Thoughts on book editing

Because I’m currently editing my first book, editing technique has been on the brain for the past few months. I’m extraordinarily lucky to be working with a great writer and a reasonable client, so I have the time and latitude to work hard at editing well and not just pleasing others.

I just stumbled upon this guide to book editing for writers. Faulty premise aside (no writer should self-edit a book,* for chrissakes), the list contains some good points, including:

9. Be harsh — cut the dead wood.

As a writer, I’m guilty of rambling. As an editor, I’m often guilty of not cutting enough — a symptom of editing-to-please for too long. My best editing comes from a place of tough love.

10. Read each line as a line, then a paragraph, then a section, then a chapter…

This is probably my most challenging area. I spent years editing 16-inch news stories, and now I’m looking at 5,000-word chapters. Flow and consistency are tough, and I’m grateful that someone else will be proofing the whole enchilada down the line. (Anyone else think I use that metaphor too much?)

I’ll report back in another month, once I’ve edited more than half of the book’s chapters, to let you know what stumbling blocks I’m encountering as I wade in deeper.


* Tip 7 suggests the writer engage a “trusted third party” to give honest feedback. Everyone needs a first reader, but everyone needs an editor, too. Two different functions, folks. Don’t shortchange it.


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