January 05, 2014

Edit Me, Big Boy!

You might know that I've written and self-published two books. One is a murder mystery written for an adult audience ("Damage"). The other is a paranormal adventure for middle-grade kids ("The Psi Squad").

Well, I finally finished the first draft of the second book in the "Psi Squad" series and am set for the most rewarding part of the process -- edits and rewrites. Writing a book is like assembling a model with parts that fit roughly together, leaving bumpy bits and sharp edges. Editing and rewriting are like taking sandpaper and paint to that model to make it all smooth and pretty.

It's good to have a high opinion of your writing while you're writing it. After all, if you aren't excited about writing your book, you can't really expect anyone else to be excited about reading it. But you can't let it bring you down when, upon review of your completed first draft, you quickly begin to realize it isn't the masterpiece you hoped it would be.

The other night, for example, I read the opening chapter of the new Psi Squad book to my sons. I had already performed a quick and sloppy edit on chapter one and believed it to be in excellent condition. After reading it aloud -- one of the best things anyone who writes anything from an epic novel to an off-hand Facebook post could ever do -- it became clear there were at least three harsh transitions and a moderate amount of unnecessary verbiage.

All this despite the fact my editor had already reviewed the material and assured me it was error-free. In fact, I believe the words "perfect" and "no mistakes" passed his lips several times. I know you're thinking "get a new editor," but that's easier said than done, since my editor is half of the twins that are my sons.

Noah (the Italian) is an avid reader and connoisseur of some of the finest literature ever to pass through a middle school library. According to the asinine Lexile system presently being thrust mercilessly down the throats of students in our school district, he is a sixth-grader who reads at a college freshman level. Mind you, he is still expected to show growth in his reading skills, which means he is required to consider reading books that fall within his lexile range such as those by Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy. Or, he can read a nice nonfiction book, like Stephen Hawking's "The Origin of the Universe." But I digress…

In short, Noah got the job of editing my manuscript for three reasons: Nepotism, No Cost, and Begging. (I should point out that he begged me to let him edit the book, not the other way around.) He pestered the living daylights out of me for months about wanting to edit the next Psi Squad book, although I suspect his motives were less of a helpful nature than they were selfish. He wanted to read the book before anyone else, most especially his twin brother.

His "editing" of the first few chapters magically required no red ink and resulted in not a single criticism. He found no typos, no grammatical mistakes, no incorrectly used character names, and no plot holes. This is what happens when you hire a drooling fan to do the job of a slash-and-burn critic. Fortunately, the errors I am finding while reading the book to the boys are easily rectified. Even better, the boys chuckle when they are supposed to and I haven't had to explain any parts of the book to them after the fact.

Now that I know better than to trust a twelve-year-old who loves me to edit my book, I can start searching for a proper editor. I wonder if my Mother would be interested?

© 2013 Mark Feggeler

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