Yep, I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (and I fervently hope it’s not a train).
What do I mean by that? Well, the completion of Half Past Midnight is rapidly approaching. I’m getting close to the end of the editing stage of the novel, and this round of edits is moving much faster than the last, (you’ll see that my current project “progress meter” in the right sidebar column has been updated). I suppose that’s to be expected, since round 3 was where the vast majority of the work took place.
However, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly on this blog, I’m new at this business, and never quite sure what to expect. So if you’re reading this to see what an inexperienced author runs into as he begins to forge a career in writing, then here is a quick pearl for you… editing is tough, and if you want to do it right, don’t try to do it alone.
Think about it. You’ve sweated and toiled to pull the tale out of your head – out of your heart and soul. You’ve worked to translate the scenes in your mind’s eye into a written format, doing your damnedest to breathe life into the words as they leave your body and dance about on the computer screen. You go through draft after draft, and edit after edit until you know exactly how you intend each and every scene to play out. No one is more intimately acquainted with your novel than you are.
And therein lies the rub. You know exactly what you intend to say without actually having to read it any longer. You know it so well, that your mind automatically fills in the scene after only viewing a few keywords to trigger it. You are too close to it to view the actual writing with an objective eye. If you are a writer, you know what I’m talking about.
How many times have you written something, intending it to have a particular meaning – knowing that it reads the way you want it to – only to have someone rub your nose in an obviously misplaced word or missing quotation mark that completely changes the meaning? Or what about the times when you have rewritten a scene so many times that you have it ingrained into your mind one way, only to have someone point out that you left an entire line out during your rewrites? It’s not that you haven’t seen the writing, it’s that you haven’t seen the writing objectively.
When I first wrote Half Past Midnight, the novel was 136k words long. When I began shopping it around to agents, no one wanted to touch a novel of that length from an unknown, first time author. I was advised repeatedly to bring it down to under 100k words. In trying to do so, I took out an entire character and a sub-plot involving a traitor who turns against the protagonists… well, never mind the details. The point is, when I rewrote the novel, I had one hell of a time removing all the references and lead-ins for that subplot. I constantly had people who I had asked to critique the work asking me what the hell did “X” mean, or why was “Y” happening. Each time it was yet another instance of my having missed a reference to a plotline that no longer existed in the book.
Most of us (writers) know this problem all to well. But there is a great temptation presented these days by stories of new authors riding the wave of new technology to quick riches. And the changing rules of the modern publication industry is enough to lure people to publish before their work is really ready – before it has been reviewed by an objective set of eyes. Self- or indie- published authors often take shortcuts, knowing that within a few months or weeks, they can, with just a few strokes of the keyboard, have their name on the cover of a book that is for sale on Amazon. And often the work they present isn’t quite “ready for prime-time”. There are some fantastic storytellers out there that are publishing their own stuff. Some have hired editors, and some haven’t. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I say you can usually tell the difference!
The way I see it, there are three parts to producing a decent novel in today’s publishing environment; writing the story, editing properly, formatting it properly. Additionally, if I want to make any money at this (so I can continue to do what I enjoy, and write even more), I will also have to publicize well. Like I said, I’m new to the biz, so if I’ve missed something, please forgive me.
So I have four pieces to this entire business that I need to do well if I plan to become a writing professional, and not just a writing enthusiast. And I get exactly one chance to make a first impression to the public. One chance! I want to make my impression as good as I possibly can.
Now, there are certain skills I have. I believe I am a relatively decent storyteller, and hopefully a decent enough writer. Whether or not that’s true still remains to be seen.
But there are also certain skills that I don’t have, and I’m honest enough with myself to admit it. I’m no graphic artist, I don’t know squat about formatting for epub (yet), and I am not an editor. If I were to attempt to publish on my own, without the advantage of a professional editor, or cover artist, or e-book formatter, I wouldn’t be presenting the best impression I can. I wouldn’t be presenting the best product I can – and that’s no way to run a business that will ultimately depend on customer satisfaction and goodwill.
And it’s certainly no way to make a good first impression.
So I approach the writing business as a business. If the end product calls for a skill that I don’t have, I can’t be afraid to hire someone who has that skill. I can’t afford to get caught up in my ego, because it’s not all about me. It’s about my audience. It’s about delivering the best product I can, and making the best impression I can, each and every time I put my name on something.