When I tell people I’m an editor and they know I also write, somehow they’re under the impression my own writing wouldn’t need editing. I can tell you that is false. Even an editor needs an editor. A person can learn to self-edit quite well. I’ve seen plenty of evidence supporting this in the manuscripts I’ve received, both as an editor for Musa Publishing and in my freelance capacity. I’ve had manuscripts that were pretty much grammatically clean except for the odd misspelling or occasional homophone confusion. Most of the work I had to do on those manuscripts concerned things like character development, suggesting rephrasing for flow or clarity, or perhaps dealing with continuity issues. I’ve also seen manuscripts that suggest the author either doesn’t have the first clue about self-editing, or they don’t even attempt it.
Editors who are also writers need an editor just as much as
any other writer. Sure, they may be good
at self-editing, but like any other writer, they’re also often too close to the
story to see certain things. For
example, motivation. What motivates this
character to do or say the things they do, or react a certain way? In my current manuscript I had an early scene
where two characters were interacting with each other. My beta made a comment along the lines of,
“She’s got a chip on her shoulder about something, doesn’t she?” That was a bit of a shock, because I hadn’t
intended for her to come across that way.
When I looked back at her interaction with the other character, I saw
what my beta meant. I knew why my
character was responding the way she was, but the readers wouldn’t. They didn’t know her yet, not like I did, and
it’s likely other readers would have perceived her the same way. I wanted her to come across as feisty (she is
a redhead, after all!), but it wasn’t working at that particular moment. Needless to say, I corrected the issue.
What does this have to do with mistakes I see in submissions? Everything.
My point is all writers make mistakes, even writers who happen to be
editors. Obviously, not every writer
makes the same types of mistakes, and not every writer makes the same number of
mistakes. Tomorrow I’m going to start
listing some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen in manuscripts. And yes, I’ve made these mistakes myself, but
I try to get rid of them during revisions.
Please note that while I have used examples from
actual manuscripts and submissions, including my own work, the examples are
kept as non-specific as possible to avoid embarrassing the author. (There are no quoted passages!) My goal is not to embarrass or ridicule
anyone. In the course of writing, we all
make mistakes that make us cringe when we’re called out on them. These mistakes do not in any way reflect on
the story as a whole, or on the quality of the entire manuscript. Writers learn from the mistakes and triumphs
of other writers, which is one of the reasons we’re encouraged to read all we
can. The examples I share are merely
intended to illustrate a point.