You are engrossed in a book happily reading along and then it happens—the wrong word, the misspelled word, a missing word—doesn’t matter your concentration is blown. Ok maybe it’s not that dire, but as you continue to read you find more errors and more errors until you get so distracted by errors in the text that you lose the point of the story.
Common word errors are a simple mistake, think about reading a story and all of a sudden there is a character you haven’t met throughout the entire story, yet he makes an appearance at the end. Or your favorite character is about to drive off of a cliff and then is suddenly making pancakes, how did that happen? Did you miss a dream sequence somewhere?
As an avid reader of all types of genres, nothing irritates me more than errors and inconsistencies in a story. I can suspend disbelief and follow an author through fantastical worlds with wild creatures, or tear up at the most unlikely couple finding their way to each other, listen as my heart races because there is a monster around the corner, or even taking a fictitious trip through historical events. However, nothing is more distracting or takes away from a story more than errors.
The publishing world is changing fast in a great way. Between self-publishing and small independent presses, it is easier than ever before for authors to get their stories into the hands of readers. The problem is, in the rush to publish sometimes editing is overlooked.
The need to edit is supremely important. I don’t just mean proofreading for spelling and punctuation. Editing for story consistencies, plot holes, even sentence structure is important and helps to make a better story for the readers. And really isn’t producing the best story possible and providing the readers something they will enjoy the goal of every author?
Working with a good editor helps you see things that you don’t even know are missing. When a writer writes, they really believe they are filling in all the details, but sometimes the details get lost. For instance maybe your character suddenly developed a nickname in the last fourth of the book. Where did that name come from or who is the character? Or maybe your character drives a blue car and suddenly the car is orange. An editor can pick up those details. Grammar and punctuation are very important, but an editor can help with so much more.
In addition to finding those pesky plot holes and typos, and editor can help to strengthen and tighten your story. An editor can look at the sentence structure itself and make suggestions. Maybe your protagonist and antagonist are locked in an epic battle for supremacy of the world yet every sentence has a passive voice because of your love of all things adverb. An editor can help by making suggestions to strengthen the wording and amp up the action in your story. Maybe you use the same word 150 times in your story, not only will an editor find that, they can help by making other suggestions while keeping your voice intact.
Now, being an editor of course I would advocate finding an outside editor to look at your work. Find someone you can work with, having a good relationship with them is essential. Editing is an important investment. However, if cost is an issue, then you must be diligent in your own editing. Read, reread, and absolutely, meticulously comb through every inch of your story. Don’t just accept spell check, dig deeper and find a friend who can help you see what you have missed. Editing can be a difficult process and you may feel as if it is taking away from writing, but the payoff is for your readers.
Editing is time consuming but worth every second. I totally understand the pull to rush a story to press. You finish writing a story, you’ve gone through it and now you are dying to SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD! Perfectly natural reaction, but do yourself and your readers a favor and give them the best story you can by making your story as good as you can through editing. When your readers leave a review you want to hear about how your story moved them, good or bad (hopefully in a good way), but you don’t want reviews full of readers pointing out mistakes. So keep writing and don’t forget to edit.
Margaret Colton is an author, editor of the anthology, Paying the Ferryman, and founder of ML Colton Editorial Services. You find her floating around the Charon Coin Press offices and haunting the hallways of Facebook.