Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Guest Blog: Mika

No news on the querying front here, which is why things have been so quiet lately. I also just finished with exams, so I have finally reached that blessed time of year known as summer vacation. So, since I have jack to say, I'm turning things over to Mika!

Mika was the other editor I had while revising TANGO. Whereas Marie is a professional copyeditor, Mika was great for catching inconsistencies in the story, or letting me know when my characters were totally OUT of character. She helped me fine-tune my plot, and is still nice enough to put up with me sending her a redone paragraph a hundred times. She's been insanely encouraging, and I love her to death. So this is her take on the editing process! It's completely different from Marie's, but equally useful. Enjoy!

You can follow Mika's blog HERE.


My good friend and I were recently having drinks together at The Mint – kinda our place to hang and have a good glass of wine – when we were talking about how she can always rely on me for an honest opinion, because I am judgmental.

I was a little insulted. Because obviously, no one wants to be called judgmental.

So I retaliated with “I’m not ‘judgmental.’ I just look at things with a critical eye.”

And I guess for me, that’s what editing is all about. It’s looking at things with a critical eye.

I suppose by now you’re thinking, “Oh, jeez, that’s great advice. Good one, Mika. Marie’s blog post was way better than this garbage.”

And all I have to say back to that is, “Hey? GUESS WHAT?! There’s no one way to edit, so give me a break!”

And it’s so true. I’m not the typical editor. I started editing, because I told a person I reviewed for to get an editor. They asked if I would edit for them. That gig lasted me all of three chapters, out of a story that ended up being 20+.

So when I started editing for Sammy, I was like “oh man, what did I get myself into?” TANGO was a monster of a story, at over 70K words! 27 chapters! However many pages, and however many hours of editing that would need.

But I sucked it up, I delved, and just did what I do. And here is what that looks like for me…

Getting started:

I always edit with music. I like editing on Google Documents and on Microsoft Word. I haven’t had a bunch of experience editing hard copies, but there will be more on that later…. I will always have my email up, so I can quickly type any immediate questions to the author and send it via email or instant messenger once I have most of those questions figured out.

Basically what I’m saying is you need to get yourself comfortable, and in the zone. You can't edit when you’re distracted, or irritated, or anything else. So just make sure you’re in the right mindset first.

And the good stuff…

  1. Write what you feel, no matter what it is, about anything you see or read.

    If you see something that just pinches you wrong, even if it’s just how a word is used, let the author know. This is your job, so just do it. Don’t be afraid of doing this; just point the thing out, explain your defense, and go on to the next thing. If you feel something doesn’t work, all you have to do is say something. And write down everything that you feel about it. You get an emotional trigger, put it down. It reads awkwardly, put it down.

    You could think now that this doesn’t help much, because you could be editing every single word if you write what you “feel.”

    I never said I was conventional, did I?

    To clarify further: Let the author know about things you hate, and things you love. I can’t stress this enough. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT THE STORY. You can point out all the things you feel is wrong, because that’s what you need to do as your job as editor. But I think that equally important is pointing out those things that make you go, “Yeah! That’s awesome! Rock on!” and so forth. It lets the author know what works in terms of characterization, description, etc. and that is integral to the editing process for me. And nothing is too big or too little to mention.

    So….yeah. Go with your gut instinct. Some technical people (coughMariecough) might tell you what you’re doing is messed up (like using “since” to start a sentence). But if you’re honest about what you think and what you feel, then you’re doing the best job you can do.

  1. Nothing you do is wrong, but remember that it’s also not always right.

    One of the hardest things for me to do when editing with another person was conceding that I wasn’t always right about things. We would argue and bicker over the stupidest point, and easily write 200 words about it. And it would be over…oh, whether eyes were green, or if they were blue. Something that insignificant could have a big impact on the author, and it definitely helps you learn about how others edit, and what you do have wrong.

    I have trouble admitting when I’m wrong, so it was a great learning process for me (see above comment about starting sentences with “since.”) It was also really fascinating to see how much my opinion could differ to someone else’s, and that really helped me edit my work with more clarity and precision.

    And the last point about this I have to say is no matter what you say or change, it will always be at the discretion of the author. You might be 100% convinced that what you’ve done is perfectly perfect and there’s no way that it can get anymore, well, perfect. But guess what? It’s your word against theirs, and if they don’t want to change their main character’s name from Jackie O to Spock because you think it’s a good idea, then it’s not going to happen and you have to accept that graciously.

  1. Convince your author that if they don’t have two or more editors, to get another one.

    This is easily one of the best things you can do for your writing and editing process. For me, this was easily one of the best things to keep me motivated. I am competitive as hell, and when I saw my fellow editor chugging away and cranking out fully edited chapters, it just got my editing juices flowing too. It also helps to have people that will talk to you about the work besides the author, because chances are they will want to talk about the same things.

    It will help your author too, because they will have two+ editors asking questions, requesting new sections or chapters, etc. It will give them two perspectives, two sets of opinions, and it can facilitate some great discussion about the work, which is always good for any story, poem, whatever.


Editing for yourself:

So all of this so far has been in terms of editing for other people. It is much easier to edit someone else’s work, because the things you don’t like will stand out much more than when you’re editing your own stuff.

Needless to say, editing your own work is a lot harder. You’re more critical, and at the same time you don’t want to let anything go.

I loathe editing my own work, and like all writers out there, it’s hard to tough out critiques from other people, even if they’re right. It’s getting easier, as I do it more and more, but it’s still tough as nails. I never used to edit my work. I would just write it out a couple times, and then just post it. NOT A GOOD IDEA. So, the biggest thing is remember to stay critical and try to stay as detached as possible, and to give yourself several days after writing a paragraph, chapter, whatever, before you begin your editing. I find it easier to edit my own work in hard copy if I’ve got it on my computer, and vice versa.


Now, I do my editing very subjectively, as you can see from above. I just got into it one day, and now I’m considered a fairly decent amateur “editor” (though lord knows why people want to hear my opinion about anything).

That doesn’t mean that everyone can just start editing and be good at it. I’m sorry to break your hearts, but it requires a very, very deep background in writing. I’ve been writing for over 7 years. I started researching stuff like the English monarchical hierarchy, just so I knew 100% what the difference between an earl and a lord was for my own stories when I was only 12 or 13 years old. I spent hours upon hours looking up synonyms for colours, and then making sure I knew exactly what that colour looked like, so I could expand my vocabulary. You need to be decent at writing, at the very least, to be even a half-decent editor. You don’t need to be super organized, you don’t have to be a perfectionist, but you need to have experience, and lots of it.

To help further your knowledge, here is what I recommend. Write a bunch of stuff by hand. I never typed any of my work until about four years ago. It helped me a lot, because it gives you the opportunity to get your writing-flow going, without the distraction of the internet and whatever. When you transfer things to electronic, it also gives you an opportunity to self edit your work (if you are looking at your writing with a critical eye when you’re doing so), which will get you in the habit of catching things in other people’s stuff.

Also, invest in a good dictionary, and a good thesaurus. I like the Oxford versions, but just make sure it’s a nice one, and big (it helps boost your “smart” ego too).

And read read read!!!! I don’t know what your preferred genre is. I used to only read fantasy, but since grade 12 literature and English class, I have begun to expand my horizons. Read some classics, some postmodern (In the Skin of a Lion is a great book, though a little sophisticated), some regular old fiction, and whatever else tickles your fancy. I always judge my books by the covers, especially if I’m just looking for a new story without any recommendation. If you have a library card, USE IT. I just cannot stress how important it is for you all to read to improve your own writing!!!!!! Obviously, don’t take a book you love and steal passages from it (that is called PLAGIARISM and it is a terrible thing to do). But if there’s certain stylistic things you like, words you don’t know, underline them, research these things, find ways to make it totally your own.


  1. Very well said, Mika. Nothing about this is "silly" or "terrible", as you would have had me believe. Actually, it's all very interesting and useful too, in a different way from the entry I did.

    I can totally relate to what you said about learning to edit with someone else. The first few chapters were difficult for me to get through, just because I wasn't used to another editor questioning what I putting down. Like you, I was used to being "right." And then I got to know you, of course, and realised you weren't out to steal my thunder or make my life difficult, you were just doing everything you could to make TANGO the best it could be. And I appreciate that, really I do. I learnt just as much from you as you did from me.

    So I concur, my dear, and sincerely hope there'll be an opportunity to work with you again in the future. :) Also, I'm still open to editing your work, if you want me to. Just shoot me an email, PM my LJ or comment my Facebook or whatever. :)

    ~ Marie

  2. :)
    This was really interesting to read!

    Generally when reading stories I'm better at picking up on the plot holes and what seems off- so I understand by what you mean by writing about 'what you feel'.

    I would have to agree about the self editing too. I normally ask my family members to proof read my work. Fresh eyes are magical :)
    Thanks for sharing!