Entering my third year as an indie, it is my responsibility to impart sage wisdom to the world. (Don’t blink, or you might miss it.) See the series introduction post for more on my saga. But for now, lesson #5 for 2012:
Editing can mean a dozen different things.
Indie artists go independent for a myriad of reasons. One reason to go indie is an obstinate sort of contempt for convention. Not all indies are this way, but many are. (Don’t look around the room. I’m looking at you.)
A little Dennis Hopper style anti-establishmentarianism can be a good thing. But not if it means we smoke so much of our own genius we end up writing a book about vintage hair clippings we’ve collected from barber shop floors, or we publish a novel containing nothing but hand gestures.
Thus enter the need for professional editing. But what exactly does professional editing look like? And how do we find the variety we need? First things first.
Editors are like dogs. There are so many stinking breeds and crossbreeds that finding the perfect one is next to impossible. The hunt is part disposition and part intuition and part utility. For us indie schmucks I suggest taking one look at the snooty breed catalogues that we’ll never be able to afford before heading down to the local pound.
But as luck would have it, the freelance editor pound is chocked full of perky editing types anxious to please. You won’t find the perfect end-all solution to elevate your writing to the annals of time, “But if you try sometimes well you might find you get what you need.” Next things next.
Who knew, but there are several forms of editing. The main three you will need to get started are: 1.) Creative editing 2.) content/line editing 3.) proof/copy editing. A well-trained editor might do them all or might specialize. The trick is to know what you are looking for and how to communicate it.
Creative Editing: This is the big picture stuff. It can take place before the first draft even starts, based on an outline. Maybe you like to write the beginning or the ending first. Maybe you finish the first draft in a flurry, but can’t figure out how to fix it. This is the stuff of the creative editor. Look for someone who understands story (story structure), has some training in classics and understands what you are wanting to accomplish.
Content editing: This is the sort of sentence by sentence, trench warfare editing to improve your craft. This editor needs to understand the technical aspects of the language. They need to know rules and yet be able to ascend above them. They need to know good when they see it, even if they haven’t seen your variety of good before. This sort of editing is usually the most expensive, but you might not need it for every manuscript (or for the entire manuscript) if you can apply the lessons more broadly. *warning: many writers are blind to their need for content editing. If you’ve never paid for it, you need it.
Copy editing: This is the finishing polish. This is the buffing that makes your baby presentable to the world. Skipping copy editing is like attending your own wedding in a suit coat or gown you found in the dumpster behind a bridal show. The result just makes everyone uncomfortable. Don’t do it.
($250 won’t get you great copy editing, but you can still find competent free-lancers trying to build clientele within this range. At $12 to $18 an hour some copy editors will be able to render a clean book length project in less than 20 hours. Remember there are things you can do to help them work faster, like not requiring them to show the changes they make.)
Know your needs, know you budget and then go out there and find the right team of editors for you. If you only have $500 for editing you still have options. Pay someone to content edit your opening ten pages. Apply their comments throughout the text and then pay someone to copy edit the whole thing before publication. In my humble opinion, cover design and editing are the two critical places to spend the money you have.
***Standard Disclaimer: There are 3 brands of Indie:
- an artist expressing him/herself for the pure joy of it
- an artist or idealist who wishes to express an emotion or idea to the world
- an artist/entrepreneur who wishes to make a living as a writer
An indie can be one, two or all three of these. But knowing the composition is critical. I am all three of the above, but first and foremost I have to be #3, or I won’t be able to continue doing #2 and #1 full-time. Not all of the above applies to someone seeking #1 or #2. Man, this is sounding scatological, isn’t it?