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Alana Woods on editing: can you read and edit simultaneously?

Posted by Alana Woods on June 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM

I’ve covered a lot of ground about editing in the last weeks.

This week I put a question to you.

Can you read for enjoyment and edit a document simultaneously?

I’ll say up front that I can’t.

I either read a book for pleasure—in which case I may see errors, but I’m not looking for them. Or I have my editor’s hat on and I am looking for them.

Over the years I’ve noticed another difference. When I read for pleasure I retain much of what I read long term. When I edit I become intimately involved with the subject matter for the duration of the editing process only. I tend to forget most of what I’ve worked on within days of finishing it.

How about you?


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Categories: Tips on editing

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6 Comments

Reply Alana Woods
2:48 AM on June 7, 2012 
Hi Clare, I think for me it's because I'm concentrating on words and construction. Even with a substantive edit where you look at everything I don't retain anything except an overall picture of the story.
Reply Alana Woods
2:46 AM on June 7, 2012 
Caleb, you're so right.
Reply Alana Woods
2:44 AM on June 7, 2012 
Hi Jack, I've yet to meet a decent editor who says they'll guarantee they catch 100% of the mistakes in a manuscript. I'm happy going as far as 99.99% and hopefully it's 100% most of the time. That's why I like the one-on-one proofread--you can't beat two pairs of eyes looking at a document together.
Reply Jack Durish
8:57 AM on June 6, 2012 
Your experience is pretty much the same as mine. I don't see every error as I read for pleasure but the obvious ones are like speed bumps and interrupt the pleasure of reading. Too many and I give up. When I was a copywriter, I would have to force myself to read word for word which works only for short blocks of text. Fortunately, my wife is a far better editor than I and I depend upon her to get "most" of the errors. I then have four or five "readers" take a crack at my manuscript. Even then, a few things get through.
Reply Caleb Pirtle
7:39 AM on June 6, 2012 
Information on editing may be the most important thing an indie author can read these days. A lot of people can tell a good story. But the editing in the book makes it almost impossible to read.
Reply Clare Davidson
3:39 AM on June 6, 2012 
Whilst I can appreciate what I'm reading, I don't think I can read for enjoyment whilst I'm editing. I become too consumed by the big picture and nitpicking to truly get absorbed by the story and characters. I agree that it's hard to remember it all clearly afterwards, too! For me I think that's because the lines between the original and new version get very blurred.