Writers on... Editing

For the first time in RAD Blog history, we’re doing something a little different… and a little long. Have you ever wanted to know writers’ real opinions on editing? Well, fortunately for you, RAD Writing got five authors together on Facebook chat to talk about editing.

Read on to find out if typos really can make a novel, and if authors really do despise editors as much as people say.


Rani Divine: Hey everybody!

CD Yensen: Hi!

MJ Neal: Hey

Rani: I think most of us in here know each other, but just in case. Introductions! I’m Rani Divine, Mavguard editor and author of the Druid Novels (Coetir, Cedwig, & Dwr). CD Yensen has been published in Mavguard (a couple times, if I'm not mistaken?).

CD: Aww. No, just once.

Rani: Well, you'll be published in there again one of these days. I was thinking ahead! CD is also currently writing a novel.

CD: Yay!

Rani: MJ Neal is the author of Dreamer, and has also been published in Mavguard several times.
Ashley Gallegos, who I haven't seen in here yet, has a few books out. Last Chance Baby was just released by RAD Writing, and Vegas Candy will be rereleased later this year. Woo! And of course, Tammy Boehm (Bethany’s Crossing) and I are your friendly neighborhood RAD editors.

Ashley Gallegos: Hi everyone! I'm here!

Rani: Yay! Hi!

CD: Hi! I’m going to be MIA for a bit.

Rani: Okay, no worries. We won't technically start for a few minutes.

Ashley: Okay, good! I'm technically here but I'm reading MJ's Dreamer and I'm at a really good part so I'll pop back in when we’re ready to go!

Rani: It's a really good book!!

Ashley: It is so good and beautifully written!

Rani: It really is! I need to read it again.

Tammy Boehm: I'm here.

Rani: Hi Tam!

MJ: Facebook chat is a great idea, Rani. Munchkins crying? No problem. Dirty laundry? Who cares? Messy hair? It's all good. No one can see, haha : ) Also, thank you, Ashley : ) I've yet to hear that from very many readers, actually.

Rani: My thoughts exactly! This way none of you can see the chaos of my house.

Ashley: Hi, Tammy! I love Facebook chat for that exact reason. Well, I wouldn't be surprised if Dreamer suddenly found a lot more positive reviews in the near future! It's amazing!

Tammy: Yup I've got WWIII going here–taxes.

Rani: That... is not fun. At all.

MJ: FYI: If at any point my text becomes rather mangled, I might have a 6-month-old on my knee mashing the keys. Which might appear somewhat ironic, considering we're discussing editing, haha

Rani: haha!! Thanks for letting us know.

Ashley: What a great testimony to real life obstacles to editing!

Tammy: Nice.

MJ: Seriously, though. How to make your editing fireproof: insert children. Challenge accepted.

Rani: I don't know how you do it!

Tammy: Well a child on lap is similar to a cat—although cats are easier to shoo.

Rani: Yeah, children don't generally appreciate being shooed.

MJ: Gallons of tea and Jesus—lots of Jesus ; )

Rani: [Thumbs up] Best method ever. Didn’t mean to send the thumbs up there, but hey, it works!

Ashley: Have you ever done that in editing? Hit the wrong thing and then realized it worked?

Rani: I have! It made me feel brilliant.

Ashley: I was editing Vegas Candy the other day and typed out the wrong phrasing and then realized I liked it better than what I had meant!

Rani: Love when that happens! I had that happen yesterday in the book I'm working on. Whose name is still under wraps. Because I don't know it.

Ashley: How funny! It does make me almost superhuman. Like I somehow cheated the editing and writing process and channeled something else entirely.

MJ: A feeling which is counteracted by the days when nothing goes right, and even YouTube trolls look like better writers than you!

Rani: ha! Very, very true. CD, are you back yet?

CD: I am! I am logging into my computer because I am sooo not good with phone text

Rani: Oh okay! Good idea.

Ashley: It's an author/editor thing!

CD: Yes. My phone text has a ton of editing issues.

Ashley: The dreaded autocorrect!

CD: Yes! It's so "smart" it's stupid.

Rani: It is!

MJ: I think there was a novelist who wrote her entire novel on a blackberry a few years ago. My first thought was "why in heaven's name?"

CD: Right?! It sounds like a torture

Rani: All right, so now that we're all here, shall we get started?

MJ: Yes!

Ashley: Sounds good.

Rani: So, who in here has an editor, or has had one in the past?

Ashley: I've worked with RAD editors as well an independent editor.

CD: I have an editor, but I am not fully ready for that yet. RAD editors are mine as well.

MJ: I have never had an "official" editor, but I've always gone to others for editing help. I'm also relatively new to all this.

Rani: I've worked with Xlibris copyeditors, but I tend to mostly self-edit, and both MJ and Tammy have helped me out with plot editing.

Ashley: I'm surprised, MJ. Your book is one of the most professionally edited pieces I've ever read!

Rani: She's really great at editing!

Tammy: I have had an editor in the minimal sense only, never an editor who had my interests as primary.

Rani: How did you guys go about choosing an editor, or finding someone to help you edit?

CD: I self-edit until it is ready to be read by the outside world.

MJ: Me too, CD. Self-editing is a habit I'm not sure I can break. It's almost instinctive.

Ashley: I worked with the RAD editors when my books were signed by RAD and found my independent editor for my indie works because she was a high school and college friend who helped me to edit my papers.

CD: Exactly, MJ. I have met the RAD editors personally, and that helped. They have your best interest at heart.

Rani: I'm a rampant self-editor, myself. Like you guys said, it's more of a habit at this point.

CD: Yes, it also helps me find plot holes and rethink strategies.

MJ: Also, I've worked with an assigned editor where English was her second language. I do not recommend that in most cases. It made things very difficult.

Rani: I've also worked with English as second language editors, and I can second that it sucks.

Ashley: I personally have a hard time self-editing, despite being an English major. I read what I meant to write rather than what is there so I need extra eyes on it.

Tammy: I like a third party final edit after I've edited because I get close to my work and may not be objective.

CD: I self-criticize too much to see just what is there, by myself.

MJ: Ashley, you are absolutely right. I know I can never catch every mistake in my own work, because I know it so intimately. I'm better at editing others' work for sure, at least when it comes to final proofs.

CD: Yes, the final is where I need the help.

Ashley: Like Tammy, I too can get really close to my work and not be objective. When I work with Tammy on my RAD projects, she is great at helping me find ways to make it better in ways that I may have been too attached to change before.

Rani: I really appreciate that with formal editing, because yeah, I really like what I wrote! Don't change it! haha

CD: I add too much detail in my writing.

MJ: CD, I've diagnosed myself with an inability to paraphrase, haha

CD: haha! I either add too much or not enough in any instance. I feel like it's either focus on the plot, or focus on the description, there is no in between.

Tammy: I love detail. I feel your pain. And Ashley is a peach to work with!

Rani: That's how I am, CD. I can do one or the other, and when I edit, I add more of the one I missed.

Ashley: Tammy, you are too sweet to say that! My work is always so much better when you touch it!

CD: I am so glad I am not alone!

Rani: Why do you guys think so many authors avoid finding a traditional editor?

CD: Maybe it's because it is an added expense.

Ashley: I think cost seems to be the main issue based on my author groups in Facebook. That and fear of giving over your work to someone else to have the power to change.

CD: That is a good point, Ashley.

Rani: Writers do tend to be control freaks!

Tammy: I think having your work gutted by an editor is a difficult thing—when you have worked so hard to bring a book to life.

CD: Your work becomes your baby. But, the way I see it is, if this is a book you truly love, you can always wait a few years and republish your version. I love when my authors do that.

MJ: I've boiled down three reasons for myself 1. expense/hassle (real or imagined) 2. Believing themselves to be sufficient (sometimes overconfidence) or 3. Fear of the editor changing everything

Ashley: I think it's like a marriage in a way. What happens if you partner with someone who doesn't get your vision of the book or your voice and tries to change you and the book? You don't want to pay someone to fight them at every step.

CD: Won't a good editor keep the content the same?

Rani: Yeah, I would say that a good editor should keep the majority of the content the same.

Ashley: CD, in theory, yes. But the fear is you will not get a good one.

Tammy: Yes—an edit should make the story shine and amplify the author’s voice.

MJ: Writing is extremely personal, and offering it up to potential criticism is a vulnerability that takes risk, but there can also be great reward.

Rani: Have you guys had experiences where an editor or someone you've asked writing advice on has suggested pushing the work in a way you didn't want it to go?

Tammy: Yes—my first book didn't gel as I dreamed it would.

CD: Yes. This is why I self-edit until it is ready. I do not want a negative influence in the middle of a story that has not finished.

MJ: The primary editor I've worked with would try to distinguish between "necessary edits" and changes that were more stylistic or "her opinion." That helped me a lot. I didn't feel pressured to take her every suggestion as gospel.

Ashley: I don't think I have had a book go in a way that I didn't want it to. But I think at times I've been too attached to my writing to see the bigger picture. Recently Tammy asked me to cut a chapter and I had to admit to her that I'm too close to make the decision objectively for what is best for the book.

Rani: For me personally, I've actually lost friends because I didn't take their advice on my short story (when I wasn't ready to have someone edit it yet). It was an extremely negative experience that I hope never to go through again.

Ashley: That sounds horrible! I'm always too afraid to show anyone my work before it is finished.

MJ: Editing is a great thing, but as they say "with great power comes great responsibility."

Rani: Very, very true.

CD: Yes.

Rani: As an editor, I try to be extremely cautious with how I word things when I want to change things in an author's work, simply because I've been through that experience from the other angle. I don't want my authors to not like me!

CD: You are so sweet! Rani, I can't imagine you saying something in a mean way!

MJ: I've also had a very negative publishing experience that has likely colored my opinion on official editing. I was treated extremely poorly and ultimately duped. No professional relationship should be like that. You are great, Rani : )

CD: I have also seen how a professional editor has done nothing for the author.

Rani: Yeah, I've seen that as well, and it makes me royally peeved.

Tammy: I'm with Rani on that. When I edit I want to help the writer take the work to the next level. If there is a point where the author disagrees with an edit because she has a strong attachment, that's when we discuss and in the end—we edit for the writer not against her.

CD: Yes. Editing should be for improvement of the quality of the work.

Ashley: It should be a partnership. Unfortunately, sometimes partnerships have bumps. In a way, the editor needs to sense how the author receives information so the partnership runs smoothly. And that is where the RAD editors really excel!

MJ: Agreed! Your editor should not be your enemy.

Rani: Aw, thanks Ashley!! We try really hard to make it a good experience for everyone!

MJ: Editing sometimes requires a hefty dose of humility on the author's part as well.

CD: Indeed it does.

Ashley: So true, MJ!

CD: I try to keep an open mind when my writing is being read by the outside world. I have to remind myself that the comments are not made to be mean, as long as it is constructive criticism. I need to grow as an author, too.

Rani: I think it would be fair to say that we all need to grow, especially when it comes to accepting criticism.

Ashley: Absolutely. Growth is a continual process.

MJ: We need to find the balance between "trusting the soup" (as in trusting the story that's inside) and recognizing areas where we can grow and make it better. Not all writing is for everyone.

Tammy: I agree—we are all in growth mode.

CD: There is always room for improvement.

Rani: Always! I'm curious, have any of you picked up a book and had to put it down because there were too many typos and/or plot errors?

MJ: Me.

CD: Oh. Yea.

MJ: I find it so distracting.

Tammy: Yup.

CD: This weekend, I was on the train, and the short story I was reading was so poorly written with fragmented sentences and punctuation errors, I had to stop reading.

Rani: I've heard it said that typos make a book, and can make the author seem more human and relatable, but to me, I just get annoyed.

CD: The mistakes become my main focus, not the story.

Ashley: Absolutely. I understand that almost every book has a few errors in it because we are editing as humans but if it is constant, I just can't get around it.

MJ: Agreed. I don't find it makes the writer seem human, it feels as though they didn't value their story enough to "do it right."

Tammy: That is the danger of self-publishing and why some who self-publish then go more traditional run into issues. I see that a lot.

CD: I can understand that.

MJ: Besides, typos bring you outside of the story and throw you back into reality, which is the opposite of an author's goal. Preaching to myself, here.

CD: I agree!

Rani: MJ, that's where I stand on it. I end up completely thrown out of the story and find myself rewriting the whole thing in my head, and at that point, I'm out for good. haha!

CD: Yes! I had the same thought!

Ashley: I think a lot of self-published authors go through a learning phase with that. Unless you get a great mentor or are picked up by traditional publishing right away, people can be very competitive and it is hard to get straight answers. I see a lot of people who self-publish that way and then re-release edited versions as they start to gain recognition.

Rani: I've seen that a lot as well, lately. Lots of great rereleases on the market these days!

MJ: It is a sometimes painful learning process, but thankfully we can grow : )

CD: That is one of my biggest fears for self-publishing, Ashley, that my writing will have far too many mistakes.

Ashley: I, for one, learned the hard way not to go without an editor! Luckily, I was blessed with forgiving fans who stayed for the stories!

CD: Yay!

MJ: I've already had people point out mistakes in Dreamer. So disappointing, but I hope to do better.

Tammy: This is near and dear to RADs heart. To offer real help to real authors—to prevent the nightmares we've faced, like self-publishing.

CD: RAD is really great in that respect.

Rani: Self-publishing nightmares were actually a catalyst to the creation of RAD Writing. We believed there had to be a better way to publish, and if we couldn't find it anywhere else, we were going to make it!

CD: Job well done, Rani!

Ashley: Here's my thing. I recently read Caraval, the current cult favorite book of the nation, and found errors in it. Every single book has some errors in it. It's a fact of life. The goal is to make the book as good as possible, but perfection will drive you crazy. And people who exist to simply point out errors are never going to be fans. It is a balance.

Rani: Truth, Ashley! I find errors in every book I ever read. As long as they aren't excessive, it doesn't bother me at all.

MJ: And the thing that RAD does really well is encourage! I can't speak enough to how important that can be.

Ashley: I love having my books with RAD! It takes all of the mystery out of publishing!

Rani: We have so much fun working with all of you!

Tammy: Yes we do.

CD: Yes, the encouragement is really great! I am nowhere near finished with my book, but I am cheered on continually to keep going.

Rani: I also reeeeeally want to read your book, CD.

Ashley: It's such a pleasure working with RAD! And MJ keeps saying there are errors in her book but I'm halfway through and I'm not seeing them. However, I am completely obsessed with the story!

CD: Thank you, Rani.

MJ: Ashley, I am so very glad to hear it!!

Rani: That's the thing—the writing doesn't make a book, the story does. But if there are too many errors (which I don't believe MJ's book has) it really detracts from the story.

CD: It really does. I hate when stories lose their value.

Ashley: Absolutely. Is an editor necessary? The answer is yes. But once it has been edited and published, celebrate and stop with the obsessing. There will always be that person who finds one small thing.

Rani: So, would you guys say that it's more important to self-edit well, or to find a trustworthy editor/friend who will help you get the story where it needs to be, writing-wise?

CD: I say, both.

Ashley: Oh, for me, self-editing is not an option. I tried that and I can't do it. I simply see what I meant to have there. I never see what is actually on the page. I'm a self-editing nightmare.

CD: Self-editing is a great way to get your book where you want it. Correct your mistakes, then let someone read it, and "fine tune" the grammar.

MJ: Personal experience tells me that I'll always need both. I'm a good self-editor, and I know the story I'm trying to tell, but I have never regretted getting at least a little outside help. A fresh set of eyes can almost always pick out at least one important thing to improve on or even a bunch of little angry typos to fix.

Rani: A fresh set of eyes seriously makes all the difference, for me. I used to be like Ashley, I couldn't edit my own stuff at all. It's not easy.

CD: I am the same way, MJ.

Tammy: If you can find that elusive editor friend that would be awesome, but as a writer I believe you owe yourself and your story the diligence to do your best edit, multiple edits before you turn it over to the world.

Rani: I agree. Multiple edits are key, for sure!

MJ: I've also found that "trading" editing with a trusted fellow writer is so helpful.

Ashley: I'm picky. Now that I am so spoiled by my current editors, I don't want to change!

CD: Are there editors outside of RAD???

Rani: Haha! Well, you're also a joy to work with, Ashley! CD, I’m not sure, are there other editors?

Tammy: The caveat is knowing when to let go of said literary child and allow another to help you polish it.

MJ: That can be a difficult key to fit, but you are right, Tammy.

Ashley: That's a good point, Tammy.

MJ: Also, yes to multiple edits. But at one point you have to take the plunge, let go, and actually publish.

Tammy: I struggle there—I'll comb the fur off my own work. I'm never done editing it.

CD: That part is scary. Publish.

Tammy: That's right MJ. You can choke out a good story if you edit too much.

Rani: I know too many authors who are stuck in the endless cycle of editing. At some point, you have to let it go and get it published, or it's just a mass of words on your computer.

CD: You are so right.

Rani: That was what I told myself in order to get Telekinetic published. My own boyfriend told me it would amount to nothing! I mean, sheesh. haha

Ashley: Yes! That point of letting go is hard to decide!

Rani: Ex-boyfriend, obviously.

Ashley: Good call, Rani!

CD: I think that the support and encouragement of the RAD editors will really help in this respect. This has become more of a community of authors/editors, so to have the input and encouragement of so many others, will help to take the fear and panic out of the whole publishing process. At some point we will just have to trust those that we have elected to help out in these areas. If the editor says it's ready, I guess we need to let go.

Rani: I really hope that we can be of some benefit to authors and editors!

CD: I think you already are.

Ashley: Yes, you are!

Rani: Aw, thanks guys! I'm so glad to hear that! I think I'm going to have to wrap this up before I melt away in an 80 degree room, but do you ladies have any last thoughts you'd like to add?

Ashley: I think I'm good! I'm anxious to get back to MJ's book!

CD: Yes! If the writing mistakes are part of the story I can overlook them. Stephen King had a character in The Stand that spelled everything "M-O-O-N"—endearing.

Tammy: Yes thank you—I see it as a great privilege to work with talented writers and help them launch their dreams.

CD: Yes, and thank you to RAD for the hard work and good feels.

MJ: I think that about covers it all. Editing is very important, but finding the right editor will make a world of difference to your work. And don't write a novel on a blackberry...just don't ; ) Unless you plan on finding some top notch editing!

Ashley: I agree, MJ!

CD: hahaha! Yes!

MJ: A huge thank-you to Rani and to RAD!

Rani: Well thank you all SO much for being a part of this discussion! I for one had a lot of fun, and I'm hoping that we'll get to make things like this happen more often.

MJ: Agreed!

Tammy: That's so funny—on a blackberry—why?!

Rani: Agreed, please don't write a novel on a blackberry!

Ashley: No kidding!

Rani: Just for the record, that was approximately 40 pages of text I now get to edit.

Tammy: Nice!

CD: Have fun!

MJ: Might I suggest coffee and a tv show you've already seen to play in the background ; )

Ashley: Sounds like someone needs a RAD editor!

CD: bwahahaha!

Tammy: I may be able to connect you with a RAD editor.

Rani: Hahaha you guys are hilarious

Ashley: We try!


Special thanks to Rani Divine for moderating this discussion, and Tammy Boehm, Ashley Gallegos, MJ Neal, and CD Yensen for participating!

Have questions, or other topics you'd like our authors to cover? Leave a comment and let us know!