Nov. 13, 2010
Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone wants to write a book. Everyone thinks because he or she has a story to tell that he or she should write a book.
What’s more, everyone with a story to tell thinks the story is so perfect, so unique and so mind-blowing that people will have no choice but to love it and tell everyone how fascinated they are by the tale. And the writer rushes to get the story published as-is.
This type of writer usually hands the final draft (Is there such a thing?) to a close friend and some family members to read, and they praise the writer for accomplishing such a great feat. Relying on their response, the writer then decides the story is so good that he or she refuses to have the story altered in any way. I’ve just written this perfect, dynamic piece of work that people need to read right now! Translation: The writer makes the biggest mistake of his or her writing career and publishes the book unedited.
Let me be very clear: I’m not discouraging anyone from writing a book or even self-publishing it. Please do. But, please be wise. Please make better choices. If you haven’t written anything since high school, or if you haven’t written anything since the rough draft of a college paper that you paid an English major to re-write for you, you really have no right to write and publish a novel without the help of others. Why waste readers’ time? Why waste yours?
It astonishes me how many textbooks are printed with errors, so it’s no surprise that novels (or even this short post) will have errors. But the resources are there, and they should be utilized if you care about your product.
Let me share with you what readers of sloppy copy are thinking.
Most educated readers—including my 10-year-old prince—are willing to overlook the first and maybe second grammar or spelling mistake. After that, they put the book down forever, return it to the library, throw it away or donate it to the nearest garage sale. After all, if writers believe strongly enough in what they have to say, if they really want people to hear their points, they certainly would see to it that the message was communicated, or more accurately, transacted.
That means postponing publication until the book has gone under the knife, so to speak, by several proofreaders and editors. Editors will be tough on you. They will make your life miserable for a time. They’ll probably push you to a point where you question your competency at spelling your name.
And you will thank them later because they saved your career and reputation as a writer.
What’s worse: agonizing over constructive criticism with your editors now, or publishing a book to which you’ve devoted painstaking time and effort that will be tossed into the trash? The decision is yours.