Today I’m hosting a guest on my blog – Mark M. McMillin, author of The Butcher’s Daughter, who talks about the editing process. I’ll leave the word to Mark now.
The author’s recipe on book editing:
Thank you for this question. I will skip over block and tackle type editing (punctuation, spelling, grammar, formatting, etc.) as we all know how to do this. It certainly helps to have a second pair of eyes for these types of matters. As for hiring a professional editor for style, plot, character development, etc., this is very pricey (and seems somewhat risky to me as even a top notch editor may not be the right choice for your particular work depending on your writing style or the subject material/genre of the book). For this reason, I pretty much edit my own material. I figure that I either have the skill to write or I don’t and if I don’t, no editor is going to be able to fix that.
I don’t know if how I do it is right or wrong, I have no doubt many writers are better at editing than me so you should take the following advice with a ‘grain of salt.’ Ah, my first suggestion in editing: when you see a cliché, rewrite!
My second suggestion: be mindful of the so-called ‘rules’ of good writing, but wary too. There is a fine line between ignoring the basic rules of writing in favor of creativity and churning out a mess. Then again, we’ve all seen were wonderful creativity can triumph over the rules. For example (I am old school) a paragraph requires and minimum of two sentences under the rules. Nah…
Editing can be tedious and time consuming. I’ve spent hours trying to figure out how to correct just one sentence or where exactly to place a comma. Maybe that makes me a poor writer, who knows. I’ve written four books. Each book took between six to twelve months to write – the rough draft – and then I spend another year or so editing and rewriting each book at least a half dozen times. I probably wrote 200,000 or 300,000 words to get a 100,000 word finished product. Be prepared, after you think you finished your manuscript, to spend long hours slicing and dicing and polishing your work over and over again.
Editing can also be fun and rewarding. What I mean by this that I try very hard to not only tell an interesting story but to tell it in an interesting way and that is fun. For example, we can all describe a castle (descriptions of people and things are hard for me for some reason, action scenes and dialogue is easy, go figure). “The knight stood before the castle with a sword at his sid. He glanced up and took in the armed men standing along the ramparts. A black bird flew overhead.” That brief scene seems OK to me. Can we improve it? Sure we can. The possibilities are endless. How do we make the scene more interesting, the imagery more powerful? One way might be: “The knight stood alone before the stark, gray walls of the castle. He stood rigidly in his dented armor holding a broken sword at his side. He glanced up above the castle’s two thick doors, made from heavy beams of solid oak, and took in the men standing along the ramparts in gleaming armor with swords drawn and spears tipped in whetted bronze at the ready. Overhead, a black raven circled around the king’s royal banner fluttering in the breeze.”
Too much description I think is boring, too little is dull. I try hard to find the right mix. Sometimes I think succeed.
Finally, write as you want to write. I wouldn’t listen too much to the so-called experts out there. I’ve had some professionals over the years tell me that my books are too long, others that they are too short. Some have told me that my character development needs work but that the dialogue is wonderful and authentic, others that my character development is wonderful but that the dialogue is weak. Some professionals thought my style is too complex – others that it is too simplistic. You get the idea. (Everyone at least liked the plot!) Write as you want to write (but don’t ignore all the critics either, especially if there is general agreement in the criticisms)!
Well, I’ve gone over my 500 words! I welcome any contrary thoughts and – best of luck!
About the Book
Title: The Butcher’s Daughter
Author: Mark M. McMillin
Genre: Historical Fiction
In an age ruled by iron men, in a world of new discovery and Spanish gold, a young Irishwoman named Mary rises from the ashes of her broken childhood with ships and men-at-arms under her command. She and her loyal crew prowl the Caribbean and prosper in the New World for a time until the ugly past Mary has fled from in the old one finds her.
Across the great ocean to the east, war is coming. The King of Spain is assembling the most powerful armada the world has ever seen – an enormous beast – to invade England and depose the Protestant “heretic queen.” To have any chance against the wealth and might of Spain, England will need every warship, she will need every able captain. To this purpose, Queen Elizabeth spares Mary from the headman’s axe for past sins in exchange for her loyalty, her ships and men.
Based on true historical events, this is an epic story about war, adventure, love and betrayal. This is a timeless story about vengeance. This is a tale of heartbreak…
Mark is an attorney by day and an author by night. He has always had a passion for history and writing. The Butcher’s Daughter is his fourth book. Mark began his career with the military. He is a veteran of the “Cold War” and served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany. Mark currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and is the general counsel for an airline and freight forwarding company.
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