Through the Eyes of an Editor

Before manuscripts morph into books, they go through several stages of development, which involves three or four different edits, depending on the work. If you’re new to the publishing world or you’ve never understood the editing process, I highly recommend watching this introductory video by the incredible Joanna Penn.

The first, and, for me, the most important, is developmental editing, which hones in on character development, scene structures, tone, mood, plot pacing, believability, and overall quality of the work.  Traditional houses have vetted editors for specific genres they use to polish the work like a newly minted coin. But indie authors are left to their own devices, sifting through editing websites, hoping to find some way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I believe this is why so many indie authors have little to no experience with developmental editing. Having a professional go through each scene, looking for ways to strengthen the storyline is expensive. Most indies end up going to a less experienced editor that isn’t as costly as a seasoned veteran. Either way, most self-pubbed writers often haven’t seen what a good content edit looks like, and so they can’t gauge if the feedback is worth the price they paid.

As the self-pub/indie crowd gets bigger, so does the problem of finding quality editors. Yes, there are great editors out there. But there are also people who say they’re excellent at story development with little to no education, training, or experience to support their claims. These typically aren’t shysters out to take an author’s money. They love books and stories, and they genuinely want to help, but they don’t know enough to know what they don’t know. In psychology, this cognitive bias is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect (click here if you’d like to know more).

Regardless, understanding what a good content edit looks like is critical to making a story as strong and engaging as it can be. And so I was so excited to run across editor Cate Hogan’s new video series, “Running the Gauntlet.” The program features the first draft of a manuscript, and Hogan gives us a glimpse of looking at the work through an editor’s eyes. In this video, the genre she critiques is a first-person distant narrative comedy sci-fi. Although this isn’t usually the type of book I’d pick off the shelf, I still enjoyed watching Cate’s thought process as she sifted through the opening scenes. Enjoy!

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