The Importance of an Ed(itor)

So, here I am, dusting off the old blog. I’m going to endeavour to write regularly from now on. More poor blog was sitting sad and neglected in the corner of my writing life and, well, I feel bad. I was galvanised into caring for it again because I want to offer support to a unique individual. Ed Kendrick has supported me and my books for a long time. He’s one of those blokes I have no hesitation in describing as ‘a diamond’. I met him on Twitter and then finally in real life at the launch of The Judas Scar and he’s as lovely in person as he is online. I owe Ed an awful lot. He has offered unbridled support and encouragement of my writing. He has read review copies and been generous – over generous, on occasion – in his praise. Basically, I think he’s a star. But not just because of his willingness to shout about my books from the Twitter rooftops, but because he works full-time, has seven gorgeous children, a lovely wife, an encyclopaedic knowledge of film, and he’s also a very talented writer. He’s enviably self-motivated, too. He writes continually with an output that would make most writers feel queasy. Whilst waiting for an agent and publisher to discover his talents, he has also self-published two books. And they’re good. Really good. If you like science fiction, I think you should check them out. The second, Still Life (cracking cover, in my opinion!), came out last week, and, well, I want to shout about it. Not only to return the goodwill but also because I think this man has a great future ahead of him.

I asked him to guest blog about the importance of getting your self-published book in its very best state before releasing it into the public arena. Traditionally published authors have a team of people helping to get our books neat and tidy before they go out, and Ed now uses professionals to help him too. I think it’s wise. I know from experience that you can read a manuscript a hundred times and still miss the typos, the grammatical errors, and the continuity issues. A fresh pair of well-trained eyes is definitely advisable, as Ed explains here…

“You finished the book! It’s done! You are creativity personified! Awards, superstardom, and international bestseller status awaits! You’ll tell the chat show host all about it when you sit down in THAT chair!

Woah. Slow down. You’ve broken the back of the marathon, but the finish line is some way away still. See, the book you have needs work. It needs reading, and re-reading. Editing and re-editing. It needs even more love that you’ve already put into it and then it has to be read by someone other than you. Test readers, Beta readers, the invisible support network that give you the outsiders view on the work you have loved and nurtured.

Take it slow. Take it steady. Oh, and don’t forget the copy edit.

I followed the map and did everything I could to make my first book work, then, when the agents weren’t taking a nibble, I decided to self-publish. After all, fortune favours the bold! The thing is, I didn’t get a copy edit. I thought I’d read it so many times that I’d picked out all the mistakes. An extensive list of people had also taken a look too. Surely that was enough? Besides, a copy editor costs money. Money I didn’t have.

I published my first book and I felt a great sense of achievement and pride, but then I read the print edition and damn, mistakes! Mistakes everywhere! Panic hit me like a bucket full of fish, swung by The Rock. BAM! I tried to fix the mistakes, then spotted more, then more, and then more.

Arrgghhhh!

Somewhere along the way a lovely woman read my book and offered to copy edit it for free. I accepted. Once the corrections were made I republished and felt better. But still, the obvious spelling mistakes and grammatical oddities people had seen bothered me. It was like someone had posted a picture of me naked on-line and I waited for people to take the piss mercilessly.

They didn’t, but I did learn my lesson.

I use a copy editor for every book I complete now. I know that what I think, and what I think I’ve typed, are different. I also know that when I read back what I’ve written I am likely to read what I think I wrote and not always what I actually wrote. I know that spell check is good for small documents, but not for seventy five thousand word documents.

If you’re lucky then you may know a professor of English with time to spare, if so, fantastic! If not, then get an editor and get your work properly tidied before you publish or send to agents. Paid or free, get an editor. Not only will you have given your work the best possible chance of success, but if you do end up self-publishing, then you can do so with confidence.

A copy editor doesn’t have to cost the earth, but it will make you feel out of this world.”

Still Life by Edward Ian Kendrick

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