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Writing: In Praise Of Editors – Unsung Superheroes Who Daily Save Authors From Themselves

Writing: In Praise of Editors – Unsung Superheroes Who Daily Save Authors from Themselves

No matter how well indie authors – and indeed any authors – polish their manuscripts before submitting them for professional editing, and regardless of how dazzling their prose, a good editor will always polish it further.

While most of the finishing touches of a final line edit will be simple, straightforward corrections to grammar, spelling and typos, there may also be errors of continuity or sense. This post includes examples of typical disaster that editors have averted at the eleventh hour in true superhero style, the reasons why their role is so important, and links to further useful posts for indie authors about editing self-published books.

image of heavily edited manuscript

All this self-editing, and my fab editor Alison Jack still found and fixed some foibles in my final ms

Classic Comic Writing Errors Spotted by Editors

Here are some classic errors recently shared on the ALLi Facebook forum, spotted either in authors' own books or in books by others (not all self-published), to alert you to similar slips in your own work-in-progress.

Continuity errors are too easy for an author to miss:

  • two unrelated characters sharing the same surname
  • eyes or hair spontaneously changing colour
  • a character's medication changing from one chapter to the next
  • someone at the theatre sitting in mid-air (in the front row of the circle, they leaned forward to tap the person in front on the shoulder)
  • a character entering a flat twice without leaving in the meantime
  • landing at JFK before the flight has taken off from Heathrow (and in a different model of plane from the one in which the journey began)

Global search-and-replace can trigger disasters:

  • changing Carol's name to Barbara was fine until the carol singing scene
  • swapping ass for butt resulted in a case of embarrbuttment

There are also comical typos that a spellchecker will let through because the words are correctly typed, but the meaning is wrong in the context:

  • a bowel full of sauerkraut left on the balcony to ferment
  • a female character becoming enraptured by the scent of a man's colon
  • a trip on an udderless boat
  • the stoking of cats
  • an acute angel
  • the Suntan of Brunei

Serious Consequences (Bad Reviews) Averted by Editors

Author Geoffrey Ashe, in The Art of Writing Made Simple, in classifying readers into three different groups – the critical reader, the lazy reader who won't make an effort, and the one who has the eye for the comic or incongruous, and it's worth keeping all their viewpoints in mind while you're writing and self-editing.

But while an indulgent reader of the third kind might simply smile and move on, it's also very easy for him to post a scathing review sharing the humour of his findings. Such errors might also deter any kind of reader from buying your books in future.

So although this is a light-hearted post, the message is a serious one on the importance of the editor's role in helping you self-publish books to professional standards.

Other Kinds of Editing

But it's really just the tip of the iceberg. As author and editor Dan Holloway says, “It's really interesting reading what writers say on this topic – a vast majority of examples cited are (understandably, because they always make cracking punchlines) copy or proof issues, whereas if disaster is turning readers off, probably in 99% of cases the biggest disaster aversion is the wrangling over a deathly opening page – or most likely of all, refusing to let voicing inconsistency slide.”

And of course, line-editing is just one kind of editing. For a beginner's guide to the different kinds, to help you decide which is right for you, and for advice on improving your own self-editing (invaluable because it makes your editor's job easier and cheaper), we've added links to useful posts below.

Looking for a new editor for your self-published books? Check out the free ALLi Self-publishing Services Directory which lists tried-and-trusted editors among many other ALLi-approved service providers.

OVER TO YOU Like to share your best blooper with us – if you dare? We'd love to hear it!

For #ww, a new blog post in praise of the #editors who help us hone our #writing Click To Tweet




This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. Loved the comical typos and results of global search–“embarrbuttment” is a fantastic word, when you think about it. Maybe it should become part of our lexicon!

    Thanks for this great post….excellent information. AND my first belly laugh of the morning.

  2. This copy editor thanks you! I’ve edited numerous misspellings in my career, but the one that stands out in my mind is when an author took a stab at James Fenimore Cooper’s character Chingachgook. If I hadn’t been a huge fan of the movie “The Last of the Mohicans” (starring Daniel Day Lewis), I’m not sure I’d have figured out the author’s intent to this day. 🙂

  3. […] We’ve written a handy article that walks you through CreateSpace’s new barcode policy, helping you avoid what would otherwise have been a lot of pain and frustration – Production Tip for Self-publishing Print Books on CreateSpace: New Change of Barcode Policy. And Debbie Young takes some time to praise our good editors, we’d be lost without them – In Praise of Editors – Unsung Superheroes Who Daily Save Authors from Themselves […]

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