As you know, yesterday I finished an exquisite book. From the beauty and simplicity of the language to the depth of the personal reflections and messages, Gift from the Sea makes my list of books that I will return to when I am in search of inspiration as a writer and a person.
Today I finished a book that affected me in a completely different way–in the way you can learn from the mistakes of others. The story was decent in this self-published book, but I found myself wishing that the author had gone through a publishing process, or at the very least hired an editor to guide him through his final draft before he published it. I am not against self-publishing, by any means, but if I ever finally do it (I know I’ve talked about it as a possibility) I will be sure to look for guidance before I publish. I think that anyone who considers it should make every effort to create a process similar to a regular publishing house in order to ensure the product is the best quality they can produce.
What, you ask, was wrong with The Thirteenth Unicorn by W. D. Newman? Setting aside the typos and spelling errors (which I sometimes have even found in traditionally published works) I found myself editing (in my head) for active verbs as I went, and wishing that Newman had posted a sign over his head emblazoned with the words:
As I made my dizzying way through the story, I yearned for the author to make a choice of viewpoint, as he bounced from the head of one character to another within a few sentences or words. I don’t mind when viewpoint changes from chapter to chapter or even scene to scene, but this was ridiculous.
Why did I keep reading? For two reasons:
- I thought the story had potential. It was interesting, and would have been even stronger if he had gotten to the story faster, and built up some feeling for the characters rather than spending the first 7 1/2 chapters plus a prologue on minute details that only add a tidbit to the adventure. Once he got to the meat of the story, the flaws became less evident.
- I found myself fascinated by reading this book with the eyes of an editor. I think it can only help me improve myself as a writer, if I learn how to see areas that slow a story down or frustrate the reader.
Now I know for sure that if I ever do decide to go the self-publishing route, I am going to make every effort to have some trusted soul edit my work. I know it is difficult to let go of words you have labored on, and phrases you love, but sometimes a fresh outlook can only help improve the story.
A few weeks ago, Victoria over at VictoriaWrites wrote a post called “Can you write if you don’t read?” where she discusses some author who “was quoted as saying she never read as she was worried she’d end up copying other writers.” My response to Vicky’s post was:
Honestly, I wouldn’t want to read anything written by the writer who claims not to read. While some have an innate talent for words, it wasn’t built in a void. Writers learn from other writers. The truly talented develop a style because of other writer’s: seeing what works, what doesn’t; hearing the rhythm of language used by masters; feeling the thrill of a well-turned phrase or a rich inventive metaphor. Writers who don’t read, don’t grow.
I would now add to that response, in that it is also important to learn from less skilled writers. If we can begin to recognize the flaws in some works, we can learn to correct our own. If we learn to edit other people’s works, we can learn to value the importance of an editor/author relationship and grow in all aspects of the craft.
Do you think it is important for self-published authors to find editors?