Lynne Stringer – Author & Editor

Sometimes it’s hard to be both an author and an editor. And just because an author is also an editor doesn’t mean their manuscripts don’t need editing, a fact that often comes as a surprise to people.

For those of you who don’t know, in addition to being an author, I am also a professional editor. (To find out more go here.) This can be a challenge when it comes to enjoying books I read for fun, as my professional brain never turns off. When I read someone else’s work I usually start editing it in my head without even thinking about it. I regularly catch myself grumbling, ‘Well, that bit should have been cut!’ or ‘Plothole!’ or something equally critical. Fortunately, in most cases, this doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book, as most books I read in my leisure time have had a good edit somewhere along the line and the things I would have changed within their pages are largely the result of a difference of opinion, rather than any real problems.

Of course, in the world of the self-published book, there are exceptions to this rule. One book I read a few months ago was so bad I couldn’t even finish it. There were mistakes galore and plotholes everywhere. I always feel sad when I read books like that, because the premise that usually brings me to the book in the first place is a good one, and it’s a shame the author didn’t get the help they needed. It might have made all the difference.

And regardless of what anyone says, EVERY book needs a professional edit by someone other than the author. That’s because, even if you’re a professional editor, when it comes to your own work, you are simply too close to it to see any problems with it. I’ve found this myself and I’ve seen it in others as well. No matter how good their own personal editing might be, every author needs another industry professional to cast their objective eyes over their manuscript to make sure everything is correct.

Sometimes that can be difficult to deal with, both for newcomers and authors who are veterans of many years. Surely we’re the best at seeing problems in our own work, aren’t we? No. If you are an aspiring author, make sure you get a professional edit before you start sending your work around to publishers. You’ve no idea the difference it will make.

Are you an author? What have you learned from your editors along the way? Are you a reader? Do you have any horror stories of reading a book that obviously needed a good editor? Let me know in the comments at the bottom of the page.

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8 Responses

  1. You’re right about editing your own work as it’s too hard to be objective. First time book writers find it hard choosing an editor as they are new at it and it needs to be the right fit. The ideal editor for me would be someone whom has empathy for my story and can see the Christian perspective. In editing your own work as both writer and editor it must be hard with your personal blindspots and weaknesses that someone else would pick up but your bias makes you accustomed to your style of expression and so has inherent errors.

  2. Hi Lynne – I know what you mean about not being able to switch the editor brain off. I was reading a short story this morning and couldn’t help noticing the over-use of adverbs in the first two pages. Though I can forgive the author since it was written in the 1950s 🙂

    And I agree about not seeing the problems with your own work. As you know, I’m also an editor and a writer. I’m pretty confident at being able to pick up errors in my writing (e.g. spelling and grammar). But when you’ve lived with a story for a while, you just can’t see problems with the story arc and characters the way an objective person would. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Thanks Lynne. I, too have read the odd book that would have benefited greatly from a good edit. Personally, i don’t have enough room to tell you what I learned from the editing process for ‘Haldway to Justice’. I was assigned an editor by my publisher and my response to her introductory email was, ‘OMG, what on earth have I got myself into’. I hunkered down and started work realising that she was the expert and I the novice. By the time we had the final draft my thoughts were, ‘This manuscript is not going to remotely look like anything I’ve written’, but I was so wrong. She had done a brilliant job, teaching me to be a better writer. Enough said. I am asked by friends to take a look at their work sometimes and what I learned from Jacqui has been invaluable to me in guiding other writers. If I wS to give any up and coming writer any advice about having their book edited professionally, I would say go for it. Be guided by their expertise.

  4. I often find copyediting/proofreading glitches in my own work … usually after I’ve hit “publish” on a blog post or “submit” on a comment. Sometimes they are spellcheck errors (which changes “Narelle” to “Nacelle” for example, and also does odd things to my name – “kola”, anyone?

    I guess the other reason even editors need editors is that even if we can see the typos or other problems in our own work (e.g. around plot, pacing or characterisation), we don’t necessarily know how to fix them. Because if we did, surely we would have.

    1. Yes, I do my best editing after I’ve hit ‘send’ as well! And I have that kind of a problem with one of my manuscripts at the moment. I know it doesn’t work but I don’t know what to do to fix it. It’s not required at the moment, so it’s probably not a big deal, but it irks me.