Great editors may be worth their weight in antimatter

Editing a book length manuscript is a vital part of the writing process, and a great editor—to some authors—may be worth the editor’s weight in antimatter (according to Wise Geek.org, antimatter is worth $1,750 Trillion US Dollars per ounce).

Wouldn’t you love to have an ounce of antimatter to sell? And don’t expect to make any money as an editor if you charge similar rates.

Anyway, this morning I read a post, My Advice to Aspiring Authors, by New York Times best-selling self-published author Hugh Howey, who said, “Invest in your book with editing and great cover art.”

That wasn’t all Howey said, but it reminded me of one of the greatest editors in publishing history, Max Perkins (1884 – 1947).  Back in the early 1980s when I was working toward an MFA in 20th century American lit and creative writing, I read and studied many of the great 20th century authors and discovered Max Perkins, who edited many of them.

Out of curiosity, I bought and read Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg, and before I started writing this post, I visited Amazon.com and discovered—to my, gasp, shock—this book has gone out of print.  Berg’s book isn’t even an e-book.

Hugh Howey touches on the topic of traditionally published books going out of print and says, “Working at a bookstore was a dream job but also a sad job. I saw how books sat spine-out on a shelf for six months, were returned, went out of print. That’s a narrow window in which to be discovered.”

By coincidence, I discovered another great editor in the Max Perkins tradition. Our daughter is a student at Stanford and that is why we get a print copy of the Stanford Magazine, a publication of the Stanford Alumni Association, mailed to us every two months. This issue was for March/April 2013.

The Einhorn Touch by Constance Casey introduced me to Amy Einhorn, who has her own imprint at G.P. Putnam’s Sons. After reading Casey’s piece in the magazine, I learned that Casey was a great editor, and many of her books are by first-time authors.

The debut author for her imprint was Kathryn Stockett, the author of “The Help”, a book that was rejected by 60 agents over three years. One rejection letter said, “There is not a market for this kind of tiring writing.”

“The Help” went on to sell more than 10 million copies and maybe you saw the movie that was nominated for four Academy Awards.

In fact, for one book that Einhorn rejected and a month later changed her mind about, she wrote the author a 17-page letter detailing the necessary changes and together the author and editor worked through four-major revisions. That book was “The Postmistress” by Sarah Blake.

Discover more about The Need to Edit

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The NEED to Edit – Part 5/6

Even though my editing process did not discover every mistake, my manuscripts were clean enough to be awarded the Editor’s Choice Award (4% of books published by iUniverse earned this award); the Publisher’s Choice Award (1%), and the highest score for grammar from two Writer’s Digest judges.

In addition, both of my first novels were reviewed by the Midwest Book Review that has a policy to reject books that do not measure up to industry standards.

Although my novels will not earn praise from most ARGs, editing the work myself, I saved thousands of dollars because I did not hire a freelance editor. In fact, if you read The Business of Editing: Killing Me Softly by Rich Adin, you would have discovered that hiring a freelance editor is not a guarantee that your work will be edited to the level of perfection demanded by most ARGs.

Instead, my first two novels were edited by me first, then by two English teachers followed by two authors that I worked with in a writing critique group (a total of five sets of eyes). Each of these individuals and the two editing programs I used found errors I missed with my flawed mortal eyes.

Remember, humans are not perfect, but most ARGs ignore this fact.

In addition, after all of that editing my novels went through, the work was still not ARG perfect because in 2011, a neighbor, who is not an ARG, read a copy of The Concubine Saga and found twelve mistakes in the 250,000 word manuscript. A few of those mistakes were an “I” that should have been a “me”; an “or” that should have been an “of”, and an “English” that should have said “England”.

However, to most devoted ARGs, errors of that sort are unacceptable and will claim the work is riddled with mistakes.

After final revisions to the plot, I edit the manuscript three times using only my eyes and brain, which are subject to imperfection since I have dyslexia. During this step in the editing process, I use Google as a fact and spell checker (for words I suspected might be spelled wrong). Google is the best spell checker I have used. To use Google, copy and paste the word from your manuscript into Google search. If wrong, Google will call up the correct spelling of the word almost every time. I also use Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, on-line dictionaries, and an on-line Thesaurus.

You may also want to check out Dr. Grammar at the University of Northern Iowa.

My next step in the editing process uses Serenity Software’s Editing program (highly recommended but it will force you to work) that discovers many mistakes I missed with my eyes. Last, I edit with Microsoft Word’s spelling-grammar editor that may find something at this stage of the editing process but usually doesn’t. Only then do I enlist help from others to edit the manuscript. Even after all that, there will still be a few mistakes, which is why I’m planning to hire a freelance editor for a final edit of my next novel after I finish editing using the process I have described.

I also have a shelf full of resource books (I just counted fourteen) such as The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference, and I use them all—some more than others.

As Amanda Hocking said in Part 3, editing is “exhausting”. The reason is because most authors do not work exclusively out of the left side of the brain.

Indeed, most authors do not have the editing skills of the legendary editor Maxwell Perkins, who was the editor of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe.

Instead, most authors may have editing skills closer to that of Thomas Wolfe who wrote longhand without the use of punctuation in addition to other mistakes that his editor, Perkins, fixed as he edited Wolfe’s work.

If you are interested in Perkins’ life, I recommend Max Perkins Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg, who won the National Book Award for this work in 1978. I highly recommend the book and found it to be a fascinating biography of an amazing editor. I read it in the early 80s while working toward an MFA.

Today, without Max Perkins to edit his work, Thomas Wolfe (1900 – 1938), the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and the author of Look Homeward, Angel, may have become an indie, self-published author bashed and criticized by that elite one percent that makes up the ARGs.

Continued August 11, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 6 or return to Part 4

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”