I spoke yesterday about tricks to avoid when it comes to writing a novel, but today I want to focus on the importance of finding yourself a good editor.
Take heed, however: even before you find your editor, proofread the living daylights out of your manuscript. An editor is not a proofreader. Spell-check, know your grammar, polish the prose until it shines; an editor does not want to cater to a sloppy author, no matter how much dough you're willing to fork up.
Now you might be asking yourself: if an editor is not a proofreader, then what is an editor?
An editor is your first critic, your adversary and your conscience. An editor is going to take your prose from "good" to "amazing". It is, above all things, a business relationship. Unlike your friends and family who curry to your favor and will love your manuscript no matter what because you created it, an editor is an expert in their field. A good editor will not agree with you for the sake of friendship, and if they do? Run like hell. A good editor is honest, critical and unbiased. You will not always get along, some exchanges will be terse, especially if you've grown attached to the manuscript, however, if your editor has more questions about the plot than you have answers: listen to their advice. In the end? It's just words on a page.
Your editor is not the middleman, your editor is the person who is going to take you where you want to go. Sure you're paying him or her, but that by no means makes them lower than you. If an editor offers you a suggestion, you are free to diplomatically eschew or embrace it. However, in regards to style, grammar and the basic structure of the English language? Trust them, they went to school for it. They spent years of their life dedicated to it. If you're bull-headed enough to eschew their advice in that arena and go to an agent with flaws in the manuscript: it's your head on the chopping block and your failed book deal.
That being said, for many amateur writers, it can be an excruciating process going through revisions. However, revisions are inevitable. The first few drafts of a manuscript are always flawed, and the process of revision allows the prose to open up and come full-circle to where it needs to be. It is a guaranteed ass-kicking, and one of the hardest things to do is kill off certain scenes and/or characters, but remember: an editor is your first critic. If you've come so far in the relationship trusting what advice they've given to you, don't you think you should trust them the rest of the way?
One thing that disappoints me to no end is clients trying to emulate other authors. It kills me. It kills me! The deliberate miming of other authors and citing them as the be-all, end-all is in poor taste and a complete betrayal of one's self. Why would you want to ride on somebody else's coattails when you can create your own legacy? Why bother sitting down to write at all if you want to be in someone else's shadow? Find your own voice.
I can't stress enough the importance of seeking a great editor. Sure, self-publishing is the norm these days and it's easy to avoid finding an editor, but think of all the time and dedication you put into your manuscript, and then think of all the money wasted if your book never gets off the ground. A lot of authors may claim they don't want recognition, but everybody wants recognition for their hard work. A good editor will help amplify you and cultivate your manuscript to the very best it can be. A good editor is not a fork in the road, but the first critic. They will push you to be the best you can be and champion you to doubters.
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