I’m not a novice at writing. You wouldn’t always know it—well, I wouldn’t always know it—but I’ve had my share of compliments when I’ve assisted someone with something they were working on. And while I’ve been writing creatively since I was in first grade, I have always maintained that I continue to learn. The day I no longer feel I can learn anything is the day my ass needs to retire. If there is a flaw in my ability to write, it’s that I fail to see the errors in one of my own finished manuscripts. I am completely colorblind to it.
I can look at a page of text from another author, and immediately point out issues. But my own? Not. Even. Close. Editors who I’ve worked with at publishers in the past are very careful not to impose themselves on what they feel is an author’s style. They’ll mark the stuff that’s an obvious error. That’s what I believe I’ve become used to. However, then I handed over the Falling Awake novella to my friend/fellow author and mentor two years ago, it came back looking like a first essay submitted by a college freshman. There was so much wrong with it!
My neighbors can attest to hearing me shout at the top of my lungs two weeks ago that this would not be the case when I submitted the second novel in the series to my mentor/editor. I went through great pains to make sure my POV was spot on, and that so many of the problems I had in the first book would not be carried over into the second. I’d say, based on comments/corrections from her on the second book, I was 97% successful.
This isn’t to say the manuscript didn’t come back looking like it was another first composition turned in by a freshman, this time in high school. The first book was 20k words. The second was 91k. Imagine how many more issues I could have! And issues there are. Sure, I may not have made as many of the same mistakes as were present in the novella, but I discovered a whole bunch of new ones to make!
But here’s the thing. I asked her to do this. I want this. And I learn from her. She goes to great pains to be as complete as possible, and give me as many options as are available to make the story all it can be, all I want it to be. The end book is only going to be as good as I’m willing to make it. It’s only going to work if work is put into it. Editing isn’t easy. I forget about how intense editing can be because each book shines just enough when it’s done to make it all worthwhile.
She always makes sure to point out the positive, and lets me know never to be upset with anything she’s pointed out in her comments. It’s never personal. I never take it that way. If she didn’t see that I am learning, and she didn’t believe in the work I’m producing, she wouldn’t bother. I am extremely, extremely grateful to her for this. And I feel humbled when I see how much she’s learned, and how much I still have in front of me.
A great many people think being an author is easy, that it’s simple to sit down at a computer, type something up, and then publish it. It would certainly contribute to the explanation of why piracy is so rampant. The truth, though, is there’s nothing simple about it. Writing is like any other profession, and I’m proud to have a helping hand from my mentor.
I still have much to learn. But in the meantime, this new book is going to be good!