to edit or not to edit

Editors ... do we really need them?

I found the following article in the Killer Nashville Magazine the other day and I couldn’t resist sharing it. 


We Don’t Need Editors, Do We?
by Philip Demetry

“If you do a quick Google search on the benefits and costs of self-publishing versus a traditional route, you will most likely find one blog post after the other, one website after the other, claiming that self-publishing is the way to go. How many of those are in some form inserted into your feed by Amazon, no one can truly tell, but it would be foolish not to suspect the multi-billion-dollar corporation of consciously making their presence felt in the publishing industry. In fact, quite a lot of statistics are backing that claim up.
Some claim that the sea of digital self-publishing, having made publishing accessible regardless of quality, is causing traditional publishing houses to crumble. Indeed, this has been the case for some. Small publishers have drowned while larger ones have merged to form even greater giants to withstand the pressure. But will it work? Compared to Amazon even the merger between Penguin and Random House seems small.


So, what are authors to do? What are publishers to do? And more importantly, with traditional filters in the publishing industry overridden, are good stories to drown in seas of mediocrity? Many authors have sought out the aid of freelance editors. Over all of social media there seems to be an abundance of editors willing to giver your story a once-over for a fee. This leaves writers with the question of credibility. Without a publishing house, what credentials can a freelance editor boast to ensure their clients of their editorial prowess? It seems then, that whether you go the traditional route, get an agent, a publisher and a book deal, which only the very few will get, or you decide to self-publish, there can be no doubt that writing books for a living is a goal at the end of a long and arduous road.


It becomes then a philosophical question. The author must ask of themselves: “Why do I write? For whom am I writing?” It might be possible, at the end of your questioning, to arrive at the conclusion that you write primarily for your own benefit, that writing is an exercise in introspection at the end of which a story will emerge expressing that introspection in a way others might relate to. Yet, upon completing this goal a need will arise to share what you have created. It is within this spectrum between one’s personal joy of writing for the sake of writing, and a need to share stories with others, that a writer must find their peace.


Wherever you land on that spectrum beware of the work your ambition requires and measure it against what happiness you hope to gain from it.
A writer is nothing more or less than a storyteller. We do not concern ourselves with marketing, finance, or strategy in conceiving of our stories.
Motivations then, concerning fame, influence, and wealth will never enhance our chances of getting published successfully. The only thing that lies within our power is the ability to improve our writing. Train your writing skills.


You can read tips on querying till your face turns blue, but it will never amount to anything if the story isn’t there. Simultaneously self-publishing, with all it’s demands for a writer to be both author, marketer, and your own editor, may seem appealing. Yet it might be good to consider what influences has made you take this route. Has the Amazon giant gotten under your skin, luring you with their “up to” 70% in royalties on sales, with their alluring tag-lines “easy, clear, free?”
Consider things you’ve gotten for free. Has any of it ever come without a price? How much value is in the editorial process, which for a traditional publishing house usually takes a year or more? Can your story compete without it?” 


Now, in case we do wish to edit ourselves, here are some advises from Chris Banks & Lisa Lepki. 


“Whether you are writing a novel, essay, article, or email, good writing is an essential part of getting your readers to understand your ideas.
In this e-book, you will find the best tips and techniques from a wide range of professional writers. Some focus on the minutia of specific word selection; others focus on the more complex ideas like finding the right metaphor, policing your work for Purple Prose, or figuring out when it’s time to send it off to potential publishers.
Before you begin your first edit (and indeed all future edits), we recommend taking some time away from the text, so that when you come back to edit and redraft, you will be much more able to see what’s actually there rather than what you meant to get across.

When you are ready, focus on one tip at a time. Make one session just about “adverb eradication” and then go through as much of your text as you can on just that element.
Your brain will get in “strong verb” gear and it will get easier as you go along. If you try to cover every tip for every paragraph, it’s easy to lose focus. Too many writers have very strong beginnings followed by mediocre middles and terrible endings simply because they have run out of editing steam. Choose small bite-sized goals and go from top to bottom.
Remember that editing often takes as long or longer than writing, so be prepared to put the time in. We promise that you will not regret it. 


Using Adverbs

Adverbs are words that add color or emphasis to a verb. Compare these sentences:
• The barista made a cup of coffee.
• The barista grumpily made a cup of coffee.
The adverb “grumpily” offers an additional layer of understanding to the scene. But, as Stephen King famously said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Lazy writers tend to use adverbs to modify a weak verb instead of searching for a stronger verb. 
We certainly don’t suggest that you remove all adverbs; sometimes they will be exactly right for what you are trying to get across.
But adverbs tend to prop up weak verbs and so you should always ask yourself “Is there a stronger verb I can use here instead?”
In all three examples the strong verb paints a much more nuanced and compelling picture of the action. 

Weak verb: James ran to school. An alternative, weak verb + adverb: James ran quickly to school.
Strong verb: James sprinted to school.
Weak verb: Scarlett looked at Stan. An alternative, weak verb + adverb: Scarlett looked angrily at Stan.
Strong verb: Scarlett glared at Stan. 


If you can’t think of the right strong verb by looking at your weak verb in context, write it alone in the middle of a blank page and add as many variations as possible. It doesn’t matter if they are only tangentially related.
Write as many as you can think of and check back with your sentence.
If there’s a perfect fit, go for it! If not, consult a thesaurus: you now have lots of options to input rather than just the original weak verb. 


Avoid Sticky Sentences

Nobody likes it when gum gets stuck to their shoe. Likewise, nobody likes too many sticky sentences in writing.
A sticky sentence is one that is full of glue words. Glue words are used to make the essential pieces of the sentence stick together. They don’t carry much meaning in and of themselves, yet are still necessary to create a coherent sentence.
Working words, on the other hand, carry the load of most sentences. They convey meaning to the reader and contain essential information.
Every sentence has (and needs) glue words. But when you get too many in a sentence, the sentence becomes sticky. In practical terms, that means it’s difficult to read. You should aim to have less than 40% glue words in your sentences.
Some sentences might go over that mark, but that should only happen rarely and for a good reason. Check out this example: 

• STICKY: I went over to my friend’s house after school and then we just played basketball for a really long time.
Glue index: 61.9% 

• REWRITE: After school, I headed to my friend’s house and we played
basketball all afternoon.
Glue index: 33.3% 

 It’s up to us writers to rework our sentences to be the best they can be.
A sticky sentence here and there is usually fine, especially if there’s no other way to phrase your thought. A whole book full of them is another story.
Use your judgment. You’re the writer, so you have the final say. If you love your sentence despite its stickiness, keep it. If you decide it needs revision, revise it. 


creative writing

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