You’ll probably agree that a writer has to be his or her own best editor in a number of respects. Now, more than ever, we need to present the cleanest, best manuscript we can, free of grammatical mistakes and those dreaded “beginner” errors - right from the start. Otherwise, we face almost certain rejection. The exception to the rule might be a story so compelling that an agent or editor will be able to see the inherent value and send the writer a contract.
It took joining ACFW and studying published novels in my genre to learn the distinctions between mediocre writing and truly distinctive, publishable work. Not that I’ve mastered it now, by any means, but I cringe when I go back to those earlier manuscripts (written as recently as late 2008 and early 2009). You want to talk about run-on sentences, excessive line attributions, adverbs... I broke so many of the no-telling, POV shift, head-hopping and other so-called “rules,” that I’m glad I’m stubborn and persistent, or I might have ditched it all and called it a day on my writing career.
When I initially submitted the manuscript for Awakening to Torn Veil Books, I thought it was in publishable shape. Was I ever wrong! I originally wrote that manuscript more than 10 years ago. The storyline is strong with good characters and plot development…it has all the elements. Remember when I mentioned the exception to the rule two paragraphs ago? Well, Awakening is that type of manuscript. I’m convinced Torn Veil sent me a contract based on the strength of the story itself because it certainly wasn’t for my editing ability.
That's when the fun began. I went over it...and over it...with the proverbial fine-tooth comb. After I submitted my edits to Torn Veil's editor, she made the comment that it was one of the best self-edited manuscripts she'd ever seen. High praise indeed, especially from an editor. It was hard work, but totally worth it. Sometimes it's also a mixed blessing to be somewhat of a perfectionist. We need to remember that our book is a reflection of our work, but also reflects on our publisher and editor. Ultimately, we want to give our best to the Master, and that means giving our very best effort. We also need to accept that no matter what we do, or how closely we edit, there's inevitably going to be that one missed word or other omission, misspelling, or error. And someone will probably point it out.
I like to encourage other writers by sharing my experiences. ACFW is an invaluable organization. Finding honest crit partners is crucial. Listen to them and try not to be offended. Learn to weigh the good and the not-so-good advice. Keep what’s good in your own writing and shelve the rest. Most of all, and – as I’ve said before – keep writing. And editing. That’s the best advice. You will learn, but like anything else, it takes practice. Torn Veil has now requested the full manuscript of the second book of my series - in November (!). So, can you guess what's going on in my life right now? A whole lot of editing going on! Oh, and I need to renew my membership to ACFW.
I’m getting better at self-editing as I go. My newer work (when I can get to it!) is better and more streamlined in many respects. The Lord is my partner in this writing journey, and I want to tell those stories He’s laid on my heart. I know without a doubt He's opened the right doors for me...in His time. Keep working on your craft, and He will open the right doors for you, too!