This is a repost of a blog I wrote last year, but I’ve read some novels over the past few weeks that make me think it needs to be said again.
…let’s talk about that manuscript you’ve been working on…
After months of laboriously banging away at your keyboard, you have successfully birthed a book baby from your brain matter. Congratulations! You have done the thing that many are too scared or unable to do. And like every proud parent, you think your baby is beautiful and perfect and you are anxious to share it with the world. I understand your enthusiasm, but speaking from experience, your book isn’t ready to see the world. It’s not even ready to see your critique group, if you are a member of one. You know how babies sometimes get stuck in the birth canal and come out with lumpy misshapen heads and a face so swollen that you can’t tell where their eyes and cheeks end and begin? Yeah….That’s what your book looks like right now–a swollen and misshapen baby. It has a face only a mother could love. So if you were thinking about forcing that misshapen baby into the hands of readers without a round of edits, I have one word for you: DON’T.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying, “But Tasha, Author Suzy What’s It published her book without any editing and it was a breakout bestseller!” Valid point. But guess what? You’re not Author Suzy What’s It and if you know anything about publishing, you should know that sort of success is rarely duplicated. Don’t focus on how to get around the rules. Instead, learn the rules and use them in your favor. In short, DO THE FREAKING WORK. I feel like this is so important. Do the work, people. If you respect your craft others will, too.
Still not convinced?
Okay, fine. Here are three solid reasons why you need an editor. (FYI: there are more than three reasons, but I think these three are pretty persuasive.)
You’re too close to the work to see it’s flaws. You’ve been nursing this misshapen, bloated brain baby for months. You’ve read it so many times that you see through all of it’s faults to the golden egg of inspiration from which it hatched. You don’t see a book full of characters that never speak above a whisper or a murmur. You don’t see the repetitive sentences and phrases that crop up like a bad case of the herp. You don’t see the unnecessary or confusing scenes or the huge plot gaps that would leave a reader scratching their head. Now I can hear you saying, “But my mother/sister/best friend read it and said it was amazing!” So what. Your friends and family are almost required to tell you that your book baby is a special snowflake. Readers aren’t. Readers will be brutal. Nothing spreads faster than word of mouth when it comes to book sales and you don’t want to be branded as a hot mess. Nobody likes a hot mess.
You lack the mechanics. Some of us are brilliant storytellers but aren’t brilliant writers. In some ways, I think storytelling is more important. The basic mechanics of writing can be taught while storytelling is a gift or a talent, but I digress. My point is, if you don’t know anything about point of view, verb tenses, punctuation, etc.—or worse, if you think you know but you really don’t—your book will be murdered by reviewers. (Jesus, that was a long sentence…who’s the editor around here?)
You don’t know or understand what your readership expects/wants. The thrill of self-publishing is that you can pretty much make your own rules and create your own genres. But if you’re going to label your book as a romance, thriller, historical, mystery, etc., there are some things that readers expect to happen within those pages. And they tend to get pretty miffed if it doesn’t. How you write your story will determine your readership. Labeling your book a romance when it’s really women’s literature is the equivalent of enrolling your kid in theatre when he’s really a wrestler. Like, WOW. So much awkwardness. But for real doe, this is something you want to get right from the start. It could be the difference between wallowing in sadness and obscurity and living comfortably in the mid-list or beyond.
So there you have it. Three solid reasons to hire an editor and avoid suckitude. I hope that you’ve been convinced.