My Editing Compulsion

Author Brenda PerlinGuest Post
by Brenda Perlin

There was a time when I read for the pleasure of it. Back when I couldn’t wait to sneak away to the coolest coffee house in the city where I could find a comfy couch to relax with a fresh cup of sizzling hot coffee. I read for hours at a time. Excited about escaping into someone else’s life and visiting an unfamiliar city. Those days are long gone. I am still passionate about books and get goose bumps over beautiful writing but I can’t enjoy them the way I used to because I am too busy looking for typos and repetitive words. It’s almost become an obsessive compulsive disorder. Seriously.

When I am reading, once I see the first typo, stop the clock! This book becomes my project whether I know the author or not. Finding typos and over-used words can be like putting a puzzle together. Making sure the pieces all fit together as a whole. I am trying to do less because for one, not everyone is going to appreciate my “suggestions” and two, they don’t know me. Still, I feel I am doing a great service, and I am helping out. More people are thankful for it than not. Thank goodness.

Since marketing is a give and take, I keep myself busy reading and reviewing books for other authors. It is not always my pleasure as I tend to say, but I enjoy the instant gratification of helping out. But again, I can’t read a book (really read a book) without looking for edits and taking notes. I spend hours and hours, as if it is my job to fix this book even though mine are less than perfect. Sadly, as an author, our eyes become blind to our own stuff. It’s easy to pick apart books that we are reading for the first time, but with our own stuff we have read it over and over again, which loses its sparkle and after a while; the words on the page are a blur. It’s very difficult to edit your own stuff.

The thing is, we all need editors. Editors need editors for their own work. The more eyes as we can get on our manuscripts, the better. If a new pair can catch just one typo then they have made a difference. Things in editing can be over looked – I mean, we are all human. If we had super powers, we would all be living like Superman, right? Not all editors read as they go. They might fix the grammar and typos but if they don’t read verbatim, things can get missed and even if they do, things get missed!

This book business has been an education for me with a great learning curve. One tool I use to locate words I may overuse is the FIND function in Word. This has been so helpful. I mean, there is no reason I should be using the word really over 200 times in my manuscript. Yikes! We acquire habits, sometimes very bad habits, that we don’t even realize we have! Through all my mistakes, I have come into my own and feel more secure with what I am doing. It is not making me rich, but I have gained so much that is not monetary.

When I first published my book I hired an editing company I found during an Internet search. I think I paid close to $1,000 and what I got was rubbish. Part of it, of course, was my lack of skills, but that is beside the point. Or is it? I had my tenses wrong and said the same thing a zillion times. Still, they told me they’d fix it all. What I discovered was they would fix some of it. I also learned that I was still learning.

I put a book out on the market that was not marketable. It was sloppy and ridden with typos and called Home Wrecker which didn’t help me in the least. It was embarrassing, but I didn’t know any better. It’s taken me a great deal of time and practice to be an indie author. With that comes a ton of responsibility. I read too many books by independent authors who put out work before it was ready. Not only does bad editing (or no editing) prevent the story’s success, but it is a reflection on the author. In my case, I was lucky not to be laughed off of Amazon. Truly.

I believe, as indie authors, we owe the whole community to do better. We are all so quick to want to press the publish button and that is a huge mistake.

I understand many do not have enough money to hire an editor. Well, I think that should be a priority, if you want to be a part of this society. We need to be professional even if that means we are going into our own pockets. Like I said, it is a profession. Like going to school, there are costs. I know it is easier said than done. I have had years where I had to make a choice. Do I buy new socks because mine have holes or go out to dinner with a friend? I know what it is like to go without, but if we want our stuff to read well, we have to take this business seriously.

I don’t mean to preach, but I spend a fortune of time thinking, breathing, and eating this stuff.  I am blessed with a team of people that are always by my side, too many to name, and Indies Unlimited is high on my list! What a great resource they are for all of us. This is a me me me sort of an industry; like actors, we are selling ourselves, but there should be give and take. I have come upon a select group of people who have given when they really couldn’t and helped when they truly didn’t have the time. Because of this, I see a much larger picture. There are angels all around us, we just have to take a breath and look around. Really!


Brenda Perlin is an independent contemporary fiction author of five titles and numerous short stories. From memoirs to illustrated books, Brenda evokes emotional responses in her readers by using a provocatively unique writing style. Her latest book in the Brooklyn and Bo Chronicles captures the soul-wrenching conflicts of a personal struggle for emotional fulfillment. Learn more about Brenda on her website and her Author Central page.

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36 thoughts on “My Editing Compulsion”

  1. I am incredibly thankful when people tell me I’ve made errors. In fact, I reward extra credit to my students when they find my errors. After my misadventures with the last book, I’m also going to stop depending on friends for all of this, although I very much treasure all their input. I’ve learned that I need a truly OCD copyeditor/proofreader at the final stage. (You don’t say whether you do this professionally, but perhaps you should consider doing so!)

    1. Thank you Sandra. I really started doing this after the last read through of my books and saw silly typos. Not to mnetions TONS of repetative words. Made me cringe. As an Indie author I do want to help others. Don’t want them to have to go through what I have if it can be helped. My BF thinks I am crazy, well, he knows I am crazy but he sees how many hours and hours I spend on other people’s books. It’s gotten to the point that I can’t stop myself from jotting notes into my phone. I don’t do this for a living. Most people are broke and can’t afford such a service. This is my way of giving back but I know I will have to pull back a bit if I want to be able to get anything done in my own life. Good wishes with your books and thanks for taking the time to read this!
      🙂

    1. That would be a NO! My next article might have to be called The Art of Saying No. I am working on that one and it seems I am getting better. Thanks for reading and good wishes with your books Jacob.

  2. Excellent points, Brenda. It’s so hard for me to turn off the “editing switch” when I read for pleasure. But I’m grateful for readers like you who alert us about errors, because, yes, it’s so hard to see your own work after you’ve read seventy thousand drafts! 😀

    1. You write beautifullly Laurie are a very gifted editor. A giving person to boot. Glad to know you and I do love your stories!

      Yes, we do become blind to our own stuff. Frustrating, I know. Thanks for the visit.

  3. I feel your pain, Brenda. Learning to write has virtually ruined me as a reader. No matter how hard I try to turn off my inner editor, he will not be silent. In addition to typos and repeated words, I have unintentionally become hyper-aware of plot manipulations. Where I previously just accepted happenings in a book, now I ask myself, “Why did this happen, other than the fact that the author needed it to happen to advance the plot?” In my mental shorthand, I just call it “strings showing,” as in “I am seeing the strings, and not just the marionette dancing.”

    1. That is a real gift shawn. Most of us can use that talent of yours. But it can be endless. Are we not sufficiently busy? There are not enough hours in the day between writing, marketing and life!

      We are in agreement. Would be nice to be able to read for the pleasure of it without looking so close. #turnoffthatbrain
      😉

      Thank you for reading this post.

  4. Don’t be so hard on yourself, it’s all part of learning and there are few early works by any artist that are perfect. Still your point holds true, that the resources exist to make a professional product and far to many authors publish prematurely. Glad to see you have grown and matured, I see far to many authors with less than professional products still angry that the reading public is missing the hidden genius of their work!

    1. Thank you for that. Appreciate it. The lessons never end and maybe that is a good thing.

      I like what you said. Thank you for your visit Marc. 🙂

  5. Brenda, I think there are a lot of us out there who can’t get past the editing mindset. True, it’s harder to enjoy a book with errors, but when I do come across one that is “clean,” it’s pure joy. And by the way, thank you again for catching the things you did in my book. I’d much rather find out about the errors and fix them than have them there for all eternity. Your sharp eyes are a definite asset.

    1. I seem to find things in all books. Very rare to find one that is perfectly clean but that is what we strive for. I agree, that would be pure joy!

      You are a beautiful writer Melissa. My eyes are only sharp when I am not reading my own stuff. So much gets missed.

      I guess I was a bit surprised when my books first came out and there were so many typos and repetitive words. Would have thought someone would have pointed them out, but no one really did. It is time consuming. That I know. Always an education.

  6. As with the others who’ve commented, I too find many more errors now than I did before I started writing. Unless they’re really pervasive I’m usually able to look past them. The one exception is the repetition of a word or phrase. I’m not talking about characters and their language in dialogue. It may be annoying, but people are like that and it helps us understand the character. It’s the unintended or uninspired repetition that stops me in my tracks.

    1. I am with you on that Armen. Good point. We all are trying to do better. At least, I know I am.

      You are a perfectionalist and I know that from your writing. Thank you!

  7. You are a beautiful, kind, giving, person, Brenda and I’m glad you’re learning to say no. I also have a hard time reading a book and not seeing the errors, but have a hard time seeing the errors in my own work. I’m going back over my earlier work and cringe at all the re-editing it needs. I agree, beta readers and editors fresh eyes are a necessity.

    1. Thank you Greta. I thought your books read very well but maybe that was before I had theses x-ray eyes. Haha. I doubt it. You write wonderful stories and can’t wait for more!

  8. I too am a compulsive “editor,” and find it hard not to spot typos and repetition. Amazing what one sees in others’ work, and misses in one’s own. I asked a trial lawyer whether he watches and assesses everyone he meets. He agreed that, like us, he’s “editing” too and can’t switch it off!

  9. Yup, Brenda — it’s an occupational hazard. 😉 The books I enjoy the most these days are the ones that have been so well-edited — or the writer so gifted — that I almost forget I’m reading.

    1. That is so true Lynne. We really need to be swept off our feet. Such a pleasure! Thank you for stopping by.

  10. Excellent points, Brenda. I, too, love the ‘find’ icon in Word. I would never publish without using an editor. That said, even with the most rigorous process some errors sneak through.

    1. Exactly. Great editors miss things. It’s just the reality. As Indie Authors we have to try to be on top of it though I know reading our stuff over and over is an easy way to miss things.

      Thank you. Have a great day.

  11. Brenda, for the first half of the post, it felt like you were simply reading my mind and writing down what you heard! I often feel like it’s my JOB to fix text, too! LOL

    I’ve also been accused of being “The Grammar Police” by my friends. 😉

    The second half of the post makes total sense, and that’s one of the reasons I began offering my editing services to others, through Wording Well. I have a great eye for detail, and I want others to benefit from it.

    Melissa Bowersock can even attest to my “eagle eye.”

    1. So glad to know that Lorraine. Nice to meet you. An eagle eye is what we all need! Still, we are human and we have to do our best to make sure our stuff goes out in pristine condition. That goes for formatting and cover design as well, of course.

      I really feel good after I have finished a book a found some things that I know will help the author. For me I call it karma building. Haha.

      Thanks for visiting!

  12. I know how you feel but it does make it really special when I find a book that meets or exceeds all expectations.

    1. The best feeling! I am not competitive in that way. I want books to excite me. Thanks James. You are right on!

  13. I edit everything I read! Gone are the days when I could just relax and read a book. How about all the irregular indentation that happens at times? It drives me crazy.

    1. Funny how are eyes get better at picking things up. Indentation too Helen. Ha. It can make you crazy. I never noticed formatting before. Bad formatting is a nightmare!

      Thank you! 🙂

  14. Wow, Brenda, you are a much better person than most people, especially me. I used to fight through and try to finish every book I started reading. But, over the years I’ve learned that life is too short and there are far too many good books to force myself through the ones I don’t like. I give an author 50 pages and if I don’t like it, I don’t read it — unless I agreed to review it or it’s for book club or something. And if there are so many obvious mistakes or so many edits I would make that the experience of reading is ruined, I just stop reading. Why torture myself? And why help these writers? They clearly have no pride in their work or care about their craft. To me, they are wasting my time. It’s not like it’s just a couple typos. No book is perfect. But so many that it ruins the experience. No way. I’m out. I do commend you for your patience and your kindness to strangers. Like I said, you’re a much better person than I am.

    1. Well Thank you Frank .I am certain you are a very good person. 😉

      I may be learning the hard way and might have to re-exam and take a step back. I recently read a book, spent hours and hours upon hours and the person didn’t even get back to me to acknowledge my review or suggestions.

      It’s hard enough to read all the books you feel obligated to read let alone books by strangers. I need to make better use of my time but that doesn’t mean I regret or will completely stop what I am doing. It does feel darn good when I have helped someone just from the goodness of my heart. It’s good practice. I’m going for those karma points, I guess you can say.

      Thank you for taking the time to read this and to comment. You are all so cool 🙂

  15. It’s like finding spiders – if you’re scared of them, your eye seems to be drawn to every spider in the room, even the teensy weensy ones. And yes, I’m scared of spiders. 🙂

    I’ve been lucky with Indie authors though. Most have been recommended to me by other authors I trust so the quality is always good. The odd bad apples get deleted from my Kindle.

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