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May08

Creating Silver Part 2 – Editing

This is part 2 of my series called, “Creating Silver.” This blog and its posts will talk about the troubles I went through brainstorming, writing, and publishing The Silver Ninja. I will talk about user reviews, sales, editing, marketing and any other miscellaneous obstacles I encountered along the way. I’m also going to talk about what went wrong.

 

What went horribly wrong…

 

Ah the editing, if there were ever an area where I was most uneducated, this would be it. When I finished writing The Silver Ninja, I knew that this was only the beginning of phase 2. Any professional book is going to have an editor take a stab at it, sniff its contents, and tear it to shreds within their vicious maws. So I went searching for a cold hearted editor to butcher my book. I figured I would need someone that was into superheroes and also had the credentials of being an accomplished editor. I thought I had found that person, but either we miscommunicated or I paid for the wrong service. I did not get the manuscript shredding that  I was hoping for.

The editor I hired had a blog with really great writing advice for authors. In fact, I learned so much from the editor’s blog, that I corrected many rookie mistakes in the manuscript (yes that means there were way more errors than in the current version). I thought this would be a match made in Heaven. Ironically, I had originally asked the editor if they had recommendations on who I should hire to proof my book, the editor volunteered to do the job and I thought, great! Unfortunately, shortly after the process began, I realized that I hired a writer and not an editor.

First off, let’s get some facts straight before you go off googling for editors. If you’re going to hire an editor, well there’s two kinds that you need to save your money for. One editor does proofreading, this is the one who checks for commas, fixes spelling errors, tweaks your grammar, and basically corrects your book until it’s polished. The other editor is the content editor who goes through your book and points out and addresses gaping plot holes, descriptive writing issues, characterization problems, and suggests how to make changes.

The editor I hired offered both of these services, why wouldn’t I hire this person? It wasn’t exactly cheap either, so it’s not like I was skimping on the budget. Again, this should have been a perfect matchup.

So what the hell happened? If the book was edited, why were people still pointing out issues with the story, characters and plot? Well, I’ll tell you:

  1. 1. Let me clear something up before I continue, the editor did a passable job. There were many suggestions that were made that I incorporated into the book. The problem was, that sometimes I would get the manuscript back and see a massive amount of errors that should have been corrected before I received it. Some fonts changed to a different size and type while other grammatical errors remained unfixed.

  2. 2. The editor got involved with a separate writing project that didn’t allow my project to get the attention it deserved.

  3. 3. The edits were… a slap on the wrist at best. Compared to how I saw the editor tear up other works, I was surprised to see that my work only had hmm… not minor or major corrections, but somewhere in between the two.

  4. 4. In all honesty, the manuscript needed to go through a second pass. But I was so aggravated with the lack of communication from the editor that I just accepted it as is.

Lesson learned? Do research on who you hire as an editor and don’t try to buy an all in one package. I didn’t like the lack of communication and I certainly didn’t appreciate getting a manuscript back with numerous errors. I understand that this is not 100% the editor’s fault, after all, it was my writing being corrected and I was pushing for a hard deadline. Still, I constantly asked if the editor needed more time to work on my project, but I was assured that it would get done on time and accurately. If the editor was having trouble working on the manuscript, I would have gladly given an extension or adjusted my release date deadline. In all honesty, if the editor communicated with me properly, I would have probably paid for a second pass. Communication is key, you just can’t turn in your book and expect it to magically get done, you’re always working on improving it.

When I finally received the completed manuscript, I was ecstatic to finally have it in my hands. This meant that I could make my deadline and all I had to do was approve the edits and tweak some wording here and there. Boy was I wrong… when I showed my girlfriend Chrysti the corrected manuscript, it got ugly, really fast. I let her read a few pages of the corrected manuscript and was basically asked, “What was edited? There should be a period here, a comma here, this makes no sense.” She tore through the document like a hardened copy/content editor.

And I was not pleased.

I was so angry at that point that I said to her, “What the hell do you want me to do about it?” It was hard for me to hear her tell me that the editing wasn’t done properly. It was especially hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I spent a large amount of money on a rather mediocre editing job. I ordered a proof from Createspace and let her go to town on it, if she’s going to point out these flaws, then she can help me correct them.

Well, she finally finished the book in October and wow… the book was marked up the way it was supposed to be. However, all the corrections she pointed out to me were going to take at least another month of editing. I wanted to release the book in 2012, not 2013, so thus, the problems started to arise. Now my girlfriend (who wasn’t supposed to be editing the book) ended up getting drafted into helping me get it ready for publishing.

So throughout all of November, it took us about 4 hours a day to get through less than half a chapter. We even sacrificed our weekends to work on the book for 12 hours straight and ended up completing only two chapters; sometimes less because other chapters would have more problems than the rest.

Throughout the editing process, she would also point out numerous content problems along with the grammar and punctuation. At that point,I believe I asked her, “Where the hell were you when I spent all this money on an editor? I don’t have time to fix these problems! The book has to be released in December or it’s never going to get done.”

Why December? Two words, Iron-Man. The third movie was scheduled to come out in May and the technology in my book was starting to become outdated. 10 years ago, my suit was considered super high tech and impossible to create. In 2013, at least 70% of the suit is feasible, 10% exists in real life and 20% remains out of reach. If I was going to get this new super heroine out into the public’s hands, I needed the help of blockbuster super hero movies. It also helped that Iron Man’s suit and Cindy’s suit are very similar in function.

Back to the topic, eventually I just told my girlfriend that we just needed to focus on addressing the grammatical errors and typos. We still had at least four chapters to go in November and there was no way in hell I could fix the content before December. As a writer, I knew that I would make mistakes and spelling errors if I wrote out the new content. I’m not a proofreader, plain in simple, in fact, I’m sure this blog has numerous errors that I overlooked. Anyway, it was with a heavy heart that I continued editing the book, while leaving behind grievous content errors. This was the equivalent of leaving a man behind on the battlefield. (In metaphorical writer terms, don’t want our servicemen and women to be offended.)

So I bit the bullet, published the book, and the readers immediately picked up on the issues I chose to leave behind. So far (as of this posting) the female readers have been more forgiving than the male readers, but the balance in gender approval is just way off. Those who enjoyed the book, pointed out the same errors from people who disliked the book. I was not happy with this result, but without a second editing pass, it was inevitable that this would happen. I was still proud of what I wrote and how I managed to overcome the obstacles. Not many people could say that they’re a published author, but in the back of my mind, I knew it could have been better. Again, a common conundrum with creators, but in this case, the lack of time really hurt my ability to clean the manuscript to perfection.

So word of advice? If you have a story that’s 80,000 words or more, it will take one month, (putting in full time job hours) to get through your novel. If you can’t afford to put in 30+ hours a week into editing, then you’re going to need at least 3 months to get through one editing pass. Sound like a long time? It is, and it’s something I wish I had known before I embarked on the editing process.

Final takeaway: Save your money; hire two different editors; one for content and one for proofreading. Make sure there is a very clear and constant line of communication; ask for updates; get updates; and keep yourself in the loop. If for any reason you are not communicating with your editor on a weekly basis, fire ‘em and find someone else. Get your money back of course, but honestly, you cannot work with a silent editor.

Once you’re done editing, then you’re ready to format your book for print and e-books.

Little did I know what a colossal headache that (bleep!) was going to be!

 

Stay tuned for part 3 of Creating Silver – formatting.

Wilmar Luna