Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Editing - The Tedious part of the creative writing process

I've just finished the third edit of my new novel- REBELS AND DESPERADOS which represents the second critical stage in my novel’s life.  I suspect there is nothing more tedious and boring in the entire world than this process, however, it is vital to producing a good- enjoyable story. Now I don’t pretend to be a professional editor, however a degree in English Literature from the University of Toronto is a good starting point.

My current process for editing is three fold:

Edit one consists of a fast re-read to insure the story flows, the character details are correct, the timelines are true and it basically makes sense for the reader.

Edit two consist of a detailed examination of the books formatting in word. This is a spell and grammar check as well as a review of the standard formatting. Formatting errors in an eBook will present the reader with a poor reading experience, and may cause trouble when the book is submitted to your eBook publisher. Tedious at its best.

Edit three is a page by page re-read of the entire novel, start to finish. At this point I again check spelling, grammar, and word selection. It’s an opportunity to polish and tweak the story as well. I edit every page twice and this process is a true time eater!

I finished the third stage on July 1st and then it was time to send it off to my editor for his review. For REBELS AND DESPERADOS I’m very lucky to have a good editor, a friend who was an English teacher at a U.S. college, so the edit will be good!

Once he finishes his review it comes back to me for my re-work based upon his edits. Now I’m of the opinion that a good editor will fix any spelling or grammatical errors, identify story line issues and comment on the quality of the story. He may also decide to critique the way the story is written, basically what style do I write in. Is it suitable etc, etc?

I hope in this situation I will not require significant re-writes. Depending upon what the editor suggests I hope to be ready to correct and publish REBELS AND DESPERADOS by October 2013.

But ultimately I have the final decision as to what the story is and how it’s told. After all I am the writer.
So, where am I going with this? It’s like a lottery to get published.

I have probably read upwards of 1000 works of fiction during my life, but in order to find those 1000 truly worthy reads I've started to read many, many more books. It’s likely in the range of 5-10 thousand books.  Most look of these books have a great cover, look interesting and have promise, but after 50 pages or so I put them down- unfinished. Why?

Well, some are just plain terrible, others are well written but the subject matter is boring, it might be very well written but the subject matter isn't strong enough to keep my attention.  Where am I going with this, well the point I’m making is that there are thousands of stories available, as standard printed books or as eBooks- but they just weren't right for me, and the publishing business is much the same.

It’s like a lottery to get published. At some point every one of the books I've rejected has caught the attention of an agent or publisher.  Someone somewhere thought it was brilliant and spent the time and money to publish it. I suspect on any given day several hundred book proposals will arrive on a publisher’s desk.

Why are some accepted and others rejected? Good question?

When I originally tried to publish GETTYSBURG REDUX the old fashioned way, I sent my book proposal to approximately 100 publishers. Some had the courtesy to send me a reply, must did not. Universally their response was negative! Did this mean my novel was bad, not necessarily, they may have failed to see the potential in my work, or perhaps it wasn't the flavor of the day? They may have seen merit in the story but felt it wasn't commercially viable. Perhaps the subject matter and story-line were not something they were interested in. Maybe they had a bad day or had no interest in alternative fiction; never the less they declined my book proposal.

Here are some examples of successful authors that had trouble getting published:

Margaret Mitchell- GONE WITH THE WIND was rejected by dozens of publishers
Louis L’Amour received approx. 200 rejections before his first work was published
C.S Lewis is reputed to have received in the range of 800 rejection letters

Agents and publishers get it wrong all the time. There are many successful authors, with millions of sales- and I won’t list any of them here, but these are books I found to be unreadable. They Just didn't meet my needs as a reader.

So getting a book published by a large publisher is akin to winning the lottery, the chances are significantly stacked against a new and unknown author.

Just keep trying - I know I will!