As everyone knows, my husband is writing his novel. Well, while it was out for edits, he decided to write a few short stories to keep himself busy and to just continue to help his writing improve. He completed the Tough Mudder back in February, so over the past month or so, he wrote an essay about his experience. The essay is now complete, and you can read it here.
After his first draft, he went back to edit it for things like tense and spelling. After getting his novel back from a co-worker who reviewed it, he was given some feedback that he is bad with tense. He just switched mid-paragraph, and sometimes even mid-sentence! So he went through that essay thoroughly. But he wanted me to read through it to make sure he didn’t miss anything and to look for any grammar mistakes. So, as the loving wife that I am, I did.
Well, after about the third paragraph I started running into a few tense problems. He set up the essay as all past tense, but then as soon as he went into the actual race, he switched to present tense. And then it just got worse from there. Long story short, there ended up being a lot of red on this essay that he had thought he’d caught everything. After thinking about it, I realized that he basically wrote the essay as he would talk to someone. But the way we talk and the way we read/write are completely different.
So this blog post is not actually about my husband’s bad tense usage, it is about the whole author/editor/publisher dynamic. It made me understand how important an editor is. I’m pretty sure that a lot of writers are probably just like my husband. He comes up with the ideas, gets them down on paper in an entertaining and riveting way, and then someone else has to come through and polish it. Though, I’m sure there are some authors out there who are great at both, every published book has to go through some sort of editing. And I know why.
I’m also reading this book called How NOT to Write a Novel and it’s interesting to see how many things there are that can make your book un-publishable. Now, this book is actually trying to focus on not making major mistakes so that someone will read it to pick it up to be published. But as long as an author is able to not make some of these major mistakes, there are still just so many ways that a reader can be turned off. And that’s really why an editor is so important. They’re going to catch not only the grammatical problems and tense problems, but they’re going to catch plot holes, the style of the dialogue, etc. Of course, when you’re pitching your book to a publishing company, you want it to be really good, but all you really need to do is catch them - which means that beginning needs to be really good to make them want more.
So I’m left knowing that if we don’t end up getting his novel picked up by a publishing company when he is finally finished, that we definitely need to find a good editor if he wants to self-publish it. Because I have definitely read some self-published (and even published) novels in which the dialogue was so bad and the style and errors were so bad that I couldn’t finish reading them. So a good editor is worth it’s weight in gold.
But at the same time, an editor can only do so much. If you give them a completely messed up novel, full of tense and dialogue that doesn’t make sense, and a plot that has no interest…there is only so much they can do – otherwise they’ll be rewriting your entire novel.
So for now, we will continue having friends and family read through his novel first. We want lots of feedback. And he will be making edits every time it comes back. And then once we feel pretty good about it, we might still try to find an editor just in case. To polish it off. And then it will probably be in pretty good shape to make it to a publisher, who can polish it off even further once they’ve picked it up.