Critique (x every chapter x 2 minimum), Editing ( x 2 minimum and at least one professional) Proofreading ( x many!)
I’m sorry but it’s true.
I love books. I love reading. I certainly love building my own unique world and disappearing into the pages I create (and pray that someone else will enjoy that trip as well). I’m proud to read self published books when the hard working author has gone through these steps, but it grieves my soul to the core to read a great story that is so full of errors and wrong words and passive lines – paragraphs – whole pages – that I must rely on pots of coffee just to get to the few really great parts.
People! You have talent! Don’t skimp on your books! And for heaven’s sake, please respect yourself enough to listen to your helpers. Yes, you love your beautiful words and in your mind, that world you created and those characters who sprang from your imagination are so very real, full, and beautiful. In your mind your plot is well rounded and exciting. And face it, I don’t know a single author who can actually see all of their own mistakes.
The brain sees only what you tell it to see!
So, do the work.
Write the story, and work with a critique group, and then break that story down. Outline every chapter, then outline the book, then outline each and every character. Check your plot arcs and look for holes. And for Pete’s sake, look for those logic mistakes. You know, you can’t have someone be sixteen years old in chapter one, then be only five years older than his five year old sister in chapter three!
Next, study every paragraph, chapter by chapter, for repeated words, weak verbs, unnecessary ‘ly’ words, extra and cluttery junk words like ‘just’, ‘very’, and ‘that’ (trust me, the list of junk words is much too long for this post. And dig out your favorite online thesaurus to find stronger words!
Don’t forget to check your world while you’re in there checking things. Do you have ‘talking heads suspended in space’? You may have a complete picture, but you can only leave so much to the imagination of your reader. Mind you, don’t repeat a laundry list of flat descriptors for every scene and every character. I really do want to gag reading ‘she brushed her long blond hair out of her face’ a hundred times in one book.
Finally – and this is a killer – Print that manuscript out. (Here’s a tip, 50K costs about $20.00 at the office supply, but it costs about $3.00+shipping at CreateSpace). Then Read That Book Out Loud Preferably To Someone Alive, Well, and Listening!
After you’ve done the work – and made corrections – find an editor or at least a proofreader. And make sure that person has never seen your work before.
When you’ve done the work, then and only then should you consider querying your agents or shipping the work off to CreateSpace.
Trust me, the reader can tell the difference between a story that’s been run through the gauntlet, and one that’s been rushed from the keyboard to the printer.
Now that I think about it, I love to do this sort of work. Maybe I’ll hang out a shingle and start doing it for a fee instead of for free.
I’d love to hear your opinion on this topic.