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 1/6

Authors have one challenge most artists outside of writing do not have.

Most artists, such as painters, do not need to worry about developing skills in the logical, analytical, fact-based side of the brain. Instead these artists work almost exclusively out of the holistic, feelings based, emotional side of the brain where the imagination and creativity blossom.

Unfortunately, for authors, the craft of writing requires using both sides of the brain with an emphasis on the left side of the brain’s organized, analytical, fact-based logic where editing skills hide.

Writing the rough draft of a book length manuscript is the easy part of an author’s work and mostly this work takes place in the right side of the brain.

For editing and revisions, authors must switch gears to the left side of the brain where these skills work. If those skills have not been developed, the author—as an artist—is crippled.

However, there is an option. Authors may hire someone (more on this later with links, but I want to be clear—I am NOT an editor for hire. I am an author and I do most of my own editing) and pay for the left-brain labor of editing/revisions unless the author is economically deprived.

For example, economically deprived authors should know there are rules that govern where commas go. In fact, there are thirty-three pages in The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference on how to properly use commas, and I use my copy of this 354 page book (designed for writers) often.

More examples: The dash [ — ] looks similar to the hyphen [ – ] but these two punctuation marks have different functions in a sentence, and the semi-colon has a different job than the colon (and I’m not talking about the colon that is the main part of the large intestine but the one that is a punctuation mark—they are both nouns and are spelled the same way).

Did you know there is a difference in meaning for on to and onto, and what does the dash [ — ] and the ellipses [ … ] have in common?

The odds are you do not know the answers to the previous question. Yet, the dash, if you have not heard, is “the most dramatic punctuation mark you can deploy within the interior of a sentence. Use it sparingly.”  Source: The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference

About this time, the author, as an artist, is complaining that he does not have time to mess with editing. Instead, she wants to write the next so-called great novel and has endless excuses why learning how to edit is not important when it comes to the creative process.

Wrong!

Writing, revising and editing are part and parcel of an author’s work, especially if she doesn’t have a contract with a traditional publisher that hires editors to do more than half the author’s job for him.

Moreover, the economically deprived author does not need editing skills equal to an anal-retentive grammarian with a photographic memory and instant recall that has memorized all 532 pages in the fourth course of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition textbook.

Since the average American reads at fifth-grade level, authors should not worry about a few grumpy perfectionists.

As you will discover by the end of this series of posts, all an author has to do is to write a book that does not distract an avid reader with too many mistakes—let’s say no more than one error every 10,000 words or if we are generous, one error every 5,000 words. If mistakes appear on every page, that may signal the death of a writing career before it has a chance to begin.

Continued August 7, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 2

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!”