Writing a manuscript takes time; editing it takes even longer. However, rushing the process is the biggest mistake that any new writer can make. One spends months, if not years, pouring everything, including their heart and soul, into this body of work. It’s only natural to want to see it published — they have dreams. But dreams that are worthwhile require time and effort.
Editing a manuscript into something worth reading is not something that happens overnight. There are steps that every manuscript must go through before it finds itself as a book on the selves of your local bookstore. Rushing the process will produce shoddy work that will result in very bad reviews, and not just from those that hate your story.
There are several different flavours to this Rush-The-Process dish.
1) I’ve written this manuscript and my mother/husband/friend says it’s great. All it needs now is for someone to check the spelling and grammar, then it will be ready for publication.
Actually, no. Unless you have a husband like mine who is brutally honest, leading to many-a-fights about one of my manuscripts, you can never trust the comments from your mother/husband/friend, especially about early drafts. There will always be a certain level of developmental editing required: plot holes need to be filled; characters need to be fleshed out; dialogue needs to be tightened. There is an array of things that any manuscript might need; spelling, punctuation and grammar are last on that list.
2) I’ve gotten comments back from my editor and they recommend that I change this section in this way. Oh that’s easy… I’ll just search and replace. Then I’ll be ready to submit/publish.
Umm… No. When you get comments back from an editor and/or critique partner, that’s when your real work begins. You need to process what has been said and how to make the best use of it. This takes time. It is far from a search-and-replace job.
3) I’ve just had a request for a full, but I still haven’t written it. But I’ll just knock this out and pay an editor to help me whip it into shape. How difficult can that be?
OMG, you have no idea how difficult this is. First of all, one should never query a manuscript without the manuscript being completed. It puts undue pressure on everyone involved. When an agent/publisher asks for a full, they actually wanted it sent right away. They don’t have the time to wait around for you to actually finish writing and editing. For some agents/publishers, if you make this query-before-it’s-ready mistake, that’s your one chance with that agent/publisher gone — for that manuscript anyway.
Let’s say that you were foolish enough to actually query without a full manuscript ready to go, and let’s say that you did get that request for a full but managed to sweet talk your way into getting more time to finish. You better be prepared to have many-a-sleepless nights. As for that editor… Even if you manage to find one crazy enough to take on such a desperate contract, they are going to charge you an arm and leg, just because you chose to rush the process. Be warned now.
4) I’m self-publishing, but I can’t afford to get it edited right away. I think I’ll just publish it on Amazon. After a few reviews come in, I’ll take it down, then edit it.
Not the smartest of ideas. The real issue with this one is that once a book is published, it’s out there. You can never take it back. Readers are not likely to reread a book, unless they enjoyed it the first time. For some readers, poor editing seriously taints their viewpoints. And bad reviews… You never want to get a bad review simply because you chose to publish without editing. That black mark against your name will remain there forever.
If you are writing a non-fiction, and not just a memoir or some other narrative non-fiction, then okay, you might have a shot at publishing another edition of the book. Most people can accept that things change due to advances in technology; the new edition might include the latest research. However, different editions on fictional works? Different languages or anniversary editions? Yes. Just because you decided to edit? Definitely not.
I know it’s not something that a writer wants to hear, but you will likely hear it multiple times throughout your career. When you feel that manuscript is ready to go out the door, lock it away in that metaphorical drawer for a time, and don’t touch it — go work on something entirely different for a while. Some would say that you should leave a manuscript alone for months, but in truth, you may not have that amount of time available; several weeks should be sufficient. Once you have managed to distance yourself from your manuscript, then take it out again and read through the entire thing. If you don’t see anything that you’re just dying to change, then you know it’s ready to go. Then, and only then, start querying, or start the process of typesetting if you’re self-publishing. Basically, you need to make sure that you are 100% happy with what you have written before you send it out the door.
Regardless, whatever you do, please… Please… I beg you. DO NOT RUSH THE PROCESS!
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016