Sunday, January 3, 2010


For the last day or two, I've put aside my own writing to work on another project that is dear to my heart: editing manuscripts for Coming Together Presents series.

Coming Together is the brain-child of Alessia Brio, who was my guest yesterday here at Beyond Romance. In the last few years, Alessia has assembled nearly a dozen collections of erotic stories and poetry, contributed by a wide range of authors. The proceeds from each volume support a different charity or cause. The literary quality of the series has been widely praised and several volumes have won industry awards. Personally, I've had the honor to contribute stories that supported breast cancer research, AIDS prevention, conservation, human rights, and recovery from the 2007 California wildfires.

Coming Together Presents is a new venture, single author collections rather than anthologies. Alessia asked me whether I'd be willing to edit the series, and I jumped at the chance to use my smut-mongering abilities for altruistic purposes. (I've edited two previous multi-author collections, as well as lots of non-fiction as part of my job, so I do have some qualifications.) The first three volumes will be out (in print and ebook) later this year.

So anyway, yesterday I was doing line edits for the first collection, by M. Christian (one of my favorite authors). I was fixing grammar errors, rewording awkward sentence structures, getting rid of repetitious words and constructions, and so on. I went whizzing along, feeling quite confident in my ability to see the problems in other authors' work.

All of a sudden it hit me. Why couldn't I do the same thing for my own writing? Sure, my editors usually tell me that my manuscripts are cleaner than average, but that doesn't stop me from using the same word ten times on a page. Or consistently using words like "forwards" when I should write "forward". Or losing the focus and writing something that is inconsistent with my current point of view (such as describing how my character looks when she's in the throes of a kiss with her eyes closed!) Or putting the "effect" before the "cause". ("She gave a startled scream. The door slammed shut.") Or any of the other typical mistakes or missteps that I make in my drafts.

I'm an excellent editor, but like most authors, I am somewhat blind to my own faults. Ask any author and she'll tell you the same thing--it's far easier to critique someone else's work than your own.

I'm extremely grateful for the fact that all three of the publishers I'm working with at the moment have exceptional editorial staff. Actually, that's one of the benefits of e-publishing. My first books were released in print by a New York publisher with a long history. This publisher hardly edited the books at all. I've found that my e-publishers are far more diligent and meticulous. Furthermore, the lines of communication are always open between the editor and author. If I disagree with my editor about some change, we can discuss the issue and work out a solution.

In the past, my husband edited some of my books. He also picked up on problems I couldn't see, and was brave enough to point them out. He doesn't really like either BDSM or gay romance, so these days I don't bother him much!

When I realize how much effort it takes to edit someone else's writing (even a skilled professional like M.Christian), I feel grateful for my own editors. It's a cooperative effort, of course. Most e-publishers pay their editors via royalties rather than a salary. So when my books sell well, my editors benefit too.

When I read books by other authors, however, it's difficult to take off my editor's hat. I really hate discovering that a book is full of grammar, spelling or formatting errors. That sort of shoddy editing makes me feel as though the author or the publisher or maybe both didn't really care about their readers.

So I am a bit nervous about the Coming Together series. I'm moderately confident of my editing abilities, but I really want to make a good impression.

I think I'll ask my husband to be a second pair of eyes...!


sherry said...

Thank you for such a great post I never think about what all has to be done for the book to get to me. I think it's always easier to find the mistakes when your not a close to something.

Estella said...

I like to hear about the work that goes in to a book before it is released.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Sherry,

That's one reason I posted this. One of my publishers goes through TWO rounds of edits for every book.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Estella,

I'm not sure readers NEED to know about this, but I thought you might find it interesting.

Tamsyn said...

It is always easier to spot mistakes when you don't know the material. At work, when I have to write the presentation materials, I could never spot my own mistakes because I had read it over so many times that my brain just sort of skipped through them. But I could pick them out easily in my colleague's presentation!:o)

Devon Rhodes said...

If your husband passes, don't forget you know another darned good proofer. ;)

I'm in the same boat; I always get compliments from my editors on my "clean" mss, but there are always a few things of my own that I just don't process...whereas when I'm proofing or editing for another author, they seem to jump out at me.

Devon Rhodes said...

LOL! And when I say "passes", I mean on your request for a second set of eyes, not as a euphemism for death! Gods forbid!

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