But I am going to make a point of meeting her in the next short while.
Keep in mind that no writer works in a vacuum. You might sit in your garret room with the wallpaper peeling off, the plaster dropping from the ceiling in great sheets and the cold rain blowing in through the broken windows while you sharpen your goose quills and grind your powdered ink. You might do all you can to avoid walking down those three flights of rickety stairs to face the storm outside during the short walk to your corner bistro for a half-loaf of day old bread, but you still do not write in a vacuum.
People – real, living, breathing (we hope) human beings actually read your stuff (again, we hope). And they talk to each other, and send emails to one another about what you’ve put down on paper (or perhaps parchment or strips of birch bark).
Many years ago while I lived in Israel I published several articles and essays on Israeli politics and terror groups. That stuff is still floating out there on the web, and I still get emails from readers. No, I won’t go into details about what they say. That’s not the point here. Good comments or bad, people read your stuff, and they occasionally (not nearly often enough) take the time to write and let you know what they think about your work.
It’s called criticism, and much more often than not it is constructive criticism. And that is a very good thing for you as a writer. Welcome it. Beg, if you have to, but make certain sure your readers understand that you really, honestly, truly want and need to hear from them.
Because you do. Unheated, damp garret rooms are very lonely places. And day old bread does not a healthy diet make.
Several weeks ago I received an email from an author I know and admire. His wife was reading one of my novels and wanted him to ask if I would mind a list of corrections, since, as she put it, ‘He writes a great story, but he really needs an editor’.
It took me less than thirty seconds to get a reply off to him. A few days later his wife sent me that list; about two pages, single-spaced, with the edits identified by page line in the novel.
Wowie-zowie! I went through her edits in about twenty minutes and republished the Kindle version within the hour. And then sent off a very impassioned thank you to the both of them.
The other day I got another email with a Word doc attached with edits for my second novel. Again, it took me about half an hour to make the corrections and republish the Kindle version and again I sent a very warm thank you right back.
The three of us will be having dinner together in a few weeks.
Keep in mind that I use “Beta Readers” once a manuscript is complete. Several readers participate and send their corrections to me, and each keeps that copy of the MS and receives an acknowledgement in the preface to the published novel (along with a signed copy of the paperback version). What a wonderful group that is, too.
Yes, I am very much aware that no amount of beta readers can ever take the place of a professional editor, but when you’re living in that garret and looking forward to your next half-loaf of day old bread, a professional editor is the very last thing on your shopping list; way down there below paying rent, covering your utility bill and that short and very damp walk to the corner bistro for your half-loaf.
Been there, and done that. Still am, in fact. My fourth novel, “Lonesome Cove” will have the great good fortune to experience the contributions of a professional editor for the paperback version (right after the last of my beta readers’ comments are dealt with). But the Kindle version, since it costs nothing to publish, will have to make do with the tender ministrations of my beta readers and the very welcome comments from the folks who pay their hard-earned $3.00 + applicable state and federal taxes to read it.
And I will welcome comments and corrections from everybody, thank them from the very depths of my heart, swear life-long love and friendship (meaning every word of it) and make those corrections to the manuscript and republish it just as quick as a little bunny.
Because I know damn good and well that I do not write in a vacuum.
I will be the first to admit that my work is not perfect; but it is ‘good enough’ to sell, and follow-on comments from readers allows me to improve the editing and re-publish a matter of hours. As I mentioned earlier, a professional editor would catch much of what I and my beta readers miss and make a ‘good enough’ manuscript into a truly publishable work. And “Lonesome Cove” will be the first of my published novels to have the luxury of a professional editor’s attention.
Let’s be honest here. I know that I am not the only published writer facing an inadequacy of income when it comes to getting my work published. Editing costs just about as much as the actual publishing of a novel. In fact, prices for professional editors run around $5.00 – $7.00 a page. If a Print-On-Demand publishing house charges $1300.00 to publish your novel and the editors want another $700.00 – $1000.00 to edit your manuscript and you have saved up most of that $1300.00 after months of scrimping on your half-loaf of day-old bread, what are you gonna do – not publish for manuscript for another year just to get it edited first? You’ve just spent the last two years of your life writing the damn thing and another six months rewriting after your beta readers have gone through it with a few fine-toothed combs and you surely have a use for the several dollars’ increase in your treasury selling the paperback copies will generate at your local community events and even on-line.
And you know, too, that you have a lifetime’s worth of promotion and marketing to do to sell yourself as an author, and you can’t even get started on that until you have at least one novel/biography/history/chemistry text book in the marketplace. So it’s perfect. It is damn near, and that is ‘good enough’ to get started with.
You bet it is.
Purists may disagree. Just so you know, those purists can afford to pay a professional editor. You probably can’t. So do the best you can with what you’ve got, and be damn sure that every work you publish is better than the last. Pretty soon, now – meaning in a few years – you’ll be one of those purists, too. But when that day comes, just keep in mind what it took you to get to that point. Encourage new writers; don’t put stumbling blocks in their paths. Better to light the way for them.