Line Editing Blues

Well, not blues actually, but that caught your attention, didn’t it?

One of my beta readers for the novel I’ve been working on exclusively this summer not only sent comments back but a line-edit of the manuscript as well. And here’s the lesson learned: No matter how great an editor you are (and I have thirty-plus years’ experience editing other people), you cannot use yourself as your final editor. This beta reader didn’t find many typos (my bane), but she did find overuse of words, overextended dialogue, and over-explaining. However, those incidents of “overage” weren’t pervasive, just here and there, and I can make those fixes, easy-peasy.

Her general comments as well were good, and here’s another lesson. There is one suggestion she made, with which, right now, I disagree. It’s the merest hint of a new relationship for one of the characters at the very end of the work, and since I’m a sucker for happy endings (I didn’t get one), I don’t want to cut that. Don’t get me wrong. I respect this writer’s opinion, but for now I’m leaving it as is (maybe a little editing to make it even more subtle, though). I am, however, open to cutting it completely based on additional feedback.

When you’re open to feedback from others, especially people whose writing you respect and admire, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how their comments/edits improve your work. When I saw this beta reader’s line-edits, I smacked my forehead so often I may have given myself a concussion. They were obvious, so why didn’t I see them?

Duh, because it’s my work, and don’t you know my words are all gems?

Except when they aren’t. That’s why we’re word-blind for our own stuff. You can edit and revise, revise and edit, and then someone else still points out something you need to fix. These aren’t “happy to glad” edits; they tighten the work, they make the story more tense and intense, and they improve the overall product. I am forever grateful, and she and the other beta readers will be high on the list in the Acknowledgement section of the published work. When this novel gets published (I’m being positive, here), I know it will be in large part because these fellow writers helped make it publishable.

So, Indie authors, the next time you decry the use of professional editing and/or the use of beta readers because you think they’ll ruin your stellar work, think again. Let’s open our minds to the possibility they can make a good work brilliant.

I live for your constructive comments.

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