Monday, 7 January 2013

Do Writers Need an Editor? Hell, Yes!

Every author, no matter how experienced, needs their work viewed by a professional editor who can spot the flaws we writers are blind to. The old adage, "not being able to see the forest for the trees," I believe was written specifically for writers. We are too close to our work - our baby - to recognise its faults. Honestly, what parent doesn't see the sun shining from their child's rear end, when that said rear end needs desperate cleaning?!
Nor are we like Mozart - well maybe someone is, and good luck to them - who could pen an entire symphony from scratch, without a single correction and have it performed the next day to worldwide acclaim! The rest of us humble mortals must drag that precious idea from our fevered minds and find the right words to convey our story to the world - minus all the corrections, deletions, scratchings, and rewrits that are a normal part of any writer's life.
Recently, I had my manuscript viewed by a publisher, who helpfully sent me a three page report outlining what they loved about it and suggestions where it could be improved. They then gave me the option to resubmit.
I'd be a dumb bunny not to take them up on the offer, as such free editorial advice is invaluable.

To briefly summarise, these were some of the issues in my manuscript:
- create tension between the two main protagonists that can be sustained throughout the length of the book. It heightens the emotional journey and gives the reader greater connectivity with your characters. In other words, if you're writing a romance book, don't make your two leads fall in love too quickly. Make them suffer!

- get rid off anything which doesn't enhance the character or journey of the protagonist, even if it means "killing off your darlings" - that favourite chapter, scene or paragraph. If it doesn't make any difference to the book, leave it out!
I've now removed two chapters.

- tighten up paragraphs. If it can be said in one sentence, don't add another three. As they say, less is more.
I've now tightened up at least a hundred.

- you can have more than one climax in a story, but leave the best one for the end, where all questions are finally answered and all loose ends are neatly tied up.

That's the gist of it.
So, until the end of this month, I'll be working on those issues and resubmitting my manuscript.
Stay tuned.
I'd love to know if anyone else has received good editorial advice from a publisher,  and acted on it.


Dionne said...

Good luck with it Tima and it's so exciting that you have piqued the interest of a publisher. Good work!

T. Drecker said...

Congratulations on getting that feedback! And thanks for sharing. The tips are invaluable.

SaStrau said...

It's a rare and lucky thing to get feedback from a publisher! So congrats on getting them interested enough to give that feedback. I would, however, caution against making changes to a book based on comments from one reviewer, even a really smart and experienced one, unless you agree with the comments. I make changes that I agree with, but if I'm on the fence (or disagree), I wait for other feedback. If there are five different opinions, that's one thing. If there is consensus, it's another. Otherwise you may find yourself changing something to suit one publisher only to find that the next publisher would have liked it the original way! Good luck!

Tima Maria said...

Hi Dionne, thanks. I was just as surprised. Well, we'll see what they say after I've completed the corrections and resubmit.

Tima Maria said...

Hi T. Decker, thanks and you're most welcome! The feedback from the publisher both surprised and thrilled me. If it can be of help to others, then it's all good.

Tima Maria said...

Hi SaStrau, I agree about the feedback. I was thrilled and when I showed it to both reader and writer friends they agreed with most of the suggestions. And yes, I agree, even experienced editors can give a subjective opinion sometimes.
Thanks for the good wishes.

Diane said...

I tend to agree with SaStrau. In the end, it is one individual opinion against many other individual opinions, including that of the person who actually wrote the book. A friend of mine had her manuscript 'pulled to pieces' by a publisher who insisted all the while that she really LOVED it. The result was a different book to which my friend said she could not possibly put her name. A certain amount of feedback and criticism is vital, but, in the end, it is YOUR book, and you have to be able to believe in yourself. Having read almost half of your manuscript, I do not feel that you have any reason to change anything. As SaStrau wrote, there is no point changing things to suit one individual publisher when other publishers (and readers) would be quite happy with the manuscript in its original form. I feel that it is important to keep in mind that it is your book, not the publisher's book.

Tima Maria said...

Hi Diane, and I agree with you that it's a very subjective thing, but sometimes the publishers do make sense. It's a hard one. As writers we all desire to be published and often that takes compromise on both sides. But, I have no intention of changing the storyline or any other element which makes my book the unique thing it is. And thank you for liking Bloodgifted as it is.

Sarena Straus said...

It's SaStrau..again...I'm definitely not saying to ignore the publisher. They are in the business and they often have really helpful feedback. I'm just saying not to change something every time someone tells you to. Also, you tend to know what gives you that ah ha moment where someone suggests something that solves a problem you couldn't solve, or maybe you didn't even know you had. I had an editor review my YA book and her comments were so insightful without trying to rewrite to book and make it her style. I was lucky to find someone who could give feedback that way!

Tima Maria said...

Hi Sarena,
No worries, I understand where you're coming from. Funnily enough, most people who told me not to change a thing, always mention one or two things they wondered at in my book and when I put them all together, it amounts to roughly the same thing the publisher said! But anyway, the changes I have included, I agree with and when I read over my manuscript, the overall result is much better.