Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the GraveTells website.
Toupée, Or Not To Pay?
(Hairpieces, Head-Hopping, and How To Head Off Literary Hara-kiri)
Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be part of this wonderful Indie-Pendence Week Blog Hop!
I’m Thomas Winship, author of Væmpires: Revolution and Væmpires: White Christmas. Both books are part of a new, ongoing vampire series that explores the question: what if vampires evolved?
Today, however, we’re going to explore a different question.
Toupée, or not to pay?
That is the question … whether referring to hairpieces for the bald … or editorial services for the writer.
Of course, while I would argue that the former is purely a matter of preference, the latter is a matter of life or death—an author’s professional life or death.
Now, this may seem melodramatic. Extreme, even. But it’s true. The quality of an author’s work can be diminished—to the point of insignificance, even—by an inferior finished product. Horrible covers aside, few things turn a reader off quicker than typos, grammatical errors, and shoddy formatting.
That’s why it is especially important that indie and self-pubbed authors have an editor. (For expediency’s sake, I’m going to refer to both as “indie authors” for the remainder of this piece.)
Can you imagine a traditionally published author releasing a novel that isn’t professionally edited?
Of course not.
Now, I realize that there are myriad reasons why an individual might be an indie author. Perhaps he/she grew tired of the stream of rejections ... or is a control freak ... or is into instant gratification. When push comes to shove (and I mean that in the figurative sense only—I would never condone violence, even upon those who send form rejection letters), the rationale behind being an indie author doesn’t matter.
Having an editor does.
The good news is that finding an editor is easier than ever! Any author that doesn’t know one simply needs to ask for recommendations via trusted social media connections. I guarantee it will lead to more than satisfactory results.
Authors, please, do not fall prey to the hubris of believing you can edit your own work.
I don’t care if you edit the work of others. I don’t care who gave you a +K about editing on Klout. I don’t care what your related Elance scores are. Hell, I don’t care if you hold an MFA from NYU.
Do you cut your own hair? Do men perform their own prostate exams? Do ladies … well, never mind.
You. Don’t. Edit. Your. Own. Work.
Get an editor. A professional editor. Not a friend, relative, or significant other.
Why not friends, relatives, or lovers?
Because they don’t possess the requisite skills. Because they can’t be objective ... and that means you can’t be objective.
Granted, these people can certainly be used to assess non-technical things like overall readability, flow, and feel, or even to—in a pinch—review early manuscript drafts, but before you publish any work, hire an editor.
It’ll be the best money you ever spend.
Wait a minute … what’s that? What if an author can’t afford an editor?
No, not Hogwarts—The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, created by the awesome JK Rowling—hogwash, which is slang for nonsense!
And it is nonsense to make excuses for not having an editor. After all, doesn’t an author pour his/her blood, sweat, and tears into a story?
Well, the time comes when money must be poured into it, as well.
The bottom line is this: if an author doesn’t spend money on editing, readers will probably be upset to find that they spent their money on that author. And they’ll tell others about it—in scathing reviews on Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, and other online communities.
The author might as well walk down a busy street with a “kick me” sign taped to his/her back.
Now, before I’m accused of beating a dead horse—which, I believe, ranks just ahead of sending automatic Twitter DM’s, but a distant second to responding to negative book reviews (on the Hierarchy of Unforgivable Offenses, of course)—I’m going to shift gears and talk about editing.
Editing is a multi-faceted endeavor. And—as is the case with many professions—there are more job titles and areas of specialization than I can shake a stick at (LOL a tribute to GraveTells’ own DVK).
Honestly, the labels are endless. Whether due to an actual need, an overblown sense of collective self-importance, or a desperate cry for validation, I don’t know. For instance, this article at about.com lists twenty-one types of editors/editing roles!
It seems like the only ones missing are WTF and EILF.
Anyway, I’m going to delete those twenty- …
Oh, for Pete’s sake (and the rest of the neophytes out there)!
WTF stands for Writer’s Technical Friend and EILF stands for Editor I’d Like To Friend.
Save that cussin’ for the erotica crowd.
Moving along. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to delete those twenty-one labels in favor of a simpler approach. I’ve seen it in a bunch of places, but for our purposes I’m giving credit to writer and editor Lillie Ammann. Lillie grouped an author’s editing process into three areas: content editing, copyediting, and proofreading.
Let’s take a brief look at all three.
1. According to Lillie, content editing (including developmental editing and substantive editing) involves revising or moving entire paragraphs or sentences, adding new material to fill in gaps and deleting original material that doesn’t work, and/or re-organizing and restructuring content to improve flow and clarity.
Here’s an example of content editing at work:
Væmpires: Revolution includes two types of vampires. The first type, a vampire, is similar to the traditional vampire—a creature that feeds on human blood and possesses enhanced abilities. The second type, a væmpire, is a vampire that has mutated into a warm-blooded creature that feeds on cold vampire blood.
My original notes, compiled over the past decade or so, included a semi-developed concept in which the væmpire mutation was the result of exposure to two different vaccinations or some other type of genetic manipulation.
In May 2010— when Væmpires: Revolution was only a first draft—Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) released the first installment of her amazing “Newsflesh” trilogy, Feed. In Grant’s world, a zombie apocalypse is triggered by human exposure to a cure for the common cold and a cure for cancer.
My editor’s comment: Obviously, your væmpire origins will no longer work, Tom. Come up with a new concept/angle.
2. According to Wikipedia, copyediting (including line editing) is work that improves the formatting, style, and accuracy of text. The "five Cs" summarize the copy editor's job: make the copy clear, correct, concise, complete, and consistent. Typically, copyediting involves correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.
Here’s an example of copyediting at work:
Væmpires: Revolution draft: The figures were a study in opposites. The girl’s presence failed to register in Daniel’s infrared vision while the væmpire radiated heat like a small furnace. The creature’s hulking form dwarfed the girl’s diminutive frame. The væmpire’s heartbeat was strong and steady while the girl’s was weak and flighty, reminding Daniel of a frightened bird. She was even dressed in an ill-fitting white dress of some type while her attacker wore the form-fitting black suit Daniel had grown tired of seeing.
My editor’s comment: Be aware that “while” is used three times as a connector in this paragraph.
Væmpires: Revolution: The figures were a study in opposites. The girl’s presence failed to register in Daniel’s infrared vision. The væmpire radiated heat like a small furnace. The creature’s hulking form dwarfed the girl’s diminutive frame. The væmpire’s heartbeat was strong and steady, but the girl’s was weak and flighty, reminding Daniel of a frightened bird. She was even dressed in an ill-fitting white dress of some type, while her attacker wore the formfitting black suit Daniel had grown tired of seeing.
3. Proofreading involves word-by-word and line-by-line checking of manuscript versions to verify that all corrections have been made and even to catch misspellings, grammatical errors, and other mistakes that slipped through the cracks.
I won’t bore you to tears with an example here, as it’s a pretty straightforward concept. Instead, I’ll move on to a final appeal.
Avoid head-hopping. Please.
Now, head-hopping shouldn’t be confused with head-chopping (which is distasteful, certainly, but quite necessary in some genres) or bed-hopping (which is distasteful, in some circles, but really just a matter of preference … like wearing a toupée). Head-hopping—which is distasteful in its own right—typically accomplishes little beyond confusing a reader, who doesn’t realize if the head-hopping is indicative of a writer’s lack of skill or representative of a writer’s fear of commitment.
Both of which, of course, represent forms of literary suicide.
In essence, hiring an editor can save your life. So, hire away.
Live long, prosper, and publish!