Building a reputation as an author who’s worth reading doesn’t happen overnight. I continuously work at it, but there’s little point in going to all of that effort if I don’t have a quality product. I like to think that I can spin a good yarn, captivate my audience and create interesting, credible characters, but that’s as far as it goes.
I goof and make errors when writing. My spelling isn’t atrocious, but at times it can be most peculiar. You mean that isn’t how you spell it? Hmm, very odd. Then there’s punctuation and grammar: as hard as I try to get it right first time, second time, or even third time, there’ll always be something I’ve missed, or simply don’t know how it’s supposed to be professionally laid out. Of course, we also have those places in the manuscript where I’ve decided to swap a couple of paragraphs around, only to later discover that I didn’t cut and paste, I copied and pasted, resulting in two identical paragraphs creating a sandwich around another paragraph. It happens!
Do I notice these things? Of course not. I’m a writer. A wordsmith: my imagination alight with the creative process. That’s why I have an editor.
I’m very fortunate to have the most wonderful, brilliant and patient editor: Cindy Wyckoff. My publisher for the Jake Talbot Investigates series is Booktrope who are based in Seattle, and yes, my editor is American. When editing my first novel in the series, Visiting Lilly, we had to decide whether to maintain its Britishness, or change certain words for an American audience. After much discussion we decided to keep my very British Detective, Jake Talbot, in character, and only compromise on a few words or phrases which would have been confusing, and therefore interrupted a reader’s understanding and enjoyment of the story.
One example of Br English versus US English is that we call the end of a spent cigarette a dog-end, while Americans call it a butt. I was allowed to use dog-end, because in context it was easy enough for an American readership to work out what I was talking about.
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To the British a pot plant is an innocent flower in a pot on the windowsill; to an American it’s growing an illegal substance. Oops! Any self-respecting police officer should definitely not have one of those in his home. We opted for house plant. As you can see, this change in no way inhibits my creativity, but what it does do is avoid an American reader stopping short and questioning what the hell is going on.
Editing isn’t all about comma, comma, full-stop, semi-colon, question mark. To show you all of that part of the process would be tedious and turn this into an article on grammar and punctuation. The nudges, niggles and hiccups are what we smooth over – ironing we call it. We want the reader to have a silky ride, with no little bumps along the way.
Here’s an example of where I’d used the words procession and proceed very close to each other. It’s all become a bit poetic, so needed to be changed.
Believe it or not, editing is fun. Love your editor, love the process, and enjoy the ride. The more you put into it, the more pleasure your readers will gain when reading your book. Never forget that happy readers help build your fan-base.