Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Why a professional editor is an absolute must for newbie authors.

When I finally decided to actually write my first book, rather than just daydream about it, I was brimming with enthusiasm and determination. I knew what it was going to be about, I had my principal character, my main storyline, basic plot and a reasonable construct. I scribbled away merrily for weeks, with the story and characters evolving nicely, or so I thought, but as I read and re-read I realised that I was losing my way. It had too many points of view and even I was becoming confused as to which of my characters bore the brunt of the action. I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.
I struggled on, deleting or switching chapters around, editing as brutally as I could, but I still wasn’t happy with the end result. This was back in 1996, when the internet was still fairly new - to me at any rate - and ‘surfing’ meant large waves and hunky fellas as far as I was concerned. However, I fumbled around search engines and eventually found a professional editor with a string of her own published books; Susan Malone.
I sent her my manuscript and upon its return a few weeks later I was blinded by red marker pen. Was I devastated? Not a bit of it; her notes and suggestions were spot on, as though she’d hacked all those spindly trees down and created a clear path for me to follow.
Her criticism was constructive and thought provoking; she made me realise that I needed to visualise my characters in more depth; give them unique idiosyncrasies, thereby enabling the reader to relate to them as ‘real’ people. And yes, I had to stick to no more than three or four POV’s at the very most, making certain that my principal was just that: principal. My skills as a writer improved exponentially as I employed Susan’s rules and tactics and my book became infinitely superior to its early incarnation. I probably rewrote the entire thing a half dozen times, with my editing ever more brutal and pernickety before I was sufficiently confident to ask Susan to make her final comments.
She loved it.
My life underwent a few drastic alterations shortly after I completed the book - another story - but although it has sat on a virtual shelf these past few years, like The Toy Sorcerer himself, it has been dusted down and set on the right path.
Thank you, Susan.

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