Have a project that needs editing? Don’t panic. Read this first..

A big thanks to author and editor, Steve Soderquist for his time in sharing several invaluable tips for writers of every kind.  Read his answers to the five questions I posed to him and then check out his book to help you with even more invaluable advice for your own manuscripts.

Steve Soderquist Author picture

  1. For most authors, the word ‘editing’ elicits a fight or flight pattern, most preferring to flee. Why did you bravely decide to tackle this field?

I believe everyone–not just writers–carry the burden of uncertainty when it comes to the English language. Writers tend to feel this more intensely as the pressure is high to produce written work that hopefully, folks will like. It’s important to note a well-written manuscript isn’t the same as a well-told story. The difference is, when the work is ‘clean’ and is as free of grammatical and punctuation errors as possible, it allows the reader and/or acquisition editor to see the story that much clearer. Average stories still sell, and at times very well, however, badly written stories are much rarer.

The reason I got into editing was my love of the language. I found I had an almost idiot savants understanding for the rules that govern English and for me, the hardest part was understanding why I understood what I did. I say ‘almost,’ as no one is born with the ability to know what a dangling participle means or why two of them shouldn’t be back-to-back, but when I look at it, (and many other rules) they seem to jump out at me, and my fingers do the rest when correcting. This didn’t come to me when I attended school, but much later in life. In my high school years, I got below-average marks in English, but loved to read. As a fact, the first few times I even attempted to write short stories were a complete mess. The actual ‘when’ it all came together is a bit fuzzy, but I remember having an urge to learn what made English tick, and soon found myself devouring every rule and grammar book from William Strunk and E.B. White’s ‘The Elements of Style’ to Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ I was fascinated with the way words, in certain positions in a sentence, could change the very tone and inflection of the meaning of that sentence, and thus, the story itself. Most writers tackle manuscripts in a linear time-frame, and I spent a large part of my learning time studying the nuances of reflection in the prose and tense as the feature. I began to understand that while we live in a linear world, our minds are forever moving either backward in reflection or forward in expectation. This enables me to help a writer greatly in rounding out their characters in situations when things get perhaps wooden, or boring, or lost, or a combination of those and many others. The bottom line is, I edit because every manuscript to me is a puzzle, and helping a writer achieve the best of their story is extremely pleasurable.

2. What is the hardest part about editing a manuscript?

I would have to say the tedious act of correcting easy-to-know punctuation rules. Every writer should have a strong grasp of basic English 101, and if not, take the time to study and learn. As I mentioned, proper English isn’t something anyone is born with, it’s a skill that needs to be honed. The basic elements need to be in place if a writer ever hopes to be published by a traditional publishing company, and if independently publishing, I always hope the author did their due diligence before uploading their files. I won’t go into all, or even a few of the basics, but do note that when they aren’t there, they stick out like a sore thumb to the reader. One doesn’t have to hold a degree in English to know when something is off. We spent our whole lives reading as we grow up, and most of what we’ve read has been properly proofed and edited, especially if it was for sale. We get used to reading correctly, so when it isn’t, even though a reader may not know that comma should be there in that compound sentence, you can bet a paycheck it will still read wrong to him or her.

3. Most publishers require authors to ‘tighten up their manuscript’ by doing their own self-editing.  With this in mind, what would you recommend a new author do first?

Read it out loud. Nothing will help a writer catch their own mistakes in a more clear and definitive way than simply doing this. Check for inconsistencies in time-lines, plot-holes, names, dates; avoid the deus ex machina whenever possible, and research, research, research! We live in a world that has Google now, so there is never a reason for the alerion of an airplane to ever be called, ‘that flappy-thingy.’
I’ve told many writers and still do, “Edit until you just about hate the thing.” Also, ironically, don’t fully trust an editor to catch every mistake. I mean that, too. We’re human, just like you, and we make mistakes. The difference is, that’s your name on the cover…not the editor. So when you get that final copy back to read over, actually read it, don’t just blow through it. Once it’s in print or ebook, whether you pull it back to make corrections or not, (which looks very unprofessional) those initial copies are still out there. Be diligent, patient and get the job done right the first time.

4. What is one ‘rule of thumb’ to always remember when editing?

Never assume you’re right if you feel that little tickle in the back of your mind that something is off. Double-check it for accuracy and correctness.

5. What is the most common editing blunder you’ve found when editing an author’s work?

That’s a good question but hard to pin down, as every writer has their own unique style and flow of writing. Each manuscript I’ve worked on is as individual as the writer themselves. No two have ever been alike. All that being said, the most common error I run into is punctuation, such as putting a period at the end of a terminal sentence in dialog that proceeds an incomplete past participle, as in:
“We have to leave now.” Jane said.

I won’t go into a lesson, but if you read that sentence and don’t see a problem, please go over the basics of English.

Thanks for the opportunity to share! My email is always open, and I hope to see all of you out there in print. Stay upbeat and focused!

Peace

Where to find me:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/steve.soderquist.3
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SteveSoderquistAuthor/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/stevesoderquist
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6626657.Steve_Soderquist
Google+: https://plus.google.com/116546158818053309346
Twitter: https://twitter.com/skirascal – @skirascal
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevesoderquist/
Email: https://steves@foundationsbooks.net
Website: http://www.SteveSoderquist.com/
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV55b1YWTrqw5ihuBMBfcnw
Foundations: https://www.FoundationsBooks.net
For my book, ‘Practical Tips for Every Author,’ please visit:

Steve Soderquist_Book Cover

 

 

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