You might have heard "don't waste your time editing" before, but make sure you don't take that bit of advice out of context. It is almost always talking about when you're in the thick of writing a rough draft. What is meant is, "Don't use editing as an excuse to never finish." Although it can be used as a method of procrastination, editing is never a waste of time.
If you go back to the tired old metaphor of writing a book as having a child, you can look at it like this. Writing the rough draft is like carrying and birthing the story. Doing the rewrites is like raising it. You're taking the "child" and molding them into the "adult" they will become. Editing is sending that "child" to school. It gives them their best chance at being successful out in the real world. Formatting, the cover art, and back cover blurb are basic grooming and hygiene skills you teach the "child."
Would read college texts to a child in utero? I mean, you can, but they aren't going to understand it. A child has to be ready and reached a certain level of maturity before formal education is effective. A manuscript is similar. What good does it do to try and perfect a bit of text only to discover it's extraneous and needs to be cut in its entirety farther on into the writing? That's the "wasting time" referred to in the adage about editing.
However, when your manuscript is fully formed and it's been through a round or two of rewrites to clear away the extraneous bits, tighten the prose, and fill in plot holes, is it as good as it can be? The answer is invariably no. No matter who you are, how long you've been writing, or how stellar your scores in English class were, everyone makes mistakes. This is where editing comes in.
Those mistakes can take away from a reader's experience when reading your work. Worse still, they can make you and your work seem less than intelligent, and the effect is cumulative. Readers understand everyone makes mistakes, even pros and editors. Just about every book out there has a typo or two somewhere that managed to slip through the cracks. But that's one or two words amongst 70,000-120,000. If you're manuscript has one or two every few pages because you skipped the editing phase, how do you think that makes it look?
You can have a rip roaring story, a beautiful cover, superb back blurb, and intense marketing, but if you didn't edit it, things aren't going to go well for it.
Yes, editing is tedious. Yes, editing can be time consuming. It's also necessary and something of a life vest for your work. Don't skip it. You're sure to regret it if you do.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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