Why I hate Editing . . .

Kathryn Elizabeth Jones


I don’t know about you but I hate editing almost as much as I hate cleaning out the bathroom toilet, or cleaning the blinds, or scrubbing the inside of the refrigerator.


And though I realize that the best smelling bathrooms have been disinfected, and that my blinds look better when they are clean, and yes, my refrigerator even smells better after I’ve cleaned it, there’s just something about editing that I hate.

Maybe it’s the ‘priceless words’ that I must take out that don’t contribute to the plot.

Or maybe it’s the anxiousness I feeling getting my book ‘into print’.

Perhaps I have readers anxious to read it, and some critiquer is taking an awful long time getting the book back to me

Maybe I hate editing because I can’t edit just once, but find myself editing multiple times before I even hand it off to other proof readers or editors who may not like what I’ve written and suggest that I fix some things.

Or it could be I hate editing because I love writing, or prefer working on the right side of the brain rather than on the left.

Could be all of these reasons, and more. But just because I hate editing or having others edit for me, that doesn’t mean that I don’t do it.

There’s something magical that happens to a well-edited piece of work. I’m not talking about a book that’s been too edited, the kind where everything has been cut and trimmed to a quarter of an inch above the scalp. I’m talking about a book that’s edited so that the writer’s words do more than sit on the paper, yawning. The sort of words that flutter around and land on your shoulder for a spell, before they take off again to the mountain tops or the deep valley. I’m talking about a book made beautiful by the editing that’s been done, not cursed by it.

Hopefully, I’m talking about my books, although I know that after multiple drafts someone might find a misspelled word.

Because I don’t like perfection, either, and I don’t think any book out there is so perfectly constructed, so perfectly in tune with God or ghosts or the underworld, that a few mistakes haven’t crept in.

Yet another reason I hate editing, but continually do it because editing is part of being that awesome sort of writer others keep talking about.

And what writer doesn’t want that?

Previous articles written by Kathryn Elizabeth Jones on WWBB: 5 Ways to Promote Your Book that You May Not have Thought of

Marketing Your Book on a Budget

How does an
author best get book reviews? What of interviews, blogs and social media? How
can a new author expect to be seen while crowding the lane with other authors
of his/her genre?

Your Book on a Budget is tiny for a reason; any author can afford it. But be
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It’s easy to say you’re going to market your
book, far more difficult to actually do it, but this handy guide will help you
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Author Kathryn Jones

Author Kathryn E. Jones has been a published writer since 1987. During that time she has published fiction and nonfiction for teens and adults. As a marketer for the past 10 years, she has learned what works and what doesn’t for the beginning author who is eager to sell his/her work.

Marketing doesn’t have to be difficult and can be rewarding and successful through the simple marketing options presented in her newest creation, Marketing Your Book on a Budget 2013, and used by Kathryn herself. 

Editing is an art

Steve Evans

Editing is a strange beast. People write about it as if its meaning is obvious, yet for someone who does it professionally, as I do, it’s not at all obvious. Put another way, editing covers a range of sins of commission and omission, and there are people who focus on different aspects of the art.

And it is an art, or so I think. Most professional editors do most of their editing subconsciously as they rip through a text, correcting spelling, grammar, syntax, while at the same time thinking, or trying to think, about the “big picture” – what the piece is meant to be about, how it can be improved. So I reckon that when people are working like that, on a number of levels simultaneously, they are artists. That’s true even though they are participating in a social process, rather than creating themselves in the dark garret of their imaginations.

It’s probably unfair to say so, but much of my best editing is done using the highlighting function of the mouse cursor, followed by a deft manoeuvre* with the delete key. I’m really quite good at this.

No writer writes without doing some “self-editing”. A really successful writer, whose hard copy books are flying off the shelves of airport bookstores, will have editors begging to massage her or his work. Those of us who are not so favoured will do it pretty much alone.

There is a difference between an editor and a reader. I have a few readers who read my stuff, and give me (hopefully) unvarnished opinions. I don’t have an editor, and wouldn’t pay for one.

Readers are important, partly because they help give a writer perspective that is easy to lose when buried up to one’s shoulders in the muck of a manuscript. When people argue in favour of editors this is primarily what they have in mind, I think. But someone who does a lot of editing of other people’s work develops this for their own writing, or should – a built-in bullshit detector.

I came to fiction somewhat late in life after many years working in daily journalism, and chose the thriller genre for what might seem somewhat arrogant reasons but that actually concealed a lack of self-confidence: my line was (and is) that I have a “serious purpose in a frivolous genre”. I admire writers who work in this territory like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Elmore Leonard, not so much for their “hard-boiled” approach but the seriousness of their purpose. The best thriller writing surpasses the limitations of the genre and I suppose that was my aim from the first. Now I am thinking about writing in a different way.

Experiencing things first hand is good, but it is impossible for a writer to experience everything in life in order to write about it. At least one thriller writer murdered his wife and then wrote it up, but I don’t think this is recommended. Doing desk research is necessary, and occasionally direct questioning of experts is possible and desirable. For me, most of the sub-genres that shuffle under the rubric of the thriller are implicitly boring as they focus on the “real detail” – police procedurals for example. Police work in real life is quite mundane 99 per cent of the time. It’s also pretty safe, even in countries like the US with a reputation for casual violence. Emotion is where it’s at.

One manual for fiction writing that I admire, says that your book is finished when you are sick of it. That’s pretty good advice.

* I live in an antipodean society whose spelling and syntax are very different from dominant American usage, and even from the “parent” English. Anyone who is put off by it – sorry, it’s just too hard to put into another guise.

A Self-Published Novel: How do you know when your edits are enough?

Me: I hate my picture being taken!
I finished A Proper Charlie ages ago. I lost count of the number of edits I took it through. I edited on the screen, then I printed it off and edited again. I forced my husband, a die-hard Chris Ryan fan, to read my romantic comedy with a red pen in hand.

I put it away for a several months while I concentrated on an idea for my third novel, before dusting it off for yet another edit.

Then I printed it off again but in a different font (someone advised me this was good practice) and I went through it word by word, letter by letter.

It had two professional edits, one from Cornerstones and another from fellow writer, John Hudspith. Not to mention writers on the popular YouWriteOn.com and Authonomy review sites pulling it to pieces.

I sent off my manuscript to my publisher, and was sent back a bound copy of A Proper Charlie for a final check and edit.

Here, I was able to see how my finished book would look. But that didn’t stop me from grabbing a red pen and sitting to read the book from start to finish. I didn’t find typos, but I could see where a particular scene wasn’t working. And I thought the end was a little abrupt. I duly corrected the proofs on my computer.

Then Christmas came, and the book was put to one side. In the lull between Christmas and New Year I dusted off my laptop and opened the Charlie file. I went through it all again. And yes, I found yet more things I wanted to change. I realised I was in danger of over editing. I was no longer looking for edits or consistency, but changing scenes and adding or taking away a comma or two.

With hindsight I realised it was a ploy because I didn’t want my book to go! I’m sure other self-pubbers understand my anxiety: We are rubbished before we are read.

“Proper” authors who use a traditional publisher with an agent’s backing, agents and publishing houses believe we are entering the publishing world through the back door and mistrust us.


And so for every typo, we are ridiculed for not being proper writers, and for every error we are pulled up on, we are made to feel inferior for choosing self-publication. For every tiny gaffe we give other self-publishers a bad name (yet, somehow “real” writers who fall short aren’t treated the same).

So you can understand my anxiety in letting Charlie go. 

Well, she’s out there now. I can’t edit it any more. My third book is crying out to be written, and I finally had to cut the apron strings on Charlie and push her out into the cruel world.

Deep down I know she’s ready. She’s funny, bright and lovable, and I’m sure readers, if they give her a chance, will like her too.

Let’s hope so. I don’t want to be “just another self-published writer”.