Sunday, June 14, 2015

How to Edit and Stay Friends

If people know you write, there are times someone you know will ask you to look at their work. It's happened to me many times. A few pages here and there are no problem. One guy asked me to look at his work and the next time I saw him he handed me his 500 page rough draft. I never agreed to read his book. He asked me if I would look at some of his work. "Some" must have meant a whole book.  I did half of it. In giving it back to him I told him he was repeating the same tell and show issue in every scene. To start showing what was going on in the story would go a long way in giving the reader a better visual of what was happening. He was upset I didn't finish it and asked how  he was going to know where the other problems were. Hey! You got a 250 page free edit, go read the notes!
I understand his need for feed back but where do we draw the line? If I'm doing it as a favor, do I need to give a page count?

Now I edit on Fiverr. I've met some very good writers and a few who need help. Friend or stranger, here are a few things I keep in mind when editing.

1. Say something nice. Start with positive comments. This could be about the story premise, characters, or overall theme of the story.

2. Let your comments be constructive. If they don't know how to write dialog, offer examples of good dialog or link them to a site that covers it.

3. When correcting punctuation, tell them why. When listing three things put a comma before the word "and."  John likes meat, potatoes, and beer.

4. Catch the typos and flag them, but let the writer make the change.

5. Give them an overall synopsis that covers the good and explains the issues. "You have an excellent voice, but I'm seeing a lot of places where you tell more than show."

Just changing their writing or telling the person they're wrong won't help them grow as a writer. Give a clear and concise explanation of the things you flag in their story. Link to grammar or story structure sites will help to explain your comments. Every writer has a voice that is uniquely their's and an editor should respect it.

Write on, my friends...I'll see you in the pages.


Charles Gramlich said...

Good advice. Hard to do.

Crazy Painter Art said...

Scary, too. I never want to hurt someone's feelings or make them feel bad about their writing. Every time I critique someone's work, I hold my breath until they send that review. (Fiverr)