How book editors can help by assessing your early progress
New writers often overlook the one person who could make their lives easier, and their books more marketable – a book editor. Understandable, perhaps, because, traditionally, writers’ first encounters with an editor often came after they had aroused the interest of a literary agent or publisher. But ask bestselling authors whose advice they seek before, during and after they complete their manuscript and you would hear a chorus of – my editor, and often my friend and co-conspirator. Writing is by its very nature a lonely business, and the knowledge there’s a professional to turn to for disinterested yet sound advice when sticky times arrive is a great comfort.
Publishers and literary agents employ staff who know exactly what their employers are seeking in a new work. And these people have to plough through thousands of manuscripts a year in their quest for the next JK Rowling, Dick Francis or John Grisham. But here’s the rub: few aspiring writers have a clue how to submit material, and as a result make elementary mistakes that scupper their chances, often without a word of their book being read. An editor can ensure your writing reflects you at your best, is laid out professionally, and accompanied by businesslike letters and synopses that includes information that will excite interest. This will all but guarantee extracts of your work will be read or requested. It is at this point that your writing will have to do the talking for you!
Personally, I always advise new writers to seek such support early on in a project. This ensures focus is brought to bear on whatever is being written – after a few thousand words are completed – and that the mistakes and pursuit of blind alleys that bedevil novice authors can be spotted and dealt with. Good book editors won’t come up with themes or plots, put words into your mouth, or claim ownership of your creative masterpiece. But they will bring discipline and structure to the task. Constructive help at this stage is easy to give, and take on board. These few hours of editorial expertise will save you countless hours of remedial work later. And I mean a few hours only. If an editor attempts to sell you a course of editing assistance involving more than a couple of hours of general guidance – take cover. Your interests have taken second place to your potential for making them money, lots of it.
General writing and editing advice is easy to find – from books, magazines and the internet – and are well worth devouring . . . up to a point. But until you have your own editor behind you, studying your quirks and idiosyncrasies, using examples of your output to highlight good and not so good aspects of your writing, you’ll never appreciate or experience the benefits that can accrue in just a few sessions. Book editors are not, or shouldn’t be, in the business of teaching you how to write. Their role is clear: to show you how to self-edit your work, to structure your book so that it has maximum appeal, and to submit it to publishers and agents so that you and your book are seen in the best light. It works because these simple steps will place you ahead of the unedited majority.
(This article is taken from Jonathan Veale’s latest ebook (December2011) now available on the Amazon Kindle Store – ‘How To Write A Book Or Novel – An Insider’s Guide To Getting Published’. Jonathan is Managing Editor of WriteAway Editing Services, an online service for aspiring writers.)