Guest Blog: Author Editing Interview with Alexis Duran

Today I am thrilled to welcome Alexis Duran to the blog to share her thoughts on the editing process.

1) Tell us a bit about you and your writing
I’ve been writing since the dawn of time, and publishing for about ten years now. I mostly write fantasy, and within that genre, gay romance, mystery, and a little science fiction now and then. My first several books were published by Loose Id, which I guess was a medium-small press. They closed this year, forcing me to hurl myself into the world of self-publishing. Although scary, taking control of my publishing career has been fun and rewarding. I owe a lot to my editors at Loose Id, who taught me so much about editing. The best way to learn how to edit, IMHO, is by having your books professionally edited. Talk about eye opening.

2) What do you enjoy most about the editing process?

Enjoy is kind of a strong word…but seriously, once I sink my teeth into the process, I get excited about watching the book improve. It's very much a writer-nerd thing, but getting rid of all the weak phrasing, the over-use of the passive, rooting out repetitive words, etc. is actually quite invigorating! And sometimes in the editing process I discover some element that was missing that makes the book so much stronger. That's a good feeling.

3) What do you find hardest about the editing process?
Giving it all the time it needs. You have to be meticulous, and that's not my nature, but I force myself to give each book due diligence no matter how long it takes. I'm usually up against a ridiculous deadline, and it's tempting to cut corners when I feel the book is fabulous as it is, or maybe I’m just sick of looking at it, but there's always more that can be improved. That's another potential downfall, though: never being willing to let the thing go!

4) What are your general thoughts on editing as part of the overall publishing process?
It's a crucial step, almost as important as writing the book in the first place, and a writer might as well accept that editing is just another step in the writing process. Editing is also not a single occurrence. Ideally, you first get big picture story feedback from trusted colleagues, your editor, or someone you hire, then you get line-by-line craft and story feedback, and then you get word-by-word proofreading feedback. When you're self-publishing, this can be extremely expensive if you have to pay for every step, so having a great critique group and reliable beta readers is a huge help.

5) What are your top editing-related tips for authors?
If at all possible, run your book through a supportive critique group. Getting feedback as you go is invaluable and will save you a lot of heartbreak later. That said, don’t worry too much about editing while writing the first draft. Just get the story down. Then read through it, take extensive notes and refer to all those notes you collected from your group as you rewrite. For me, the second draft is pretty much a complete rewrite. It's really not until I finish that draft that I feel ready for the serious editing to begin. Read the manuscript again, take more notes, fix what's broken, and hopefully you'll be able to make it clean enough at that point to hand off to a beta reader for big picture feedback.
I use an awesome (and excruciating) list of things to look for from veteran author and all around great person Elizabeth Engstrom called The Final Polish. It's available on her website HERE.
This list is worth working through before you hand it over to readers, and also after, when you've done a lot of work on the manuscript and probably messed some things up!
Always get someone else with fresh eyes to do the final read through before publication. At this point they're looking for those tiny little things that are so easy to miss, like exchanging their for there. I don't care if you are a proofreading Ninja, after reading the book so many times, the author just can't see those things anymore.
Finally, be receptive and listen to feedback with an open mind, but also be discerning. That’s an important skill as well, learning to know when a comment is spot-on, and when it’s off the mark. Always keep in mind the goal of communication: anything that’s confusing needs to be fixed.

About the Author
Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing. She's worked in museums, finance, film production and for several performing arts organizations. Her favourite job so far has been inventorying the collection of a haunted Victorian Mansion. She is the author of the Masters and Mages and Edge of Night m/m fantasy series as well as several stand-alone romances. Her fiction has won awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference. She lives with one dog and four and a half cats.  She is currently working on the next Jacqui the Cat mystery and always has several new ideas brewing.