to know what to flag as possibly incorrect. Copy editors also, I mean, like auto-correct can do some weird things sometimes, especially if these are, you know, made up names and places.
Neo-pronouns. Autocorrect loves to just wreck havoc on them.
Yeah. So sometimes autocorrect will change something to make it correct as autocorrect sees it. And the copy editor needs to know that that's not what that's actually supposed to look like. So arming your copy editor with the resources and information they need is super important. A copy editor is going to give you back a manuscript that is going to have thousands of changes in it, because they have been moving commas and periods— and commas, by the way, are something that your line editor is going to go and have opinions about, and then your copy editor is going to say, no, that's wrong. So there is going to be a little— don't worry, it won't just be you fighting with the copy editor here, your regular editor's going to be doing that too.
She's not wrong, folks.
Yeah. And you know, generally you defer to the copy editor.
Right. They're hired for their skillset. The previous editor was hired to help you craft a better story.
Exactly. Yes. Copy editors are very, very special people. Always be nice to copy editors.
They're precious and wonderful. And you're not! Going! To anger them!
No, do not anger the copy editors. Copy editing, by the way, just as a side note is an incredibly valuable skillset. We talk a lot about "copy" over the course of these episodes: "back copy," "cover copy." "Copy" is words. It's words that you have written and you were getting ready to send out into the world. A copy editor's job is to make sure the words and the grammar are being held to the standard that they are supposed to.
That they're doing what you want them to, which is communicating efficiently.
Anything that you have read that is published, that is not a simple sign (and even in those cases, sometimes that could've used a copy editor) has probably gone through a copy editor, or it should have at least. They're— copy editors work in all sorts of industries that are publishing adjacent. You know, like marketing companies will frequently have somebody who, maybe it's not their full-time job, but can do copy editing for them. It's an amazing skill set to have and it is something that if somebody put a gun to my head and said, "you need to copy edit this. I don't think I could, because I can not maintain that level of detailed consistency.
That's the thing is like, when you're talking about a novel that could be a Sanderson novel of 500,000 words, a copy editor, you know, should sit on a throne of diamonds and wear a crown and be served all their favorite—
The skulls of their enemies.
It is absurd, the amount of work they do to make us look good.
By the way, if you are self publishing and you're going to hire a copy editor, not to scare anyone, this is a heads up. They're not cheap.
They shouldn't be. Like, listen to how much work they're doing.
Yes, exactly. It's obviously different, but it's like going to hire like, you know, a welder or, you know, a, a stone mason or something. This is something that they have been trained to do.
So pay them.
Yeah. Copy editors: wonderful people, pay them, be very nice to them. So that's really the last stage in like the editing editing. And you're going, "Oh, well, that's great. I'm done." You're not. You're not.
Oh, sweet summer child. You are not done.
Because next is proofreading. Now, if you're sitting at home and going like, "Oh my God, proofreading, like my teacher would tell us to do in elementary school before I turned something in? Like, 'Oh, make sure you proofread this.'" First of all, your teacher was using that word incorrectly. Um, what they were actually telling you to do is copy edit.
Well, no. Copy edit and then proofread. What your teacher didn't tell you was to do it twice.
Yes. Yes. So let's do some terms here. Cause you know how I love definitions. We talked about what a copy editor is. They edit copy. We know what copy is. Proofreaders: that's exactly what they do. They read proofs. So this is, you know, in the days when you still had to use to print these things and mark them up manually, you would print a proof. So like if you've ever gotten formal pictures taken and it says like there's a watermark on there that says like "proof only: not for distribution" or something, that means that that's the version that's not final. We have to look at this and make changes to it. A proof editor is checking for the quality of the book before it goes into mass production. "How does this look now?" Is, you know, and Rekka can certainly speak more to this than I can, being a graphic designer. Um, but is this like, "are there huge rivers through the text? Are the margins okay? Are there massive gaps between words?" A proof editor is also going to flag any mistakes that they see, obviously. You're always flagging mistakes as you're working through this.
And an author also gets their proofs, um, sometimes called galleys. And it's now your last chance to make sure that everything came across the way you intended. And sometimes, that can involve the placement of a word on a page. "Does this sentence get chopped up and become unreadable because of the way it falls across columns or pages?"
Yeah. And you know, I did this once with Rekka and there's all of these terms I had never heard before. Like um what do you call it? An orphan when there's like—
Right? You've got orphans, widows, rivers, there's lots of terms that, um, it's up to the graphic designer. The page layout artists has hopefully looking at these too. Uh, the publisher is hopefully looking at these too. Hopefully there's like the entire team is, either together or separately, sitting down. You know, you want to say that in this digital age, we don't need to print these out anymore, but you really do. Because looking at it on the screen is not going to show it to you the way it's going to appear in the printout. And keep in mind, we're not talking about the e-book proof here.
And it's funny. Cause I was going to say actually is the other thing that a designer and a proofreader is going to do is try to account for anything that could end up looking really funny on an e-reader. There's only so much you can do with that. But there are certain things that stand out that are like, "this is just going to look strange."
Yeah. So depending on how everything's structured, because it's entirely possible that you have a different person doing the design of the print book than you do creating the e-book, or you may have somebody who comes in and takes the designer's files and converts them to an EPUB to try and basically get the most recent version. Um, but then you have to watch out for things that a designer for print will do that does not translate well to EPUB. And um, so there, there's a lot of work on the proof that like, I'm aware of and this all may sound like a big pile of overwhelm, but basically what Kaelyn is bringing up is that there's a reason that people print out or create proofs. And that's where the word comes from for "proofreading," because basically it should be called "last chance editing" because after this, it costs a lot of money to make any changes. At this point, it will cost money to make changes. But this is one copy. When you have a print run of 10,000, now we are talking "Too late. Sorry."
I mean, it's also it's design and quality check too. It's you know, for all of the time we were talking about when you're doing a line that it's about, does this make sense? Is this going to distract the reader? The proofreader, the designer, is doing this too, where they're looking at this and going, "hang on, like something's weird here. And this is going to be confusing." That's really, as Rekka said, this is your last chance. This is when—
This is when you hope you find any mistake that made it through the cracks, because these are going to be the mistakes that those one star reviewers zero in on, and just drag you across the coals for. And sometimes it's nothing to do with you, the writer, um, sometimes it's a formatting issue. Sometimes it's the result of weird behavior from copy-paste between programs.
But I love those reviewers that are like, "and the author clearly did not check their margins." Like, no, they didn't. They're the author. That's not their job.
That's not their job. Yeah. Self-publishing maybe, but even then a lot of these things are outside the author's control depending on the tools they use.
So yeah. So then at that point you are actually done, that's it.
One hopes. Now it's time for your, um, launch strategy and your marketing plan and your book tour and... Sorry, you're not done.
That's your edits. And we, you know, we made it sound like this was just a neat step-by-step, but you know, let's, let's be honest. We all know that's not true.
Oh, God. It's like, "hurry, hurry, hurry. What the heck does this mean? I don't understand this grammar rule you're explaining to me and I don't have the Chicago Manual of Style. So I'm just going to try and interpret what you said or maybe I'll rephrase the sentence, so we don't have to even have this conversation. And then I'm going to submit it back to you..."
The times where I was like, "look, I'm done with this word. I'm not doing this anymore. We're just getting rid of it."
Sometimes we just write around a word. Yeah.
You know what I would say and what I hope anybody who, especially if you're going through this for the first time is: take this, and I'm not saying this to sound condescending, take this as a learning experience. This is a really difficult thing to do. Um, you know, like you thought writing the book was hard. Well now you've got to edit it, but take it as a learning experience where you can try to gather as much information about the thoughts and process and everything that goes into this on your own. You know, really try to engage and pay attention to what's happening. Not only because it's your book, but because this is going to help make you a better writer.
Oh, there's very little that you can do about having to go through this process except appreciate that, um, that it is making your book better.
And look, I think we've all at some point picked up a book that clearly wasn't edited. Well. Um, I can think of a few off the top of my head. I have one in particular, I remember mentioning to Rekka and she said, "Oh, how do you like that?" And I said, "I've never read a book more desperately in need of an editor in my life." Um, I think everybody, you know, kind of goes into this with the, "okay, well, whatever, then I just need to edit it." That that, child, will be your undoing. Um, editing's a process. The more you can learn about it as you're working through this process, the more it's going to benefit you as a writer in the long run. Rekka, Would you agree?
Nah, nah. Just, wing it.
Just slap a bunch of words on the page and be done.
You know what, Word has spellcheck. You're good.
Basically the same thing. Yeah and by the way, on that note real quick, you know, this is for both writers and self-publishers. Um, you know, for those who are going the more traditional publishing route, taking a pass at this, you know, in doing some line edits yourself before you submit it is a good thing to do. No one's expecting it to be perfect, but you know, addressing any sort of egregious errors is always a good step.
And you mentioned earlier, and we didn't really emphasize it enough. Reading your book out loud to yourself. This is something that like after the surgeries I had and the treatment I had last year, is going to be very difficult for me in the future. I am still going to do it. I don't care if my book is a Sanderson-sized doorstop. It is so valuable to read the work out loud and hear the words the way you put them on the page.
I, for my day job, send a lot of emails and um, a lot of times, you know, I'll be doing like some co-work time with people on my team, and I will have to keep muting things because I read emails out loud before I send them. Um, so yeah, if you are, you know, for tips for both people submitting for traditional publication, people who are self-publishing—obviously, if you're self publishing, you need to be much more thorough—take a pass at yourself, look word has, you know, some decent, uh, intelligence about this now. It's not perfect.
It's not great. I would not rely on it alone.
No. Well, we're, we're getting there. Read it aloud, but then also: Grammarly. And I didn't want to get too into the weeds on this in this episode because Grammarly is not a panacea. It is not a cure all. It is not going to make your book perfect, but it is a good way to take a pass at something and to also use it to start recognizing patterns of things that you've done.
Also, its algorithm is getting a lot better.
The algorithm is getting fantastic. I would say, especially for self publishing, obviously the paid version of this is worth it.
Yep. It's a yearly subscription.
Um, one thing is just do not let it integrate into everything on your computer because it's going to try to, and it will ruin your life. Yeah.
Yes I am— I have a Grammarly subscription and the only thing I do is go to grammarly.com, login, and paste my text into their editor.
It's going to be like, "Hey, you like Grammarly, right? Wouldn't you like to write fantastically all the time, give us access to your email, give us access to your web browser, give us access to your texts." And then you're going to hate yourself.
And it's like pulling out ticks to get it back out again. Plus it messes up forms. At least it did the last time I let it anywhere near my web browser. It will mess with the forms that you're trying to submit, um, that have like the built-in editors and stuff. It was a mess. Anyway, don't do that. On top of Grammarly, there is also ProWritingAid. It used to be like, it's basically Grammarly, but has a different algorithm. And so you would run through one and then run through the other and then maybe it would be cleaner for having done both. Now. ProWritingAid has a bunch of different modes. It lets you set the reading level that you intended to write at, and then tell you whether you are along the median for that, overall, and point out words that you are using that are not within your expected reading level, and all this good stuff. So if you write, um, middle-grade, ProWritingAid might be a tool that you definitely want to consider as well. Like we said, we didn't mean to get into the toolbox end of these things, but these are things that you can do on your own to really get as clean a draft as you can.
You know, people who read romance seem to be a lot more forgiving of typos and errors than people who read within a genre that is more typically traditionally published, which is not to say that traditional publishers get it right all the time. But the fans and readers are much less tolerant of that.
I think science fiction, especially hard military SciFi is the one, in my experience, that's going to go after you for typos the most.
Well, they're going to go after you for a lot of things. So we're not even going to go there today. All right. So, um, any last thoughts on editing and the different levels of editing and can you go backward? Like if you realize there's a big error— like here's, here's my worry as an author, is that the publisher is going to get me to copy edits and then in my copy, edit review, I realize, "Oh my God, that's an egregious, uh, continuity error." Or "this would be very offensive."
It's definitely happened where, you know, it's like, "Oh crap, Laura never did come out of the bathroom."
Yeah. Right. To use our example from earlier.
Like at this point, you, you know, you call a sit down and you say, all right, we got to figure out a way to resolve this. And by that point, you know, it's not, you're out of the traditional editing process at that point. You're, you know, you're doing containment strategy by then. Um, if you've gotten that far in the book and there is a giant mistake that's going to have massive rippling effects through the entirety of the book and nobody caught it to this point—because presumably at least three or four set of eyes have been on this by now—and nobody's caught it that's means there's probably some larger issues here that need to be addressed as well. Um, but look it's definitely happened where it's like, "Oh my God, well, what happened to that one character?" And then you've got to go find a way to address it.
And what I've found to the best way to do is to isolate it, to say, "okay, Laura went into the bathroom and never came back out." If the easy explanation to that is Laura is not an important character. She was just a friend that drops by,
Yeah. We add a sentence where "I heard Laura leave and the door closed behind her. I guess I'll catch up with her next week." If Laura is somebody that you know needs to be addressed, maybe this is a series. Maybe later we find out what happens to Laura. Um, there's ways to deal with it. But my, my favorite strategy is containment. Isolate the problem and then figure out where we're going to address it down the line.
In any level of editing, whether you are coming in too late to catch a problem, or you are coming in on schedule, and this is just your first line edit, or your, even your dev edit. Sometimes the solution is to remove a thing that's a problem rather than to write in why it's not a problem.
Did Laura need to be there at all? Did we need to see her? Did she need to come in and use the bathroom?
I mean, to Laura, she needed to use the bathroom, but for the purposes of our story, I'm not sure what kind of slice of life story this is, but I'm, it's not sold me so far.
Um, this will happen occasionally. My best advice I can give you is: don't panic, deep breaths, figure out a way to adjust the problem.
There's going to be a simpler solution than your first panicked worry might—especially you get more panicked later in the process, this all starts to happen.
New Speaker (48:24):
You have a minute to take a breath and think of a simpler way out of it.
Take a breath. Your editor's there to help you with this. You know, bring in somebody else that's read the book if possible, and get yourselves a cup of tea, tea, coffee, wine, whatever, and figure out how to address this. There—I've never come across a continuity error or a plot hole or something so far into the process that it wasn't fixable.
No, I think that's, that's a good place to leave people. A little bit of hope. It's never, it's never too late. It's never too big to fix.
Yep. Well, anyway, so that's edits. Um, you know, the one takeaway I would have here is: try to enjoy them as best you can, because this is, this is part of the writing process. And it's a part of the writing process where you can really learn a lot. I think. So. Um, so anyway.
Yep. If you have any more questions about editing, if you really feel like Kaelyn missed the, the question that's been burning in your soul, you can at us @WMBcast on Instagram and Twitter. You can support us at patreon.com/WMBcast. And, um, if you could leave a rating and review on Apple podcasts for this episode or any episode, the podcast in general, just leave a little like half, half formed phrase. We'll edit it for you.
Or just make like a winky face.
Yeah. Like a Winky face is fine. Um, but if you have a comment or a compliment or a criticism or question, please leave it at Apple podcasts for our podcast, which will help other people find our podcast. Um, I've been hearing from a few people lately that they are tuning in for the first time and bingeing. Um, there's a lot of people, there's a lot of people on treadmills, um, who are listening and other, you know, kind of like time-consuming things. And I'm just like, thank you so much for spending that time with us and, um, appreciating what we have to say enough to continue spending that time with us. So, um, that's awesome. And, uh, that's a great thing to leave in a rating or review. Winky face.
"Winky face. Excellent treadmill listening."
There you go. All right. We will talk to you all in two weeks. Thank you so much again for listening and, uh, see you next time.