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Editing Fool

I’m an editing fool for the next several days… have The Gathering Dead to launch next week, followed by the novella Hackett’s War, and not long thereafter, the adventure novel Tribes. I used to hate editing with a passion, and avoided it at all costs. I was so lazy, I’d send out material to be read by my trusted inner circle without doing any prepwork beyond the cursory spell check. (And if that wasn’t pretty much automated, my laziness might have precluded even that small courtesy.)

The result? Well, I eventually burned out my readers. And that, amigos y amigas, is never a good thing.

So I did what any other self-respecting writer would do when faced with inglorious drudge work: I farmed it out.

I paid an editor about $5,000 to go through one of my manuscripts and make line-by-line edits. This editor wanted much, much more for that, but I stuck to my guns, thinking that five grand was legit. I got my line-by-line edits, slowly and after much prodding, but the editor didn’t do any so-called “developmental editing”; that is, he didn’t fix logic errors, story continuity errors, etc., etc.

So what I got in the end was a steaming pile of crap. Every word was spelled correctly and the grammar mechanics were sound, but it was still a pile of crap. Just one without spelling errors and dangling modifiers.

Five thousand bucks… for a glorified spell check.

Some of you will doubtless exclaim, “Five thousand bucks? This knob can spend five thousand bucks on editing?” Yep, it’s true, I could and I did. Looking back now, that was one of the dumbest “investments” I ever made. For $5,000, I could have ordered 384 pizzas and had enough left over for a Coke. I could have taken a vacation somewhere sunny and warm, and had a pretty good time. I could have used it as a down payment on a leased BMW. I could have given it to charity, or even just handed it over to Gene Simmons, who’s always on the prowl for more cash. (Though he does look suspiciously like Moammar Gaddafi these days.) I’m sorry to say I’m in the financial echelon where I can do stupid crap like that and not really regret it when I figure out I’ve been a dimwit with my cash.

Goes to show you, some people really do have more money than sense.

So now, I do my own editing. I fire up the computer, pop in some tunes (currently: Hellraiser II by Christopher Young, alternating with Lorne Balf’s material for the game Modern Warfare 2, and of course, the inimitable Jerry Goldsmith–Hollow Man and The Haunting, all of which make for some really great zombie writing/editing), and start editing away. It’s still dreary, unexciting work, but I have developed an appreciation for it. After all, this is my stuff. The only person who can consistently improve upon it is me, and if I have to do all the unglamorous scut work associated with putting out a novel to make it better, than I’d better get to it. Unedited manuscripts do not get better with age, and they most certainly don’t generate revenue sitting on a hard disk or thumb drive. And sending unedited stuff upsteam to try and make some dollars is almost as stupid as hiring someone else to do your editing for you.

Writing and editing go hand-in-hand, unless you’re one of those gifted souls who can write perfect prose right out of the gate. If this is you, then I salute you and wish you all the best. If you’re not one of those literary lions, then I feel your pain. Believe me.

But don’t give in to the temptations of others who proclaim they can make your work–and by extension, your life–significantly easier if you’ll pay them to do the heavy lifting. Those who can actually deliver on their promises (and they are out there) will ask for three times what I paid, and those who can’t will only make things worse. And you poorer.

So I’m editing. I don’t love it, but I no longer hate it. I hope the relationship between my writer self and my editor self will improve enough so the two personalities can at least have a civil discussion every now and then, but if not, I’ll continue to do what I have to do. Because if I let my readers down, I let myself down.

And no editor will ever take responsibility for that, no matter how much you’ve paid them.

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