Home « Forum « Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

The difference Between Editing and Proofreading

Chris Podhola
Updated:

This will probably be an exceptionally long post, so be patient and bear with me.

In simple terms, the difference between editing and proofreading is a matter of content. Proofreading is adding commas or taking them away, changing a semicolon to a period where appropriate, fixing a spelling error or correcting a homophone. It can be restructuring a sentence so that it flows better, making the meaning more clear. It can mean subtracting the word 'had', or 'that' if those words are unnecessary. It is bringing the final result to a fine polish.

Editing is deeper. Much deeper. It is altering the content of your work. It is going into a forest with a chain saw as opposed to bringing a pair of shears.

Many people are capable of proofreading, but true editors are much harder to come by and much more expensive when you find one (as CW will attest to).

This topic has come up quite a bit, which is why I'm starting this thread, but in order to understand it completely we have to dig deep. Otherwise, it will be dismissed, the way it has been every other time it has come up. In order to understand what it takes to do a true edit, we have to make sure we understand what becoming an author is.

A pen, paper and the desire to create, does not an author make

My favorite job of all time was as a carpenter. I didn't get hired to build homes, however (at least not in the traditional sense). I got hired to work for a company that built the walls for houses, apartments and condominiums inside of a manufacturing plant. Once the walls were built, they were shipped to the construction site and builders would stand them up and tie them together, thus shortening the time it took to build a house or condo by great amounts of time.

When I got hired to work at this plant, I immediately went out and bought the necessary tools. I bought steel toed work boots, a framing hammer, a belt, box cutter, framing square and everything else my new boss told me to buy. My first day of work, I entered the building, donned my gear and stood among all of the other employees at the plant.

Was I then a carpenter?

No. Of course not. I was a man who possessed the tools it took to become a carpenter. Eventually. I had a lot to learn. And eventually, through trial, error, guidance, many smashed thumbs, many nails shot into my hands from a nail gun, and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of building things, I did eventually get to the point that I considered myself a carpenter.

Most of us who have approached publishing and taken the dive into authorship all look at the idea of traditional publishing in the same way. We feel that the traditional publishers are too exclusive and many of us cite the instance of J. K. Rowling and how long it took her to get 'Harry Potter' published as our justification for skipping that route of publishing.

But let's be clear on something.

Traditional publishers are correct to filter out who they publish and who they don't publish. The publishing industry is harsh. If traditional publishers published everything that came through their doors, they'd be out of business in no time because not everybody who carries a hammer and wears a tool belt is a carpenter. That doesn't mean that they can't eventually learn to be one. It just means that it takes talent, time, knowledge, effort, focus, guidance and desire to learn your craft.

'Harry Potter wasn't rejected so many times because J. K. Rowling wasn't a good enough author, or because her prose wasn't up to snuff. It wasn't because her plot wasn't well developed or because her characters were cardboard, two dimensional and boring. 'Harry Potter' was rejected because the publishers that she submitted to all believed that there was no market for such a story. We all now know that they were wrong.

The 'Harry Potter' story does demonstrate that the traditional publishing industry has its flaws, but so does self publishing. In this era, we can publish anything we want to, regardless of its level of quality.

The good thing about the way that traditional publishers filter who is and who isn't published is that it used to force authors to bring themselves up to a certain skill level before they got their work into the market. Imagine yourself walking onto a plot of land, never before having built a house and having no idea how to do it properly but building one anyway. Even if your common sense was solid enough to get the end product to look like a house, could you really genuinely say that it met all of the necessary codes?

Of course not.

Furthermore, it's important to understand that learning to build a house without the guidance of others, whether that be through schooling, mentoring, or whatever approach you used to learn, would take much, much longer because you wouldn't know when you made mistakes until the wall you built fell down.

So what does all this have to do with editing.

It's the same principal. I've stated in the past that an author needs to learn to become an expert editor. The typical reply is, 'Or hire a free amateur editor'.

It's not the same.

No offense to the amateur editors out there. SOL is a wonderful site and one of the greatest benefits to using this site is that there are a lot of volunteer editors on it. Many of these editors are really good at what they do, but the biggest benefit that they tend to offer is that they are really good in a grammatical sense. Unfortunately, that isn't editing.

How does one become an expert editor?

The same way one becomes a carpenter. Sure, it is feasible to grab a hammer, a tool-belt and all of the other tools associated with building a house. It is possible to cut enough lumber, hammer enough pieces together, make enough mistakes on your own, to eventually learn how to become a really good carpenter. But getting help cuts your time down.

If you want to become an expert editor, you have to learn the craft of writing. You have to know it inside and out. You have to assess what your weakest points are, and then find resources to help you strengthen that portion of your skill.

I strongly suggest (as I have multiple times before) limiting yourself to novellas in the beginning. The reason I think this is a good idea is because it is so much easier to wrap your head around a shorter work than it is a behemoth. Get your hands on some books that teach things like plot, character development, dialog, scene, style etc. Study them and apply the things that you learn to the shorter stories that you are writing. Keep them below twenty thousands words to start. Force yourself to write these rough drafts and then make yourself utilize the new skills you are learning to edit these stories into something much more special than they were when you finished the rough draft. Do it over and over and over again. The beautiful thing about limiting yourself to novellas in the beginning, is that because they are small, you get new and fresh starts more often. You get new characters to work with that have new personalities and offer new editing challenges. Also, because you are self publishing, you get more opportunities to offer these works to readers at a much faster rate. Therefore, you can keep momentum and as you improve as an author, you will keep more interest in your work and develop momentum.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

I hate to ask dumb questions, but wouldn't this have fit better into the "Editors, Reviewers and Proofreaders" Forum? I understand you're trying to teach authors how to edit their own work, but the whole topic is editing, whoever does it.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

I don't believe that is realistic to be honest for one. For two, it sounds to me like you missed the point entirely. In order to become a skilled author, you must become a skilled editor. There is no way around it. You cannot ever become a carpenter without also being able to read a blue print, or have knowledge about what the building codes are. Expecting to be able to write a rough draft, and send it to and editor to turn it into a work of art is incredibly naive. It will never work. No matter how good your editor is, he will never write for you and you can't learn all of the aspects of writing without knowing what you did wrong in the rough draft.

awnlee jawking

@Chris Podhola

I partly disagree. Although there's some overlap in the skill set, writing and editing require different personalities and mindsets. The best editor in the world would probably not be a very good author. However, with publishers constantly looking to cut costs, authors are more and more having to learn editing skills or be prepared to hire them in.

It's in publishers' interests to be overly restrictive. They know they can put out absolute crap under the name 'James Patterson' and they'll make a huge profit, whereas a far better work from their 'unsolicited submissions' pile would require far more resources (marketing, for example) and might fail to make an impact with the public.

My understanding is that one of the main reasons 'Harry Potter' was rejected so many times was because JKR was a poor editor, and the first book took a lot of work pre-publication. As the series progressed and JKR assumed more editorial responsibility, the books became longer and sprawlier.

AJ

Switch Blayde

I'm confused. Are we talking about copy/line editors or content/structural editors?

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@awnlee jawking

I partly disagree. Although there's some overlap in the skill set, writing and editing require different personalities and mindsets.


I don't necessarily disagree that there is a different mindset, but once again, we are missing the point. The mindset of author versus editor is irrelevant. Here's why:

Over the past year, I have consulted with over 100 different beginning authors. I have read their manuscripts and provided them with pointers as to what should be done to their manuscripts to give them the best chances of success possible. Out of these more than 100 authors, I would conclude that only one of these manuscripts had any possible chance of being accepted by a traditional publisher. The rest of the manuscripts had too many flaws to ever even make it into the reading phase of any traditional publishing editor.

So I think my point stands. If you (like me and most of those who frequent this forum) want to become good enough to achieve that level of quality, how do you get there?

If your philosophy is that you can get there by writing enough rough drafts that you will one day get there, you are probably correct, but only if you live to be 180 years old. I'm sorry, but it just isn't that easy. Just like learning to become a carpenter, you have to do more than that. Writing rough drafts and sending them off to volunteer editors who don't know any more about writing than you do, will never help you. Even if you did happen to find a volunteer editor who had the knowledge to improve your prose, understood what great dialog looks like, had vast knowledge about scene, and description and all of the other things that it takes to write a wonderful manuscript, they would be foolish to invest that much time and energy into doing what you couldn't pull off in the first place. If they did (in my opinion) they would then deserve more of the authorship credit than you did.

If you haven't already read 'Stephen King's On Writing', I suggest you do so. He spends vast amounts of time helping authors understand how to edit. His book wasn't written with editors in mind, it was written with authors in mind and the reason he invests this time into teaching an author how to edit, is because it is vitally important for an author to have this skill. Like I said in the OP, if you can't or don't edit yourself, you might as well forget about ever having a novel that is any more than mildly interesting. Writing and authorship is about more than just talent. There is a very difficult skillset to it. If you don't master it, you'll never have much of an audience, self published, traditionally published ... it won't matter.

As far as your statement about J. K. Rowling and her ability to edit goes, I've never heard that (and I have read many articles about Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling), but even if what you are saying is true, it solidifies my point nicely. If she were a better editor, she would have gotten published easier.

Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

I'm confused. Are we talking about copy/line editors or content/structural editors?


I think the confusion here is when to employ an editor. The simple answer is, "Never do you write a rough draft to a manuscript and then ship it off to an editor." No matter what kind of editor we are talking about, whether copy edit, line edit or content or developmental editor. A rough draft is just that, a rough draft and at this point in your manuscript's development, it is not ready to be seen by an editor's eyes. (Historically, there are very few authors who could produce a rough draft that they didn't have to invest time editing before sending their work off to an editor).

Even if you are a very concise outliner. Once you have completed your manuscript, it still needs editing. You have two choices. You can pay thousands of dollars to hire someone to do a developmental edit on your manuscript, or you can do it yourself. I don't recommend paying someone to do this for you for at least two reasons. The first is that, unless you somehow have built an audience of three thousand paying customers (SOL readers don't count, because even if you get an average of ten thousand reads on SOL stories, less than a hundred or so will follow you and pay for your work outside of SOL). You need to have several thousand people lined up who will buy your book in order to cover the cost of a developmental editor.

The second reason is that you will learn more about the craft of writing through editing than you learn through writing rough drafts. You edit in a different mindset than you write. This mindset is more conducive to learning than the creative mindset that is used during the rough draft phase.

Crumbly Writer

@Chris Podhola

I don't believe that is realistic to be honest for one. For two, it sounds to me like you missed the point entirely. In order to become a skilled author, you must become a skilled editor.

And I think you missed my point entirely. In case you haven't visited there before, assuming you already know all the editing you'll ever need, most of the responses are from author, either responding to editor comments, or more likely posing questions to the editors on the forum. There's a lot of overlap between the groups, and I honestly think this discussion belongs in the appropriate group.

While stumbling across dozens of typos might frustrate or stymie readers, and cost future sales, I've never heard a reader comment "that was a beautifully edited book". Readers enjoy stories. Editing serves to remove roadblocks to that enjoyment, but I've never seen any direct correlation between editing services and sales.

At a certain level, you pretty much have no choice (but to hire an editor), but I suspect, for most authors, their time would be better spent learning to write, rather than learning a separate skill. After all, how many surgeons operate on themselves? How many psychiatrists analyze themselves? There's an ages long emphasis that people typically don't see their own problems. They might recognize an issue, but they don't have the distance required from their work to see it objectively. Suggesting that authors can 'do it all' it steering them down a dangerous path, by getting them to invest energy in an area unlikely to pay off as well as focusing on becoming better writers.

You and Switch may be editing gods, but I'm unconvinced this is sensible advice for where most beginning writers should invest their time and energy.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

There's a lot of overlap between the groups, and I honestly think this discussion belongs in the appropriate group.


This IS the appropriate group. I have no interest in trying to help editors become better editors. I would think that the better volunteer editors on SOL would offer tips to their peers to help increase the proficiency of the other volunteer editors.

At a certain level, you pretty much have no choice (but to hire an editor),


At a certain level, I agree. But here's the thing. I don't think I'm there yet. I may be writing about the idea of becoming 'an expert editor' but I don't consider myself at that level yet. I may talk about reaching a high enough quality level as an author to be able to have a manuscript accepted by a traditional publisher (even if you never plan to do that, having the skill to write one of that level of proficiency should be the goal).

Now there's no doubt in my mind that there are a few writers in this forum who are a little farther along in their development than I have reached. Switch is a possible candidate for that and possibly Ernest. (I'm not sure because I haven't been motivated to dig into anything they have written, but both of them seem very knowledgeable about the craft of writing.

My point of this thread is to drive the point home to authors that (a) there is a huge difference between proofreading and editing (so that they don't make the mistake of finishing their rough draft, editing for grammar, spelling etc. and then publishing their work without looking further into their work, looking for more in depth mistakes that they may have made). Grammar should only be focused on during their final polish. (b) that it takes more than just raw talent to be a writer. There is a skill set to writing that is as complicated and difficult to learn as any career choice they have made in the past. Just because you are intelligent, have read a lot of books, have a deep desire and love of writing, doesn't make you a 'writer' any more than wearing a tool-belt, hammer and framing square made me a carpenter when I first started building walls.

I've never heard a reader comment "that was a beautifully edited book".


Unfortunately, this statement leads me to believe that you have no idea what editing is. No matter how much or little a reader liked, disliked, was annoyed by (or wasn't), he/she would have no idea what the author went through while editing his manuscript.

but I suspect, for most authors, their time would be better spent learning to write


This statement leads me to believe that you read no more than a single sentence of what I write and then reply without ever reading the rest. AN AUTHOR CANNOT LEARN TO WRITE WITHOUT LEARNING TO EDIT! I don't know how to state this any clearer. The reason why most authors never sell more than fifty copies of their self published books is because they don't know what they are doing. I am trying to help them understand why they aren't progressing faster.

rather than learning a separate skill


It's not a separate skill. Saying that it is is the same thing as saying that a carpenter can become a master carpenter by building walls alone without ever learning to build eaves, stairs, porticos, rafters, read blueprints, estimate materials or any of the other things that master carpenters know. Being an author is the same thing. You can't learn to be a good one by writing rough drafts. You have to learn dialog, desription, scenes, plot, structure, POV and all of the other aspects of writing and, once again, the best way to do this and apply these other aspects is during the editing phase. During the rough draft, you should not be using the logical side of your brain at all. You should be completely engrossed in the creative mind. If you are not, you are doing it wrong.

There's an ages long emphasis that people typically don't see their own problems.


This makes sense when you are talking about grammatical flaws. That is not what I'm talking about. I also agree that when you do finally get to the point where paying additional professional editors (which you are skipping to (and I don't think this is a bad idea, I just don't think that it will pay for itself because you haven't developed a large enough audience yet)), makes more sense. The problem is that you aren't just relying on a professional editor to catch the things you missed. The problem is that you aren't catching any of the mistakes yourself in the first place. You are just letting someone else do all of the work for you and thus missing the opportunity to learn to find these things yourself, thus making you a better, more competent author.

Suggesting that authors can 'do it all' it steering them down a dangerous path, by getting them to invest energy in an area unlikely to pay off as well as focusing on becoming better writers.


I am not the inventor of this philosophy. This is standard industry practice that virtually any experienced and successful author will tell you. (although they may not use the words 'expert editor'. Maybe that is what is making people fall all over the place). Again I suggest, if you haven't read Stephen King's "On Writing', read it. He goes extensively into editing instruction. And again, I suggest that this book was not written for editors. It was written for writers.

richardshagrin
Updated:

From absolutely nowhere, with no expertise whatever, I would like to draw an analogy between writing and playing golf, and editing and being a golf caddie. Really skilled golfers use caddies in tournaments to do more than just carry their golf clubs. Caddies know the course and distances and the really good ones know their golfer and his skills and where a suggestion might be helpful. Getting the ball in the hole is still the golfer's job. Almost all caddies work for pay. There are exceptions, I had to pull my dad's golf club cart around the Army/Navy Country Club when I was a kid and that is about all I did but I was about 12 years old. I wasn't really a caddie. There are editors here on SOL that are really superior proofreaders or maybe not superior proofreaders. If they aren't getting paid, at least in ego boosting credit, they aren't really a professional.

Golfers have to practice playing golf, and hitting golf balls with various clubs to get better. Heinlein said, I read somewhere, it takes writing a million words before the good stuff comes. I don't know how many words an editor needs to review to become professional. At least golfers can tell how far a shot goes and how many shots it takes to play 18 holes of golf. Opinions vary on how great a particular manuscript is. How much you get paid for writing may be one way to keep score, but there is a lot of luck to getting that well known. On a SOL author basis, if your stories consistently score 8s and 9s or you wind up with stories on a top 50 list, or you get "enough" praise or at least comments from fans you may have arrived at PGA level as an author. It may be a little easier staying at the top as an author than as a golfer, its easier to type than to walk several miles with lots of money or ego riding on the next golf

swing(s). Golfers have a handicap system. I don't think writers do, unless maybe its reviews.

Chris Podhola

@richardshagrin

I'm not sure exactly what your analogy is eluding to, but if Heinlen said it took a million words before the good stuff comes out, I think he underestimated. 10 million maybe. 20 million seems about more like it.

Zom

@awnlee jawking

The best editor in the world would probably not be a very good author

I am with you AJ. They are two different mindsets. Maybe even a left right brain thing. Creativity always suffers from correctness; including neatness, readability, etc.

Chris Podhola

@awnlee jawking

The best editor in the world would probably not be a very good author.


You are making a presumption. If and when you talk to editors who are at the professional level, most of them are also authors.

Replies:   Zom
Zom

@Chris Podhola

most of them are also authors

But I suspect not very good ones. More lyrebirds than robins?

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Zom

But I suspect not very good ones. More lyrebirds than robins?


Most of the writers who publish 'aren't very good ones.' If you look at the market, 2% of the authors make 95% of the revenues. This becomes clearly evident when you consider that there are more than 500,000 published authors on Amazon and if you sell 20 books in one day (as I regularly do), you climb to the top 1000 authors over all of Amazon as listed in Author Central.

No disrespect intended here, but I think you are just making arguments to make arguments.

Replies:   Zom
Chris Podhola

Look...

I don't know what the reluctance is here. I have never once listened to an interview, read a book written by, or heard any successful author say that he doesn't edit for himself, making numerous passes, before sending his work off to an editor for further review. This is typical behavior (when you are talking about successful authors). As stated previously, my reasoning for starting this thread was because I keep seeing comments in other threads by authors talking about relying on copy editors to find and make improvements to their manuscripts.

This is a mistake because at this level (using volunteers) they don't have the skill level needed to edit a book at a developmental level, which is what every rough draft needs and is a skill that every author needs.

If an author isn't willing to put effort into learning his craft, I don't see how he/she can expect to excel and become successful. It is naive to believe that it will happen automatically. As with every other career choice a person can make, succeeding as an author takes hard work. If there are authors reading this who aren't willing to spill their blood, sweat and tears above and beyond the rough draft of their manuscript, I see no way for them ever to succeed.

Pleasant or not, these are just the facts of life.

Zom
Updated:

@Chris Podhola


No disrespect intended here, but I think you are just making arguments to make arguments.


None taken, but if you can't see the argument I am making then I should probably just stop.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

Since you're talking about a development editor rather than a copy editor, I'm not sure your argument holds. It's easier for an author to find and correct typos than find what a professional development editor would. It's one thing to spot a typo and quite another to realize your heroine isn't believable. In the author's head, she's very believable. That's why Beta Readers are so important (and development editors).

I took something different from what you're saying that has nothing to do with editing. A lot of people don't appreciate the skills it takes to compose a good story. They don't want to bother learning the craft of writing fiction. They believe if you have a good story to tell it doesn't matter how you tell it.

I think those are the skills you're referring to when you say an author needs editing skills. To go back to your carpenter analogy -- being able to hit a nail into wood does not make you a carpenter.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

I don't know how many words an editor needs to review to become professional.


All an editor needs to become a professional is someone willing to pay him for editing service. Amateur vs professional is about a paycheck, it has nothing to do with skill or expertise.

Parthenogenesis
Updated:

@Dominions Son

This discussion has wandered all over the place without anybody's directly identifying and addressing the issues. Writers and editors are, as AJ said, two different kinds of people with two different kinds of talents.

Forget about developmental editing. That doesn't apply to SOL authors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Developmental_editing

Copyediting and line editing are the same thing, no matter how someone tries to create meaningless distinctions between them.

But what you're really talking about here is self-editing. It behooves a writer to develop good self-editing skills, but that will never replace an external editor. You just can't edit or proofread your own work in the same way that somebody else can. You're way too close to it.

Proofreading really isn't applicable here either. That's just looking for obvious spelling errors and what have you. (Originally, it was comparing typeset galleys to original manuscripts to assure fidelity, but now authors are typesetters too.)

If you want to be a writer, learn how to write:

1. Have talent (Stephen King said that).

2. Master the mechanics. Take classes that will teach you how to arrange words, sentences, paragraphs, and punctuation.

3. Read, read, read.

4. Write, write, write.

5. Read, read, read.

6. Write, write, write.

If you want to be an editor, learn how to read.

1. Have talent.

2. Master the mechanics of your craft. Take classes that teach you how to read, how to derive meaning from writing, how to analyze writing, and how writing is structured.

3. Read, read, read.

Ultimately, an editor only offers suggestions to a writer. The writer has the final say in whether or not to accept the suggestions.

For SOL authors, the process would be

1. Write a first draft.

2. Apply self-editing and rewrite as necessary.

3. Only when you think your manuscript is ready for publication should you engage a professional editor.

If you can't afford a professional editor, find yourself a couple of trusted readers and alpha and beta readers. Critique groups are good, too, if you can find one that will accept SOL-type content. :-)

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Since you're talking about a development editor rather than a copy editor, I'm not sure your argument holds. It's easier for an author to find and correct typos than find what a professional development editor would. It's one thing to spot a typo and quite another to realize your heroine isn't believable. In the author's head, she's very believable. That's why Beta Readers are so important (and development editors).


My argument holds fine. I'm assuming that when you say 'professional developmental editor' that you are referring to an industry professional who serves at the level of a major publishing house (many of these folks hire their services out on the side to independents, but they are expensive).

Using myself as an example, I don't think I can developmental edit to the same degree or quality that one of these folks who edit for people like Stephen King, or James Patterson, or Anne Rice, could, but I don't necessarily have to.

To be more specific, here's what I do as an author. I write my rough draft to completion. Then I pull out an instructional book on a topic that I want to improve within my manuscript. For example's sake, let's say it's dialog. I sift through that instructional book and pull out five things that book teaches that I want to apply, so as not to overwhelm myself. I write those five key factors down regarding dialog and make sure I understand what the author of the instructional book wanted me to learn about those five factors. Then, I go through my manuscript and try to apply those lessons to it. After I have done that pass through the manuscript, I pick out a different instructional book on a different topic altogether, say plot, for example. I choose five factors from that book that I want to improve within my manuscript (to keep it simple and manageable) and I make sure I understand them before applying those things to my book.

I have never applied this method to my manuscripts without vastly improving the results. It is an exhilarating feeling to see the differences an author can make to his or her manuscript by applying this method. This is developing your work and learning to improve yourself in a practical manner. It is one thing to read a book, set it down and believe that reading it helped you. It usually does, but if you are anything like me, reading alone only makes minor differences in my mental abilities. Using this method, however, I am turning a potential lesson into an actual memory that I can retain.

While I think you grasped some of my message perfectly, the important thing that I hope other authors retain is that editing your manuscripts is the best way possible to learn the craft of writing. But when I say editing, I don't mean proofreading.

I have learned more using this method than anything else I have tried as an author.

Chris Podhola

@Dominions Son

All an editor needs to become a professional is someone willing to pay him for editing service. Amateur vs professional is about a paycheck, it has nothing to do with skill or expertise


I don't know what the others mean when they say professional, but what I mean is someone who works for a major publishing house, or who has some form of editing credentials.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Parthenogenesis


This discussion has wandered all over the place without anybody's directly identifying and addressing the issues. Writers and editors are, as AJ said, two different kinds of people with two different kinds of talents.

Forget about developmental editing. That doesn't apply to SOL authors.


This is the craziest thing I have ever heard. I mean no offense to SOL authors. I got my first real injection of belief in my ability to write through SOL, but I can tell you for a fact, that as I read stories published on SOL, that they all need developmental editing. This makes perfect sense, because this is a site filled with amateur authors, most of which are writing for their own pleasure. I am not knocking them, but to suggest that they don't need to develop themselves in their craft or their manuscripts, is preposterous. That's the same thing as saying that carpenter is automatically a carpenter after he builds his first house, or his second, or his third.

Copyediting and line editing are the same thing, no matter how someone tries to create meaningless distinctions between them.


Um... no.

Copyediting and line editing are different. Copy editing is for grammar, line editing is for style.


But what you're really talking about here is self-editing. It behooves a writer to develop good self-editing skills, but that will never replace an external editor. You just can't edit or proofread your own work in the same way that somebody else can. You're way too close to it.


Okay. This I can agree with. I'm not saying that an author shouldn't get help. All I'm saying is that he shouldn't get help until he has done everything that he can first.


Master the mechanics. Take classes that will teach you how to arrange words, sentences, paragraphs, and punctuation.


Taking classes isn't a bad idea. But what I suggest can be done on top of that to further your abilities even more.

Chris Podhola

@Zom

None taken, but if you can't see the argument I am making then I should probably just stop.


My apologies. I really don't understand what you are getting at. I don't see how you can point to an arbitrary person without identifying who it is, or what is bad about their writing and say that they aren't a good writer.

Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

I don't know what the others mean when they say professional, but what I mean is someone who works for a major publishing house, or who has some form of editing credentials.


Professional = (of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

That is the dictionary definition of professional

Having some form of editing credentials does not make you a professional editor if you aren't getting paid for editing.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Professional = (of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

That is the dictionary definition of professional

Having some form of editing credentials does not make you a professional editor if you aren't getting paid for editing.


Does everyone in this forum like to argue points that make no real difference within a conversation and are just points of argument centered around arguing alone?

In my previous statement I said, "someone who works for a major publishing house, OR who has some form of editing credentials."

Now I don't know what world you live on, but I don't believe anyone works for a major publishing house without receiving pay. They do get paid for their work and therefore fall within your dictionary definition of professional.

Furthermore, I would consider someone who is, for example, a professor for a major university who specializes in language arts someone who has credentials and could quite possibly be a good candidate to perform edits (depending on his previous experience). I think it's reasonable to say that even if they no longer edit for pay, it doesn't mean that they are not still qualified, if their previous experience (for pay or otherwise), made them an expert in the field.

Your arguments are incredibly narrow minded, sir.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

Furthermore, I would consider someone who is, for example, a professor for a major university who specializes in language arts someone who has credentials and could quite possibly be a good candidate to perform edits (depending on his previous experience). I think it's reasonable to say that even if they no longer edit for pay, it doesn't mean that they are not still qualified, if their previous experience (for pay or otherwise), made them an expert in the field.


Such a person would certainly be a expert, but they would not be a professional. Expertise does not make someone a professional and quite frankly there are many professionals who are not necessarily experts.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Dominions Son

Okay. I'll play this redundant game of semantics with you just for the sake of clarification.

In your previous comment, you defined professional as:

Professional = (of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.


Unfortunately, your definition is incomplete and is manufactured toward the goal of forwarding your narrow minded viewpoint, but is not the complete definition of the word 'professional'. The complete definition as state by Webster is:

Full Definition of PROFESSIONAL

1
a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession
b : engaged in one of the learned professions
c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession (2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace
2
a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs
b : having a particular profession as a permanent career
c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return
3
: following a line of conduct as though it were a profession

So when you look at the complete definition of the word professional, the possibilities of people who could fit into that definition are greatly expanded. Such as:

1
a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession

According this portion of the definition anyone who is, "of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession," could qualify as a professional.

Or how about:

b : engaged in one of the learned professions.

Hmmm. It doesn't mention pay here either.

Or even:

c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the TECHNICAL or ethical STANDARDS of a profession.

But none of this matters. If you find someone who has 'credentials' as I mentioned before and then offer to pay them to edit for you (according even to your limited definition of the word professional), they then become a professional.

It is my contention that whether or not they are actively engaged in editing for pay, that they retain the level of professional even after they stop receiving pay for editing. We do not stop calling the President of the United States 'President' after his term ends. He retains the title for eternity. I still consider Arnold Palmer a professional golfer, even though he can no longer qualify to golf on the pro tour and I consider anybody who has the knowledge and skill to edit at a professional level, a professional whether or not they currently are paid to edit. It is their level of knowledge and their abilities that matter, not their status of 'getting paid' to do so.

But none of this matters because it has absolutely no relevance to the main topic of this conversation.

Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

I'm assuming that when you say 'professional developmental editor' that you are referring to an industry professional who serves at the level of a major publishing house (many of these folks hire their services out on the side to independents, but they are expensive).


It was one of those profession editors working at a publishing company that changed the way I write. When I submitted my manuscript to the publisher, the editor responded with more than a simple rejection. She told me to "show don't tell" and not to "head-hop."

I had no idea what those terms meant. I asked my wife about the "show don't tell" (she has a masters in English Literature and Creative Writing). But I didn't understand her answer.

So I used Google and read everything I could on both topics. That led me to other topics. I didn't agree with some of what I read, but a lot of it was good. I prioritized the advice depending on who wrote it: 1) publishers and literary agents, 2) writing magazines, 3) traditionally published authors, 4) English professors, 5) everyone else. And I read two books on writing fiction, one very good.

I spent years learning. And I used this forum and another to ask questions and get opinions. And I used my novel as a working project. I must have rewritten it a dozen times. Once to convert telling to showing. Once, and the hardest, to correct the head-hopping. And other times to address flashbacks and the starting point (I ended up deleting the first 2 1/2 chapters and started with a completely different opening). It took years.

People on my old story site, ASSTR, and SOL, enjoyed my old, flawed stories. It was different in the "real" world of publishing. And since my target at the time was to be traditionally published, that's what drove me.

I will say one thing, though. I don't enjoy writing as much. It's more work now, especially the POV part. Head-hopping makes it so much easier. And I believe SOL readers prefer it. They want to be told everything about what every character is thinking. This is an assumption of mine, btw. And I hate generalizing.

Someday I'll try omniscient, but not today. It's not what the industry currently likes. And, as I said, that's what drives me.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

I share your pain when it comes to the joy of writing. Back in the days of write and publish, writing did seem to be a lot more fun. Although there are times when I feel very rewarded by making improvements to a finished rough draft. I get what your saying though.

I also point out that your goal of trying to get published traditionally has forced you to become a better writer. I would never want to go back to the days of traditional publishing being the only way to get something published, but at the same time, I can see how self-publishing may be getting in the way of maintaining higher standards in the industry. I have nothing against Hugh Howey. I think he probably deserves the success he enjoys, but I've read some of his stuff, and I don't see what the draw is. As a matter of fact, I see many flaws that would be fixed if the works in question went through the traditional process.

As to the head hopping. I could never stand that. Even before I started studying the craft of writing.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

I can see how self-publishing may be getting in the way of maintaining higher standards in the industry.


Not just self-publishing. Traditional publishing has cut expenses, some of them editors, so they expect the author to do the editing.

I have nothing against Hugh Howey. I think he probably deserves the success he enjoys, but I've read some of his stuff, and I don't see what the draw is. As a matter of fact, I see many flaws that would be fixed if the works in question went through the traditional process.


I'm going to take heat on this one, but I feel the same way about Stephen King. I have "The Green Mile" in hardcover. There's so much telling in it. And he cheats on POV by saying, "I found out later after reading the report..." I found the book boring, but that might have been because it was exactly like the movie. Also, I started reading another of his novels in the library but didn't check it out. It didn't engage me.

But I couldn't put "The Da Vinci Code" down even though the critics say Dan Brown can't write. I loved the book. But I hated "Lost Symbols" so it's not only the author but the story. It's both!

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

I'm going to take heat on this one, but I feel the same way about Stephen King. I have "The Green Mile" in hardcover. There's so much telling in it. And he cheats on POV by saying, "I found out later after reading the report..." I found the book boring, but that might have been because it was exactly like the movie. Also, I started reading another of his novels in the library but didn't check it out. It didn't engage me.


You won't take heat from me, even though Stephen King is my favorite author. That doesn't change the fact that I couldn't make myself read Gerald's Game, Thinner and a few other things he's written. There are some things written by some authors that are just not 'everybody's cup of tea'. Nothing wrong with that.

awnlee jawking

@Chris Podhola


I write my rough draft to completion. Then I pull out an instructional book on a topic that I want to improve within my manuscript. For example's sake, let's say it's dialog. I sift through that instructional book and pull out five things that book teaches that I want to apply, so as not to overwhelm myself. I write those five key factors down regarding dialog and make sure I understand what the author of the instructional book wanted me to learn about those five factors. Then, I go through my manuscript and try to apply those lessons to it.


To me that sounds like putting the cart before the horse. Why not study your five topics of choice before you start to write rather than afterwards, and aim to get it right first time? You seem to be artificially consigning authoring basics to the editing process.

AJ

Chris Podhola

@awnlee jawking

To me that sounds like putting the cart before the horse. Why not study your five topics of choice before you start to write rather than afterwards, and aim to get it right first time? You seem to be artificially consigning authoring basics to the editing process.


The answer to that is pretty simple. Before I write a novel (or novella), I don't know what a piece's weaknesses are. In other words, I am putting the horses before the cart.

I don't think I mentioned this before, but once I have written something, I let it cool off. Then I read it through once without stopping. Then, when I am ready to begin editing, I start with one category, choose a book that covers that category, and skim through it, asking myself how the different categories apply to my piece and whether or not the piece is strong or weak in those areas. I pick five and try to figure them out.

I should also note that I have studied the books before I try to apply them during the editing phase, but when I write, I abandon the logical side of my mind, which means that only the things that are deeply ingrained in my head are applied to my writing. The concepts that are vaguely familiar to me and that are not second nature, are not filtered in. I don't second guess myself when I write. I just write.

During the editing phase, I use the logical side of my brain. I have the topics I want to apply to my work written down, freshly studied and at the forefront of my mind and every time I used this method, I can read different passages of my book and see where my mistakes were.

I can't say whether or not these methods will work for others, but they work well for me. I have grown immensely as a writer over the past year. The difference is night and day.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Chris Podhola

@awnlee jawking

To me that sounds like putting the cart before the horse. Why not study your five topics of choice before you start to write rather than afterwards, and aim to get it right first time? You seem to be artificially consigning authoring basics to the editing process.


The more I thought about this comment, the more I realized how far off the mark it is.

In order to do things the way this comment suggests, you wouldn't just have to study five topics of choice, you would have to study thirty or possibly more. When I edit, I make five or six passes in the developmental phase of editing. In other words, I don't just apply five factors to my editing, I go through books that cover different topics and pull out five factors for each. Trying to keep the information for thirty different lessons in your head while writing a book is just plain unrealistic. Doing it my way, you only have to keep five things in your head at a time.

The other problem with this premise is that it suggests that you can learn to play basketball by reading books about basketball. You can't. You can learn theories or basketball plays, but until you get onto the basketball court and practice, it will all just be theory. The same thing applies to writing.

And again, you can try it AJ's way, keeping thirty writing lessons in your head while you try to sift through what happens in your story, but to me that would be like trying to carry all of your groceries in your hand while you are grocery shopping for your family. It's better to use a cart.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Chris Podhola

If that technique works for you, so be it. But in my opinion it should be far more effective to go on a writing course then write your novel rather than write your novel then go on a writing course.

It rather reminds me of a software project I didn't work on. The company wanted some software written yesterday so they assembled a software development team. The problem was the company didn't have much clue what they wanted the software to do. So the project manager was urging the programmers to write some code, any code, and after the company made its mind up, the code would be edited to do what the company wanted. (I politely declined the invitation to join the team and the project eventually collapsed without producing anything.)

AJ

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


If that technique works for you, so be it. But in my opinion it should be far more effective to go on a writing course then write your novel rather than write your novel then go on a writing course.


Well, I would never try to discourage anyone from taking a writing course. What I am suggesting is something that could be done on top of taking a writing course.

If you haven't taken a writing course before, I think that it is important to note that within a writing course, they do not spend the length of the course loading information into your brain and then at the end of it, ask you to write a masterpiece. What they do is give you one topic, teach you lessons about that topic, and then ask you to write something with that one topic in mind. They go through the course, one topic at a time until the course is finished.

It is possible to apply this principle to writing a novel or novella, but if you write your novel or novella with dialog in mind (for example), picking a few dialog keypoints, but what about all of the rest of aspects of telling a good story? Don't worry about them?

And your analogy doesn't really apply. I am not suggesting that a person write a story with no end result in mind as your analogy suggests. If you wanted to use a source code analogy, it would be more like writing a program to build a fantasy adventure world, and then realizing after all of the code was written, that the program didn't quite run efficiently, nor were the colors of the flora programmed with an appealing color scheme and then having to go back into the source code to correct the errors, but instead of going back in using your intellect alone, you use reference books to make sure that you get the code right.

I will also point out again, that every successful author I have listened to speak in regard to editing, say that they edit their work with multiple passes, first starting out making major changes, and working their way toward fine polishing. I have never heard an author say that they write a book and then send it off to their editors.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

To me that sounds like putting the cart before the horse. Why not study your five topics of choice before you start to write rather than afterwards, and aim to get it right first time? You seem to be artificially consigning authoring basics to the editing process.

The answer to that is pretty simple. Before I write a novel (or novella), I don't know what a piece's weaknesses are. In other words, I am putting the horses before the cart.


I'm with awnlee on this one.

I study how to write fiction. And then I apply those techniques when I write.

Since we're so fond of analogies, let's say I need to balance my checkbook. I can do it because I previously learned the rules for adding and subtracting. I don't review how to add and subtract each time prior to balancing the checkbook.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I'm with awnlee on this one.

I study how to write fiction. And then I apply those techniques when I write.


No offense, but according to some of your previous statements, no you don't.

According to what you said before (if I understood you correctly), you wrote a novel and when you thought it was ready, you submitted it to a publisher. You got the query back with a rejection and a note letting you know what the flaws of your book were, ie. telling versus showing and headhopping. You then studied what those things were and how to fix that problem with the book in question and went back and rewrote and revised your book. If I remember correctly, you said you rewrote/revised it multiple times.

What you are now saying is that you write your book(s) and then what? That's it? You submit them without further editing (with the exception of grammar and spelling etc.).

I don't get that this is your process at all. According to previous comments made by you, you are very much into editing vigorously.

The only difference between what you do and what I do (that I can see) is that I don't rely on my own knowledge alone when I edit. I don't go into my editing process believing that I am proficient as an author. In my opinion, if I had already mastered the craft of writing, I would be a bestselling author. I'm not. Not even close, so when I edit, I try to pick up a few pointers from someone who is a best seller, and apply the things they have to teach to my editing.

Let me ask it to you this way.

Let's say a beginning author came to you and asked you this question:

Switch, I have written a novel and I think it is a good story idea, but it didn't quite turn out as good as I wanted it to. I've asked a few people to read it and they agree that it's a good story idea, but they say that my characters are not believable, the dialog is boring and I head hop a lot. They say I don't describe my scenes very good and that my antagonist comes off as whiny sometimes.

What should I do, Switch? How do I fix my novel?

Would your answer then be to tell this new author what? Nothing? You would have no advice for this author?

So, you say edit it. Find the problems and fix them.

How? Where should this author start? What should they look for first. Clearly, it needs more attention than grammar, so a volunteer editor can't help them.

You could offer to fix it for them, but what does this author learn from that?

To tell the author it needs editing isn't specific enough. Saying that doesn't explain what editing is and it doesn't describe how to do it. Handing the author a book on dialog and saying, 'Here, go through this find five things that this book teaches and then go back through your novel and apply those five things to your novel,' at least give them something they can bite on. It gives some kind of direction that could be applied if that author so chose to.

If an authors goal is to write for fun and submit their work to a free site, relishing in the reads, and getting a high from the scores they receive, no big deal. I started that way and it was a helluva a lot of fun. An author doesn't have to strive to become better. They can just write to write. There's nothing wrong with that.

But what if an author wants to publish in the paid market? What if they do publish and their work doesn't sell very well. The average first title for a self published author doesn't sell more than fifty copies in its lifetime.

Why?

You can make all the excuses you want, but the truth is (a vast majority of the time) that the novel wasn't very good. The truth is that most first timers, second timers, and so on, aren't skilled enough to tell a story that is compelling enough to get readers to recommend it to their friends.

And like I've said before, you can study the craft of writing by reading books, but even if you study them, the lessons that a book teaches aren't retained very well that way. Most people don't retain more than a small percentage of what they read. On top of that, everything a person needs to know about writing cannot be found in one book. There are literally hundreds of thousands of books written about writing, all of them with a little bit different approach, all of them covering the many different aspects of writing. It is more information than one person can handle in a short period of time.

And I don't know about you, but I don't stop writing just because I have a new manual that helps me improve my writing. I don't wait for the time when I 'know what I'm doing'. I write every day. I do the best I can as I do, but when I finish, that doesn't stop me from wanting to improve the end result as much as I can.

What I suggest (whether you choose to try it yourself or not) is a way for people to increase the pace at which they learn. Taking lessons taught by someone who is successful and applying them directly into you work, by buying or borrowing books written to teach the craft of writing, is a pretty good idea. No matter how you slice it, the best way to learn is through the application of new writing techniques. That application is best applied with the logical mind, and the logical mind is where editing is done. I'm offering authors a way to use their logical minds to do what logical minds do.

If you have a better method, I'm all ears.

Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

According to what you said before (if I understood you correctly), you wrote a novel and when you thought it was ready, you submitted it to a publisher. You got the query back with a rejection and a note letting you know what the flaws of your book were, ie. telling versus showing and headhopping. You then studied what those things were and how to fix that problem with the book in question and went back and rewrote and revised your book. If I remember correctly, you said you rewrote/revised it multiple times.


Yep, that's what happened. And it happened because, at the time, I didn't know how to write fiction. Oh, I knew how to write sentences. I knew how to tell a story. But I didn't know the techniques for writing fiction.

So I studied up on those techniques and revised my novel with each new thing I learned. But now that I know those techniques, I don't repeat that process with each new story. I don't write a story with head-hopping and then go back and study POV and revise it (like I did with my novel). I, hopefully, don't head-hop as I'm writing because I now know what it is.

In the editing phase, I might catch mistakes and correct them. I know I'm not going to get it perfect the first time (or in my case, the even tenth time LOL).

Chris Podhola

@Chris Podhola

I also have an interesting challenge for you.

You used the analogy that you don't don't go back to study math every time you want to balance your check book.

Fine. Here's my challenge:

You mentioned previously that after your rejection you read two books about the craft of writing. One of them was good and the other wasn't.

So, I challenge you to rewrite the good book from memory without refreshing yourself in any way of the contents of that book. See how much of that book you could rewrite from memory.

According to your analogy, you could do so without much effort. So try it.

Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

Let's say a beginning author came to you and asked you this question:

Switch, I have written a novel and I think it is a good story idea, but it didn't quite turn out as good as I wanted it to. I've asked a few people to read it and they agree that it's a good story idea, but they say that my characters are not believable, the dialog is boring and I head hop a lot. They say I don't describe my scenes very good and that my antagonist comes off as whiny sometimes.

What should I do, Switch? How do I fix my novel?

Would your answer then be to tell this new author what? Nothing? You would have no advice for this author?

So, you say edit it. Find the problems and fix them.


No, I wouldn't tell him to go edit to fix his problems. I'd assume if he, for example, head-hops a lot, he doesn't understand POV. So I'd tell him to learn POV and then edit/correct/revise his story. But the example isn't realistic. If he knows he's head-hopping, why did he do it?

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Chris Podhola

o I studied up on those techniques and revised my novel with each new thing I learned. But now that I know those techniques, I don't repeat that process with each new story. I don't write a story with head-hopping and then go back and study POV and revise it (like I did with my novel). I, hopefully, don't head-hop as I'm writing because I now know what it is.


So you are now a best selling author who has nothing else to learn about writing? You can't be serious.

And there is so much more to writing a good novel than telling versus showing and head hopping.

Look, seriously. If you are now satisfied with where you are as an author and believe that you need no more instruction or skill, then I guess there isn't much more to discuss. If you're satisfied, you're satisfied. If that is the case, this discussion isn't directed toward you anyway, but to suggest that you know everything there is to know about writing is to demean the craft of writing. It's just not that easy.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

So, I challenge you to rewrite the good book from memory without refreshing yourself in any way of the contents of that book. See how much of that book you could rewrite from memory.


I can't do that. It's the concepts I learned. My job as an author is to apply those concepts to my writing.

If I feel I need a refresher on how to write omniscient, for example, I'll go back and read articles on the subject. But I'd do that before I started writing the omniscient story, not after it's written and then go back and correct it during the editing.

Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

So you are now a best selling author who has nothing else to learn about writing? You can't be serious.


I never said that. I'm always learning. Why are you being so combative?

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

No, I wouldn't tell him to go edit to fix his problems. I'd assume if he, for example, head-hops a lot, he doesn't understand POV. So I'd tell him to learn POV and then edit/correct/revise his story. But the example isn't realistic. If he knows he's head-hopping, why did he do it?


Saying that is like saying:

My friends mechanic told him his car won't start because his timing belt fell off. I don't understand why he doesn't fix it. The mechanic told him what was wrong with his car.

Uh... Because he doesn't know how.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

My friends mechanic told him his car won't start because his timing belt fell off. I don't understand why he doesn't fix it. The mechanic told him what was wrong with his car.

Uh... Because he doesn't know how.


Well, in your example, if he came to me and told me he head-hops and what should he do about it, I assumed you meant he recognized he was head-hopping. Now if someone told him he head-hopped and needed to fix it (like your mechanic example), that's what happened to me with the traditional publisher.

So I would do my best to teach him what head-hopping is and then have him go back and fix his story.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

I never said that. I'm always learning. Why are you being so combative?


It's great that you are always learning. I think you should and it isn't that I think my way is the only way. I just get frustrated when I read something that doesn't apply to a situation at all, used as if it makes perfect sense.

The checkbook analogy, for example. Writing is not like simple arithmetic. We learn basic math by the time we are 12. It takes a lifetime to learn to write proficiently and here I am trying to offer a way to help some people improve their rate of learning by applying the same principles that we use all throughout high school to learn, and it feels like the idea is being attacked.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

So I would do my best to teach him what head-hopping is and then have him go back and fix his story.


Which is great for the head hopping portion of the example, but what about the rest. All I'm saying is that you could tell him to go to the library, pick out different books that focus on the areas of his weakness, and apply five principles from each (one book at a time) until he felt like his book was up to snuff.

Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

and it feels like the idea is being attacked.


Not attacked. Questioned.

If it works for you, great! It's not the way I want to write. I don't want the pain I experienced with my novel to repeat itself over and over again. I don't want to do it wrong, read up on it, and then correct it. I want to do it right from the start.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

If it works for you, great! It's not the way I want to write. I don't want the pain I experienced with my novel to repeat itself over and over again. I don't want to do it wrong, read up on it, and then correct it. I want to do it right from the start.


I appreciate the fact that you're not attacking, so I will tone down my responses.

Define, right from the start?

I think that's what we all want. I have never went into a novel with the idea of anything less. But what does that mean?

The answer is huge. It's too large to grasp. That's my point. And even using my method, which I believe has vastly improved the finished product of my work, my finished product doesn't achieve 'right from the start'. Even after as much editing as I can put into it, I realize that my skill isn't today what I hope it to be a year from now.

I also don't see how you are correlating what I'm saying to 'experiencing the pain with your novel repeating itself over and over again.' What I'm suggesting wouldn't make you forget what you already know.

My premise is that no matter how much you have currently studied, you have forgotten more than you've remembered. So what I'm suggesting is that when you edit, objectively determine what your next novel's weaknesses are, and refresh your memory in regard to what your novel's weaknesses are before you edit.

It seems logical to me.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

you have forgotten more than you've remembered


This is what I don't agree with, and what my math example was supposed to represent.

I know the rules or principles or techniques -- whatever you want to call them -- of writing fiction. Where I grow as a writer is how I apply them. You learn that by reading and writing.

Now when I'm editing, I have certain red flags. Let's say I spot an adverb. I analyze it and decide what to do. I might want the adverb to remain. I might change the verb. I might do something else. But I don't go back to the articles I read on why adverbs are bad in fiction.

That doesn't mean a refresher isn't beneficial from time to time. But what you suggest is to write a story, then study a few techniques, and then go back to your story to see where those techniques apply. What if you reviewed 5 techniques and a sixth one was the major problem with your story? Would you recognize it as a problem even though you didn't review it first? Probably.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
awnlee jawking

@Chris Podhola

Don't the writing courses where you are give the students critiqued exercises to practise the material they cover?

I know we seem to be butting heads here but we're really not that far apart. I also make multiple passes through a first draft in order to bring it up to the best standard I feel I can achieve then, for a science fiction story, I pass it on to my advance readers for comments. But I try to do all my learning before (or occasionally during) the first draft.

AJ

Replies:   Chris Podhola
awnlee_jawking

@Chris Podhola


Switch, I have written a novel and I think it is a good story idea, but it didn't quite turn out as good as I wanted it to. I've asked a few people to read it and they agree that it's a good story idea, but they say that my characters are not believable, the dialog is boring and I head hop a lot. They say I don't describe my scenes very good and that my antagonist comes off as whiny sometimes.


Wow, you certainly went to town there! If there was a requirement to be supportive, I'd tell the author to shelve the novel and find a creative writing course in which they'll get some one-to-one mentoring. Otherwise I'd tell them not to give up their day job because it doesn't sound as though they're cut out to be an author.

Everyone may have a book in them, but it's not necessarily one that others else would want to read. Storytelling is an art more than a science and for every 'expert' who lays down a law for authors to follow, there's at least one other 'expert' with a contrary view.

To that end I think authors should beware of slavishly adhering to the current POV and show-don't-tell 'rules'. There are exceptions which work better when you break the rules.

AJ

Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

Now when I'm editing, I have certain red flags. Let's say I spot an adverb. I analyze it and decide what to do. I might want the adverb to remain. I might change the verb. I might do something else. But I don't go back to the articles I read on why adverbs are bad in fiction.


So you proofread, but don't worry about editing? Because what I'm talking about here is editing and not proofreading. I would expect that you would know what an adverb is and I'm not suggesting that you should go back and refresh yourself about what an adverb is. I don't think I ever said that one time.

Let's go back to the beginning for a second. You originally studied head hopping and telling because a publishing editor pointed out that those were the flaws most readily apparent to that particular editor at the time.

What are the most prominent flaws in your writing now? How do you identify them and address them now? That's what I hope we're talking about. When I analyze one of my stories, I try to figure out what the largest flaws are much in the same way that the editor did for you.

I do that by skimming through books on different topics and asking myself if my work is up to par within the each lesson of the book that I'm sifting through. These are books that I have already read, so it isn't like the lesson is foreign to me, but I don't try to pretend that I am a master of them either.

It's the same thing as taking a final exam at the end of a semester in school. You spend the whole quarter being taught different things and then at test time, you compare how well you retained the information. Usually, I score okay, but I always find things that I can improve and it is using this method that makes it apparent to me.

I also admit that my approach is extreme. I am very driven to improve myself because I rely on this as an income. I can't afford pussyfoot around. This is all I do all day long every day (minus the time I spend with my son).

And maybe this impression is off, but I keep getting the sense that even though you still study the craft (which is good) you approach your editing as if the content itself is up to snuff and the only mistakes you are making are with grammar. We all make grammatical mistakes for sure, but to assume that the other aspects of storytelling were done perfectly, and that the only mistakes you are capable of are grammatical, is never the case. If you don't look for them, however, you'll never find them.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Chris Podhola

@awnlee jawking

Don't the writing courses where you are give the students critiqued exercises to practise the material they cover?


Yes, which is my point. Where are your critiqued excercises when you write. I came up with this idea of applying the things I read to my writing because in every book I read that teaches the writing craft, they have exercises at the end of the chapter giving you practical practice methods to strengthen your skill. Sometimes they are writing exercises and sometimes they ask you to go back into something you have written and compare it to what they teach. It was during one of these exercises, that I went hmmm... You mean I can take something I've already written and use the lesson you're teaching here?

So I started doing that intentionally.

I'm not suggesting that you quit learning at any point. I read a little bit about writing every day. I try my best to apply things as I am going along, but I say this again for the hundredth time, if you are writing from the logical side of your brain, you are doing it wrong. That's what editing is for.

Chris Podhola

@awnlee_jawking

Wow, you certainly went to town there! If there was a requirement to be supportive, I'd tell the author to shelve the novel and find a creative writing course in which they'll get some one-to-one mentoring. Otherwise I'd tell them not to give up their day job because it doesn't sound as though they're cut out to be an author.


Really? You must be joking.

Seriously. At this level in the game, we have no right to tell anybody, " not to give up their day job because it doesn't sound as though they're cut out to be an author."

I mean, what is it you think makes you qualified to make that judgment? I mean, no offense, I haven't read anything Switch has written, but I have read things that you have written. Your writing isn't bad by any means, but I don't think it's so good that you can run around saying that.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

So you proofread, but don't worry about editing?


You didn't get what I meant by spotting an adverb in my story. It has nothing to do with proofreading. The adverb is spelled correctly and is grammatically correct.

But the adverb might be an indicator of "telling" as in "he said, angrily." So I would most likely change it to show his anger. That's not proofreading.

Or the adverb might indicate the use of a weak verb, as in "he ran quickly." So I might change "ran" to "dashed" or some other more descriptive verb. That's not proofreading.

Or I might just leave it there, as in "he said, slowly" where it made sense to use the adverb.

I was able to define those three situations without going back and reviewing the articles on the dangers of using adverbs in fiction. I just know it, as I know 2+2=4 when balancing my checkbook.

Or I could be editing and come across something where I say to myself, "Oops, the POV character wouldn't know that" and fix it. I wouldn't have to go back to the articles I read on POV. I already know the rules.

If it works for you, keep doing it. I'm not trying to convince you how to write or edit. It just wouldn't work for me.

I edit as I write. Most people say that's wrong. Editing will stifle your creativity so you have to leave that side of your brain behind while being creative. Well, that's not true for me. I'm very analytical so I never turn off that side of my brain. It's active while my creative side is working. I'm not telling you or anyone else to do that, but no one should tell me not to do it that way.

The point is, we are all different. What works for one person may or may not work for someone else. The forum should be used to present ideas, not try to convince someone it's the only way to do it. Or even the best way.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Switch Blayde

@awnlee_jawking

To that end I think authors should beware of slavishly adhering to the current POV and show-don't-tell 'rules'. There are exceptions which work better when you break the rules.


As long as you know the rules you're breaking. The problem is most amateur writers don't want to put the effort into the techniques and simply use the excuse that rules are made to be broken.

Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

but I don't think it's so good that you can run around saying that.


awnlee wasn't talking about you. He was talking about the writer in your example.

Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

You didn't get what I meant by spotting an adverb in my story. It has nothing to do with proofreading. The adverb is spelled correctly and is grammatically correct.


You got me there, it doesn't fall under the category of copy editing. It falls into the category of line editing. My apologies for the confusion.

But I guess I'm referring more to developmental editing than I am either line editing or copy editing, which has nothing to do with adverbs.

I've finally broke down and skimmed through some of your work. My question now is, what do you do when your dialog is only so so, within your stories? Or how about your character development? My first impressions of the story I went through was that these are both weaknesses for you?

So, how do you go about trying to improve those things?
What if these weaknesses still exist in your next story? You've finished your rough draft and it is time to edit? Do you leave them the way they are and hope for better results next time? Because obviously, as you've stated so many times in this thread, if you knew how to write more developed characters when you wrote the rough draft, you would have. The same thing with your dialog. It's not bad. I am not suggesting that, 'you should quit your day job,' but (in my opinion) I don't get the impression you fully understand what dialog is for (it's about more than letting your characters talk), or what the important factors are to keep in mind when writing dialog. (And I can see what you mean when you say you are analytical. That does come through in your dialog).

Please don't take that the wrong way. Your prose, in general, seems good. I didn't catch any telling or head hopping. Great. But what about the other elements of writing a good story. They are just as important.

I don't necessarily think that you 'have' to use my methods. As long as you've found the method that works best for you, I can't complain. I just haven't heard what that is from you yet.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

awnlee wasn't talking about you. He was talking about the writer in your example.


I know he wasn't referring to me, but that doesn't change my reaction. When someone comes to me asking for advice on how to improve their writing, I don't care how bad their writing is, I try to give them the best advice possible, because I know that when I first starting writing, it was flat out horrible! (I was twelve).

Replies:   awnlee_jawking
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Chris Podhola


So, how do you go about trying to improve those things?


What you see posted is old stuff and new stuff, mostly old stuff. Although you didn't see head-hopping, there's plenty of it in the old stuff.

I learn from my previous work. I learn from feedback. I learn from reading and analyzing how the author did it. I learn by writing.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

What you see posted is old stuff and new stuff, mostly old stuff. Although you didn't see head-hopping, there's plenty of it in the old stuff.


I sifted through until I found a piece written a little earlier this year. The last update was in July. It was a story called New Society, New Rules.

Certainly, I would agree that there is some progression from piece to piece, regardless of what your methods are. Feedback? That can be good, but unless the people giving you feedback are more advanced than you are (which, despite my criticisms, you are more advanced than most on SOL), you won't learn much that will thrust you forward. You can't depend on readers to offer feedback regarding the more advanced aspects of writing, because, unless they have went through some form of writing training (either self imposed or otherwise), they don't spot the flaws themselves. So, who are you getting your feedback from?

Analyzing other authors isn't bad either. I do that too and of course you have to write. But all of these things combined still leave holes. Big ones.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Chris Podhola

Ultimately, even though I've stated this too many times already, I feel like we've stomped this horse to China, the best way to learn is through editing.

You can choose not to believe it. You can choose not to apply it yourself. You can choose to believe whatever you want, because you live in a free society.

But in the end, you reap from the tree you plant.

Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

It was a story called New Society, New Rules.


That's my newest. It's definitely not in the "old stuff" category.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

It's definitely an interesting premise. I will put it on my reading list.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

It's definitely an interesting premise. I will put it on my reading list.


Let me know what you think. As I said, I learn from feedback.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

No problem.

Slutsinger
Updated:

@Chris Podhola

Hi. Thanks for the recommendation of On Writing. I am a good chunk of the way through it and am finding the advice quite useful, even if it does recommend Elements of Style. Even the best will be wrong about something:-) I also thank you for articulating the idea of focusing on novella length works initially. I'll admit that at the current time, I don't think I could coherently capture something bigger. Also, I'm finding the ability to play with different sets of characters, styles, point-of-view and the like very valuable. I suspect in a year or two I'll have a coherent opinion about how much of the editing process it makes sense to focus on as a writer. I certainly value improving my command of language. For one thing, I need to know what rules I'm breaking so I can evaluate whether breaking them is a good idea. Clearly structure and large-scale content issues are important to the writer as well. I'm unsure whether the focus writers take on those issues will be entirely the same as the editor's focus, but it seems very probable that spending hours considering and revising for structure and other aspects of editing will be critical. Regardless thanks for bringing up some interesting ideas and for sparking disagreement that was also thought-provoking.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Slutsinger

Hi. Thanks for the recommendation of On Writing. I am a good chunk of the way through it and am finding the advice quite useful, even if it does recommend Elements of Style.


Of course, Mr. King has learned a few useful things along the way, but I wouldn't totally discount 'Elements of Style.' They did forward the advice of 'omit needless words' which is good advice to follow and even though it is mixed with other advice which I don't agree with, I always have the option of cherry picking what I think is good from what I don't. So do you.

For some reason, many newer authors discount this idea. Everyone is so caught up in the idea of writing novels, that they toss novellas into the gutter. I have bumped into many authors who flat out stick their noses up at the idea. Personally, when it was recommended to me (not personally, it's one of the things King recommends in On writing), I found it refreshing, even though there are some aspects of writing novellas that are more difficult (ie. it forces you into getting to the point a little more quickly as opposed to dawdling around for pages at a time).

The advantages are that novellas are easier to grasp both during the rough draft phase and during the editing phase. In both phases, you need to be able to grasp things like mood, theme, character arc (to name a few) and it is important to keep your thumb on them. If you do follow the advice of getting a grip on novellas before you start trying to tackle novels, you will find yourself progressing through novels with more confidence and skill when you get to them.

The ironic thing is that without fail, every time I have a conversation with someone who lifts their nose at novellas, when I look at their current development as an author, I find that my theory is true. They aren't ready to tackle novels. Unfortunately, the technical skills needed to tell a compelling story aren't there.

I suspect in a year or two I'll have a coherent opinion about how much of the editing process it makes sense to focus on as a writer. I certainly value improving my command of language. For one thing, I need to know what rules I'm breaking so I can evaluate whether breaking them is a good idea.


The rule about knowing which rules to break before you can evaluate whether breaking them is a good idea, apply to more than just language itself. One of the points I tried to get across (I feel like I failed miserably) was that this same rule applies to editing itself. I also tried to get it across that true editing has little to do with language itself (although editing your language does come into play during later revisions).

For most newer authors, they approach editing the same way they approach a skunk, holding their noses and prodding at it to get it out from underneath their house. When they begin an edit they aren't sure how to get the rascal to stop invading the underside of their home. They go into editing with the best intentions, but unfortunately, they don't know what changes to make. The words they have written seem as good to them the second time around as they did the first. The problem is that they have made mistakes. They just don't know which sentences, paragraphs, scenes, character actions, or words, are wrong, and which ones are taking them down the right path. This is why I though my idea could be helpful. If you aren't sure what to edit, or how to approach editing in general, than it is best not to rely on your own knowledge. If you find yourself making your first editing pass, and you have only found a thousand words that need changing in a 100,000 word novel, you have probably missed most of your mistakes.

This isn't an issue if you follow my suggestions. Find a book on dialog, pick out a few key pointers from that book and apply them to your work. It is an effective method. It works, I assure you. If a newer author were to apply these methods, even one in the earliest stages of their development, they could easily bypass a majority of the self-publishing authors on Amazon in less than a year (as far as their skill level goes). Most of these authors follow the typical method of reading writing and consuming an occasional book on writing. This method lacks any real chance of success and slows the learning process down. If you think about it, this is not how we learn in school. I can't remember a single teacher who began a semester by saying, "read the textbook and I'll be back at the end of the year to give you your final exam." Yet, this is how most people approach learning to write. They read a book on how to write, get excited about writing and then try to write a book. I applaud their enthusiasm, but it isn't realistic.

Regardless thanks for bringing up some interesting ideas and for sparking disagreement that was also thought-provoking.


I know I let my frustrations pour through during these discussions. I guess I need to work on that, but I do get frustrated when someone argues against an idea but has no better alternative to offer.

I do appreciate the fact that there are people in this forum who still have an open mind and I thank you for voicing that.

richardshagrin

@Chris Podhola

For the people who don't have an open mind, this is an Against um.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@richardshagrin

For the people who don't have an open mind, this is an Against um.


Good point!

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Thank you, well spotted. Apologies for the ambiguity.

AJ

awnlee_jawking

@Chris Podhola


when I first starting writing, it was flat out horrible! (I was twelve).


At twelve, you still had most of your formal language education ahead of you. For an adult wannabe author, if they haven't grasped the basics from their school years, their best hope is to resume their education. That's why I suggested a creative writing course.

A local university runs a very good course. However most of the students simply don't have the storytelling ability to produce a commercial standard novel. For the tiny percentage who do, the tutors offer intensive one-to-one mentoring. A friend has just had her first novel published thanks to the help she received from her course professor.

AJ

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@awnlee_jawking

At twelve, you still had most of your formal language education ahead of you. For an adult wannabe author, if they haven't grasped the basics from their school years, their best hope is to resume their education. That's why I suggested a creative writing course.

A local university runs a very good course. However most of the students simply don't have the storytelling ability to produce a commercial standard novel. For the tiny percentage who do, the tutors offer intensive one-to-one mentoring. A friend has just had her first novel published thanks to the help she received from her course professor.


I guess I don't understand your point as it related to where we were at in the discussion before making this comment. I see no correlation between what you are saying now and what you said before.

Slutsinger

@Chris Podhola

I actually find the idea of find a few pointers and try applying them to your work compelling in writing as in many other areas of work. As a programmer when I'm trying to learn something new, I'll pick up a few aspects of that concept and arrange for a way to play with them in some code I'm writing. Then later I'll find a way to go back and evaluate it. I sort of expected writing to work the same way. For example I was struck by King's discussion of simile and other imagery concepts compelling as something I wanted to approach. I ended up doing a focused exercise on that and was pleased with several aspects of the results. I'll certainly add that to the list of things I edit for, but at the moment it was easier to focus on that in its own work than to integrate into something already in progress.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Slutsinger

It's nice to hear that someone else is applying the same principal to their writing and having good results. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Perv Otaku

Thread TL;DR, but I think that people reading stories at free online erotica/fanfiction/etc. sites or buying ebooks from self-publishing authors know what they are getting into. You have to lower your standards for the most part, sure, but the price tag is a lot less too.

That goes for anything on the web, really. Webcomics, simple flash games, blogs. Plenty is crap, plenty is worth the time after all.

My stories probably aren't up to the standards of a professional, I'm certain I could never write full length novels on the level of a professional, but neither would I ever claim to be anything more than an amateur writer just having fun with it. So I'll do my own proofreading and editing, and whatever comes out is what it is.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Perv Otaku

So I'll do my own proofreading and editing, and whatever comes out is what it is.


I fully support your reasoning here. When you are writing in the free market, you should focus on having fun with it (you should still be having fun in the paid market too, but the standards are much higher).

And the whole point of this thread is to encourage self-editing. Hiring editors (whether volunteer or paid) is always a plus. It is also always a mistake to do so before an author has given his piece it's due justice on the editing table. It is fine if you have an editor capable enough to offer content suggestions, but an author shouldn't rely solely on someone else's eyes to fix all of his content mistakes. No editor will ever understand an author's intent as well as the author does himself.

Back to Top