I am learning a few things about editing as I go, the most important being that it is never a waste of time to read something again. There's a reason publishers object to digital books being priced lower than print books. They both cost exactly the same amount to make in terms of time and expertise - and since digital books have to be formatted in a number of different ways for various platforms, they arguable cost even more.
I am finding the ideal number of read-throughs for a manuscript, after all content is ironed out and sentences are looking more or less as they ought, is three. This is why there are copyeditors, line editors, and proofreaders, and why each of them have a slightly different function. Each reading is a different exercise, using a different muscle of the brain. Each reading strips a new layer of errors away from the text, until it's (hopefully) perfect.
This is also why conscientious readers have a difficult time with self-published material. It is so often lacking one - or all - of the aforementioned editorial layers. And quite honestly, a good book deserves nothing less than a thorough scrub before publication. Good readers deserve it, too. As do good writers. In short, it's good for everyone and everything.
If I'm honest, though I'm quite particular about things, these editing layers are not my strong suit. I am better with content, as most people who have undergone extensive creative writing seminars and workshops are. But the wonderful thing about these types of editing is that you can learn them. You can learn to identify a run-on sentence, especially one that seriously disturbs the language of a paragraph. You can learn to notice when quotation marks are missing, or facing the wrong direction, or not remotely necessary. These are technical things, of which some creativity but not much is required to master.
One of the most significant pieces of advice I would give an aspiring writer would be to learn these things for themselves. Because a publisher will do them for you (or should), but an acquisitions editor should not be turned off by the lack of them at that first step in the game.
More importantly, though, knowing the rules of grammar, punctuation, and even formatting - all those technical things - will really help your writing to begin with. It's rather like knowing the rules of etiquette. When you first learn them, they might feel unnatural and hindering. But as you grow familiar with them, you learn that they are tools by which human interaction, conversation, daily life, is made more simple. They become the frame for other things.
And any artist will tell you that the frame of a piece is (almost) as important as the piece itself.
Posted by Molly Lewis at 11:21