When the time arrives to edit a manuscript, my brain has to shift out of author mode and into the mode of editor. I’m no longer creating. My imagination must stop running wild. Once I decide I’ve entered the revision stage of the process, I need to examine the mechanics of story structure, decide if I’ve told readers what they need to know when they need to know it, evaluate my characters, look for ways to be more concise or places where I need to expand, and check my grammar for the inevitable errors. Some people think of revision and editing as a function of the logical vs. artistic side of the human brain. I think of it as a time for pushing the button marked reset.
Authors who write one draft and claim they never need edits are only fooling themselves. Every book can be improved by a second or third look. But authors have to develop a new perspective in order to edit successfully. Word choice counts. Grammar counts. A paragraph must be examined with a different eye, a sharp eye that is concerned with sentence structure and variety and aware of the quickly forgotten features your high school teachers told you would someday be important.
An author needs to, in effect, become another person or put on another hat.
This is a difficult task. Sentences that have been read over several times become invisible, and your mind fills in missing words. Explanations seem clear as day. Surely readers will know what you’re talking about. Characters all seem to be open books, with no secrets that haven’t been mentioned earlier. Dates seem sequential. If I say there is a car in the garage, surely I haven’t had someone disappear with it previously.
Some of the errors won’t be caught until a proofreader finds them just before publication. But every author should at least try to find the mistakes. When I finish the last page of a story, I let it sit for a week or two then hit the mental reset button and dive into edits.
A manuscript can be a jungle. A close look by a detached reader can reveal embarrassing errors. I’ve learned the hard way that it is always better to hit the reset and find the whoppers now, before they become immortalized in print.