Advice to New Writers

I don’t know how many books I’ve edited for new authors. I lost count count some time ago. From my experience as a freelance editor, I have learned some things that will help new writers. If you’re putting together your first book, I believe these points will help you produce a quality book.

1. Don’t send an editor your first draft. He or she will likely send it back. Do your best work, then send it to your editor. Writing a book, a novel, or even essays and short stories requires several drafts. Hemingway said that it’s in the rewriting that most writers break down. I do believe he revised everything he wrote 20-30 times. If Hemingway needed revisions, I’m sure we do too.
2. Read your book out loud. Time it. Most writers have no idea how long it takes. Reading it out loud will give you an idea of how much time is required to edit a book. In addition to reading at “read aloud” speed, an editor must look up spellings, mark your work (either by hand on a printed manuscript or by use of colored tracking), try to remember what he or she has read, make notes, etc. This requires many hours. A writer should remember that before he or she whines about the cost of a good editor. An editor will almost always reread a work, too. My point is that editing is a brutally slow process, and it should be. Too many mistakes are missed if the editor hurries. If you look at an editor’s pay in terms of hours spent, he is not usually working for very much money.
3. Print out your manuscript and read it. There are mistakes you will see only in this way. There’s something about reading a book on a computer screen that causes us to miss them.
4. Study your craft. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t assume you know how to spell. The real value of a dictionary lies not only in definition, but in spelling. English, with the largest vocabulary of any language in the world, has loads of exceptions, variant/preferred spellings, and many subtleties.
5. When the editor returns your work, reread it again, making the corrections the editor suggested. Though you don’t have to follow every suggestion, as it is YOUR work, you should at least consider advice given. Also, expect the editor to have missed something. Alas–we editors are not perfect.
6. Remember, a good editor looks for what is good as well as what is wrong. And if you find a good editor, stick with him. A writer who finds a good editor is fortunate indeed. A writer wants to present a publishing company with his very best work.

Even though I’m an editor, I still rely on readers and editors myself to prepare my own fiction. I’ll have more on this subject later. Hope this helps.