Like a lover cast to the bed, your manuscript lays completed and satisfied, happily dreaming after-sex dreams whilst they tremble from the power of your lovemaking.
You did it, you sexed it up good and you deserve that cigarette break. You stand over it, proud of the things you have achieved and confident that you did good. ‘You did real good, son,’ says your dad from the corner of the room, where he has been watching taking pictures.
You wrote yourself a book, go you! The next step is editing and proofreading your work. Think of this as the after sex spot pick. Oh-ho my love, you have a juicy custard on the underside of your arse, I’ll get it for you.
This is the part where you put the chop on superfluous sentences or paragraphs, add more information to back up a claim and check for grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors. This is also the point where you think that, ‘Ah, maybe it would have more impact if I put the bit with Timmy getting eaten after the bit where his mum says she never loved him anyway.’
But now, here’s the tricky bit; just because you can write doesn’t mean you can edit.
‘But, wait,’ you cry, ‘what about my skillz, they are mad, yo. My body overflows with the power of tortured genius. I brim with talent. I shit gold plated glory!’
Well then, young fella-me-lad, you’ve got a world of hurt coming your way. You know that little voice in your head that tells you to kill the whores, that little voice you have to fight day in, day out to repress? Well, editing is like resisting the delicious whore-murder that voice promises.
No, just me? Oh, well.
Let’s start at the beginning.
You are shit at editing because…
… You think editing and proofreading are the same thing.
When you edit you have to focus on the structure of what you’ve written. This means the transition of paragraphs, overall coherence of tone and theme. Does Mrs Bumble-Snake actually say to Jenkins that thing about killing the whores or is that something you need to add in? Did you ever reveal what Harry’s big secret was, or is he staying in the closet with Ron for another few books?
Proofreading is more on stylistics matters such as spelling or punctuation errors, spacing and format. Don’t confuse yourself with these concepts. I’m currently reading a Catherine Cookson book and when each page hits me with another one thousand word paragraph I want to punch my cat in the face.
*Trust me when I say this, the little git has it coming. He thinks he’s so smart, just because he read Law at Oxford.*
…You edit before you read.
You need to know the story first. Read the whole thing before reducing or adding anything. This is also essential when editing other people’s work. You need to familiarize yourself first with the style and tone and what the story is about before you can make any changes. Is this a sexy romp through the fields of Kent, filled with fun and frolicking or is it a Noir post-modern look at how people cope with change? You might think you know this as the writer, but there will be times when you need to step back and look at it as a whole.
As you read through, you will notice word choices which may not be your normal style. Instead of immediately changing it, wait until you’ve read the whole thing.
…You don’t catch homophones.
I’m as guilty as anyone of this. In fact probably more so. ‘Their, there and they’re’ or ‘your and you’re’ are different from each other. Pay extra attention on homophones since the spell checker won’t even notice the difference. Keep in mind that the wrong use of a word will ruin your credibility. People will point and laugh at you. ‘Haha,’ they’ll say, ‘that smelly retard doesn’t know the difference between their and they’re.’ Then the only way you’ll be able to live with yourself is that sweet, sweet whore murder.
Sure, that gun can fire in sniper, semi-automatic, automatic modes and can have and underslung grenade launcher. The human body can totally bend that way. Kids don’t need all their bones. The patriarchy is a real thing you guys.
You should have done more research.
… You don’t kill your darlings.
But that bit there where he says ‘Avast’ is totally the best bit. I need it there, it completes me. Why can’t I keep it, it’s just another extension of my genius! You’re not my real dad, you don’t understand me!
Less is more. The important thing is that all paragraphs should support the main objective and anything that does not add up to the main objective should be removed. Even your fixation on toes.
…You trust Spell Check.
Ok, this is my big problem. I’m dyslexic up the arse and if there ain’t a red line under a word then, fuck it, that word stays put principally because I won’t know there is a problem. This is my most major of problems, alongside my love for sweet-sweet whore flesh. I know what I meant to write, therefore whatever is on the page is what I meant to write. Stands to reason. I know what I wrote so part of my brain just conforms what I expect to be there without actually looking at the words written down. Maybe it’s some aspect of my dyslexia?
On this note as well, fuck you auto correct. I’ve lost count of the amount of times someone has said, ‘why did you put ‘ducking’ here?’ Eat me you bastard, bastard, bastard thing.
…You trust yourself.
Like the filthy rat that you are, you lie to yourself. Yes, sir, you look good in her skin, and your flesh is much younger now you have wiped her faeces on it.
‘I read that bit already’ or ‘I know what I mean, so will everyone else’. This is why getting a second person to look over your work is so important. I have an alpha reader and a beta reader for all my stuff (apart from the blog, this is where you get to experience my brain in all its naked shit spattered glory). The alpha reader is the one that says ‘the fuck is this about teddy bears?’ whilst the beta is the one who picks up everything that they miss. Think of an editor like a sieve; they catch the shit you accidentally put in your work.
…You only do it once.
I’m a tortured genius, right. I have mad skillz, right. I can do this thing in one go, right. I can shit my pants, get it all cleaned up in one wipe and then go on to walk around in my nice clean, none shit smelling, trousers all day. Mad skillz, bruv.
At the end of the day, an editor is one part god and two part counsellor. You can try and do their job for them but at the end of the day you will still want to go out and kill the whores and feel the softness of their skin against your flesh. The editor can at least postpone you by giving you more work to do on your manuscript.