I started out to write a quick post for Carla about her new book, The Glen, and found a post on her website that I couldn’t resist reblogging. So, two for one. Carla is giving away copies of her book to reviewers, and I can reblog a post that is near and dear to my heart. Score!
Only Idiots Edit Themselves
Trust me, I’ve been an idiot more than a few times. Indeed, it seems to have taken a two-by-four over the head to drum this fact into my thick skull: You can’t edit yourself. I’m an editor for Pete’s sake, and I’m able to edit what others write, missing nothing. So, why shouldn’t that same skill translate to my own prose?
The truth is you can look something over ten times and still miss the same mistakes. You can read and re-read, even aloud (and that certainly is advisable) something you have written and not catch mistakes because you are not truly reading what you have written. I kid you not. Very often, our mind inserts the correct word or spelling or phrase that on paper is simply not there. Check this out as an explanation of the kind of tricks of which our minds are capable: http://www.livescience.com/18392-reading-jumbled-words.html
Consider this as well, you are too close to the work. Let me repeat that,
YOU ARE TOO CLOSE TO THE WORK.
I know for me when I have pored over a chapter, and I mean pored like a gallon of paint poured, over and over, till I can practically read it from memory, I become blind as a radar-less bat to my own mistakes, misspellings, and grammatical errors. Bad, very bad from an editing standpoint. It’s essential that the piece you are editing be fresh and new to you. One thing that helps is to shove it in a drawer and not look at it for six months.
Funny story about that. After beginning my second novel, Back to the Glen, http://www.carlacoon.com/backtotheglen.html , it seemed we had family crisis after family crisis fully preventing me from continuing the novel. I’d written about one third of it, and it sat on my computer untouched for almost a year. (Please before you judge my commitment to writing, remind yourself I have eight kids.) My husband and I were traveling, and I brought my work with me in the car. I dusted off the file and began reading. After a few chapters, I decided to read aloud, letting my husband have a sneak preview of Book II. Soon, I was engrossed reading along and getting excited when I came to the chilling climax of a chapter where the main character was maimed in a particularly surprising and gruesome twist. My husband blurted out, “I can’t believe you did that to him!” and I gasped back, “Neither can I!”
You see, I had completely forgotten what I had written. We laughed and laughed over that. It was rather exciting, too, to read my own work as it were someone else’s. Incidentally, I was able to edit those chapters quite well and future edits by others found them nearly pristine. Just goes to show you how that distance from the work is key to editing. So if you can’t afford to wait six months to read your own material from a fresh perspective, it would be wise to consider having a professional or well-respected peer edit your work.
Incidentally, I fly without the safety net of an editor when I post on my blog. That is, I edit myself. Have fun finding typos.