I finished line editing my novel last night. Well. I finished marking up the printed version with pink ink last night. Grafting all the changes into a digital copy had to wait for another time.
And I may decide to run through the ending again. Unless I mis-marked my start time, I worked through the ending at literally twice my average speed to that point, which tells me I was probably not as critical as I could have been on those last 30 pages. At least a couple had no marks at all. Is my first go really the best those pages could be? Maybe. Or maybe I just got so caught up in the story that I forgot to analyze the words during the climax and denouement.
I wrote my start and stop times on the pages so I would be able to keep track of how long the process took, in the sense of how long it would take me if I were an editor and not an author who had to go back and make decisions on whether to accept the suggested changes. I am glad I did, because this process did not take me nearly as long as I expected, nor as long as I would have estimated, looking back on the process, if I had not been keeping such a strict record of work times. Nor as long as industry professionals have tried to insist to me that it does.
I did 11 editing sessions, five of them a full hour. Several of the other six were just little 15-minute stretches at lunch or before work. My total was 8 hours. Eight hours for 50,000 words. Really it was 7.5 hours for 53,383 words, but the others are such nice round numbers, don’t you think? Plus this gives me a half-hour of flex time to go back over the ending without having to redo this post.
I am embarrassed to admit I missed three–not one, not two, but THREE–typos that my mom had caught on her beta read, that I had overlooked every time I read the piece, even on my phone as a Kindle book, even on paper, that I found after I finished my work last night because that was when I remembered that I had not yet looked at her minutiae, only the big-picture stuff we discussed via email. So that is how I know that I missed them. All three were the same type of error, too: a missing word. Blech. This means when I think I’m done, that I’ll have to scour the file again at least once more. I cannot abide mistakes. Three in one novel is too many, if I am the one with her name on the cover and the editing credit in the afterward.
I don’t know how obsessively I’ll be able to track the changes I make when I integrate the edits. I am curious how many words I remove, how many words I replace, how many new words I add, and how many punctuation constructions I alter. I am curious what the total difference is between performing a line edit versus not: 3%? 10%? I would like to catalog the changes that closely. But I know myself, and typing these corrections into my document seems like the sort of task I can easily get wrapped up in and forget to make notes about…so we’ll see how the stat’s taking goes.
For now, it’s enough that I have a baseline. I can average 15 pages per hour of my semi-finished prose in my editing layout (which averages 500 words per page, or double the going per-page word estimate). This is almost in line with what I guessed editorial speed to be way back when, when I calculated from my perspective the staff time involved in creating an ebook at a publishing house. I concede that my editing timeline then was a bit brisk; it’s three times reading speed to edit, not double, at least the first pass. I doubt the second or third pass require double, however, so I think my total time was pretty spot-on…IF you assume the editors they hire work as quickly as my overeducated ass.
If they can’t, then this is just more proof that a publisher is not adding a value to the process.
***UPDATE: I was definitely coasting on the current of my own words last night. Went over about 5 pages of the end at lunch – found about 5 things I missed yesterday that I want to change today. Looks like I will have to go through the other 25 pages from last night again, too.
A prime example of just how subjective editing is when it gets to the tightening/polishing part. 🙂