Off and on, I spent around 12 years getting When Red Is Blue from a tiny seed of an idea to a fully formed book. In terms of time spent per week, that amount significantly increased over the four months leading up to the finished product. This was when I began the rewriting and editing process.
Prior to that time, I had given my “final” draft to five or six beta readers, but I obviously didn’t do such a great job picking them, because only one pointed out a few typos and story suggestions, while the others simply told me they liked it (or in one case, never got back to me). So not much help at all.
I reread the draft a couple of times in the normal manuscript format – making it hard for me to actually see issues because my eyes were so used to seeing the text that way – and sent it off to my editor, whom I had chosen because of her extensive writing background and editing experience. She gave the manuscript back to me with…wait for it…67 separate suggestions for rewrites. It took me three months of hard graft to work through each of her points to my satisfaction. Interestingly, though, she told me she had done very little line editing (proofreading) because my grasp on grammar and punctuation was excellent. This statement did set off alarm bells, since I knew I was unsure of a few things, but I had no reason to doubt her so I focused on the big things and moved forward, believing the little things were pretty much non-existent. So after a reread of the parts I had changed, I sent the book off to my book designer.
At around the same time, I had decided to get serious about editing for other people and was taking my first official course. Learning how to read a document word by word was a bit of an epiphany, and when I got the first paginated draft back from Brion, I put on my freshly minted proofreading hat and checked every single thing I had breezed past in previous versions, expecting my editor to have made corrections if there was an issue.
The typo list I ended up going back to Brion with was massive, and he rightfully asked me to make the changes myself and he would then re-paginate the book. I know what you’re thinking, but I believe my editor was a brilliant story editor, just not so good on the fine detail. She was used to working with manuscripts that would then be edited/proofread by people at a publishing house, so I guess she wasn’t overly keyed into typos.
Anyway, after I made the first set of changes, I went through two additional rounds of fixes (100+ each) that I found while reading the book in different formats, which, even at this late stage, included continuity errors as well as missed words, repeated words, caps when there shouldn’t be, errant commas and so on. Brion was pulling his hair out toward the end.
I’m telling you all this because, before I went through the process, I would have never expected it to be so difficult to make an acceptably clean manuscript. Which is why the subject of self-editing keeps popping up in blog after blog and why it’s so important for an indie writer to come up with a game plan on how to ensure they are doing all they can to get their book ready to sell to an unsuspecting public. It’s irritating enough to read a trad-published book with a few errors in it (there always are), let alone one by an indie author who decides they can’t afford an editor and one read-through is “good enough,” having bought into the idea that “done” is more important than “perfect.” I don’t mean perfect exactly, but indie writers need to try for close to, or readers are going get sick and tired of wading through the typos and give up on their work.