Guest Post: Suzan Lauder shares with us what inspired her newest blog post series.
I’m a reader more than I’m a writer. At any given point in time, I’m reading 7 or 8 books and stories, which tends to include at least one Jane Austen Fan Fiction novel (JAFF, the subgenre of Regency romance I write in), a Regency romance or literary fiction book, a couple of nonfiction books, and several serially-published JAFF stories on free online sites.
I also beta read, that is, I’m a free line editor for several authors for their unpublished works. That means I edit in the middle: not the plot, and I’m not a proofreader, but I try to help fix word use, sentence structure, redundancy, and continuity or point of view consistency. It’s a great way to hone your skills. Most of the authors I’ve worked with go on to use professional editors before publishing.
Betas are great, because an author doesn’t always see their own mistakes, and I am among those who is blind to the little errors I make. I knew this when I had my first book published, but didn’t know the breadth of editing until I actually worked with a professional. Sometimes, I can be a bit of a perfectionist. I was convinced Alias Thomas Bennet was in excellent shape when I submitted it to Meryton Press, and thought an editor could do little to improve my careful self-editing. Even with my overblown pride, I was wide open to any help my book could get. Wow, was I in for a big surprise!
I discovered the big and little changes that a truly professional editor can suggest to make a novel into a far better read for the audience, as well as many rules I didn’t know about grammar and punctuation. Since then, I’ve bought a number of reference books to help me to be a better self-editor and read up on rules that I wondered about. Any author can improve their work if they’re willing to learn. Just like you may to Photoshop or choose fonts, you can also learn to edit better.
After the experiences I had working with three professional editors, as a reader, I began to notice errors that could improve the reading experience. It’s not fair to charge for a book that needs editing, yet poor quality editing can be found in all sorts of books, including Big Publishing. Self-editing is hard, and even smart authors can have badly-edited books and the best of editors can miss the odd mistake!
Since it’s the author’s reputation that suffers the worst, I recommend to all authors that they do their homework, that is, ensure their editor is a professional, and a good one. All editors will offer a limited number of trial pages to see if they’re a fit. Make sure to take advantage of that, and try to have one or more peers review those sample edits so you know you’ll get your money’s worth.
Reading books with editing problems led me to believe that I could pass on some tips to authors who are interested in self-editing, all based on what I’ve had corrected in my work. The blog series is called Learning from my Mistakes.
I’ve already shared some “Rules” to help authors understand their role in creating a better work. I’ve developed check sheets for myself that will show up in later posts—free advice that it took me years to develop. In addition, I’ve suggested some books for those who want to go a step further. Besides those suggested, there are many other standby references, but they can be daunting.
I hope the information in the blog series makes common errors easier to understand for all my author friends. These tips have helped me to put out more polished, professional books—maybe there’s something helpful among them for you, too.