I could probably write a book about my personal journey from aspiring writer to published author. The old Beatle’s song, “The Long and Winding Road,” leaps into mind, because it probably describes my experiences best. But to keep it short, sweet, and to the point, I offer the following:
- Rejections: I have acquired quite a collection over the years. Most of them were “form” rejections; some arrived with a personal note. I valued the personal ones. They encouraged, they praised, and they kept me going. However, none of them ever told me how to improve. One suggested hiring an editor. Not a bad idea if one can afford it. I couldn’t. But then--
- The heavens smiled. I submitted one of my novels for consideration. (I had two at the time).The editor that read my book praised and encouraged. But—if I ever expected to publish that novel, I needed to make a host of revisions. She was kind enough to give me direction. If I made the suggested revisions, she said, I could submit the work again. She didn’t have to ask me twice. This sweet editor worked with me for months. She gave me guidance each step of the way. Finally, she gave me my first contract and then my third. In the meantime, InkSpell awarded my second. Hallelujah!
- What did my editor teach me? She taught me that first and foremost, I needed to acquire patience and perseverance. Then she taught me what to do between writing “the end” and submitting my work to a publisher. Would you like to hear a few of the important ones, just in case you don’t land that special editor?
- Polish the tarnished silver until it shines: This means I need to edit and re-edit each manuscript I write until I can recite the pages in my sleep. I have learned to delete those passages (though dear to my heart) that slow the tempo of my story. At times, I kicked an entire subplot into the garbage can. (Don’t worry; I eventually got over it.) Pay attention to punctuation and grammar. They matter.
- Keeping my reader engaged in the story: She taught me to watch for those passages that “tell” instead of “show.” Every editor will tell you that your readers want to live your story alongside your characters. Give them every opportunity to do that.
- She suggested that I find at least one critique partner (no, not your mother, but she can read it too), the more the merrier. I have four. They receive a copy of each manuscript I write and in turn, they give me their honest thoughts and criticisms with each and every revision. I don’t tak offence when they give it. I take everything they say into consideration and then I edit my manuscript again.
- At the end of the day: The final novel has always turned out far better than the first effort. In fact, I can honestly say, there is no comparison between version one and version ten or twenty.