Editing on a Shoestring Budget
I’m very excited to be able to say that I finished writing the final chapter of my next novel, The Dragon of Doughton Park, this week. I’m really happy with how it ended, and I can’t wait to see how folks react to what’s going on with Clifford Crane, the Red Wolf of Prophecy. It’s taken me about eight months to get to this point, but there’s still some work to do before Dragon can be published. Now comes the editing process.
My Facebook friend, Karen Dales, a professional editor and author of the not-half-bad Chosen Chronicles (I’ll throw in a brief plug for her books here, but that’s all. This blog is not about her; it’s about me!), has convinced me through a number of messages, Facebook postings, and blogs, that every book should be professionally edited. It would be pointless for me to argue with her about that, not only because she’s a woman, but because she’s right. I’m a voracious reader, and in my experience, nothing kills an otherwise great story than a poorly edited book. Sadly, (and this is a downside of the self-publishing revolution) there are plenty of poorly edited books out there. Someone with some degree of competence, someone other than the author, should look at that thing before it goes to print (or digital), please!
But what if you can’t afford a professional editor? I’ve checked around, and there are competent editors out there who charge reasonable fees for their services. That’s reasonable fees for people who actually have money. I don’t. Google “starving penniless writer.” Yeah, that’s my picture.
I am not without resources, however. I have something money can’t buy. I have friends who, for various reasons (no, it’s not that they adore me – yeah, that was my first assumption, too), have found themselves willing to offer their invaluable services as an “editing team,” to help insure that the stuff I publish isn’t complete crap.
The core of my team is formed by three individuals who bear blogging about. In the interests of anonymity, I’m not using any last names. I hope that’s enough to avoid any lawsuits. They are, in reverse order, Caren, one of my ex-wives, Patti, an ex-co-worker, and my know-it-all-friend, David.
All three of these folks share two common traits. One, they have a love of and healthy respect for the truth. Two, they have very little concern for my feelings. In the coming weeks, as the editing of The Dragon of Doughton Park proceeds, I’ll devote a section of my blog to each one of these special people.
So, here’s what one of my books goes through to get edited.
Before the book even gets to my “team,” there is an ongoing editing process while I’m writing the first draft. As I’m writing, I keep an outline, and by the end of the writing of the book, I have a document that summarizes the action of each chapter and scene. After I’ve written three or four chapters, I’ll go back and re-read everything I’ve written so far, checking for typos and factual inconsistencies against the outline, and re-writing anything that’s not working. The process is repeated over-and-over while I write and then one final time after the last chapter is written. I like to think the book has gone through a pretty good self-edit before it goes to my team.
When the first draft goes out to my team, it gets evaluated for pace and content and poured over for typos and anything that somebody doesn’t like. Each team member has a different way of going about it, and I’ll talk about that more later, but after they’ve torn apart my first draft, I go about re-writing for a second draft.
The second draft goes out to a number of beta readers. I have four or five lined up for Dragon already. I’d like to have at least ten. Beta readers are asked to complete a survey form. When all the survey forms are returned, I compile the results and decide if anything needs to be changed for the final draft.
The cool thing about this is, it only costs me the time. It worked pretty well for The Draculata Nest and I feel pretty good about applying it to The Dragon of Doughton Park. Of course, in the end, it is you, the reader, who will be the ultimate judge.
By the way, I’d love to get some feedback from anyone who has an opinion about the quality of my books’ editing. Please post a comment or shoot me an email. And, if anyone is interested in being a beta reader for Dragon, leave me a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.