The hardest thing for any writer to do is actually finish writing the first draft. It’s one thing to have a great idea and write a few scenes or a good portion of a manuscript, but it is a HUGE feat to actually finish writing an entire book. So if you’ve taken the time to sit down and scribble out that idea in your head and somehow combine all your words into a complete book, congrats! You are already far ahead of the game and definitely deserve praise for your accomplishment.
So you have a complete manuscript sitting on your computer. Now what? Time to start writing query letters? Get an agent? Find a few publishers? NO! In fact, one sure way to sabotage yourself is to move too quickly in the writing process. It’s great that you’ve written a whole book, and it may be a very sound piece, but it still needs some work. In fact, I’d venture to guess it needs a lot of work. No matter how good of a writer you are, your first draft will not be a flawless masterpiece. But that’s OKAY. All good writers have to go through the editing process. It’s how you turn a good piece into something fantastic. But why? What do you gain from editing?
1. You’ll learn to take criticism from others. This is probably the hardest one for new writers and emerging authors to accept. There will be problems with your book. Not everyone will enjoy your work. But that’s okay! Really. Learning to grow a thick skin early and accept that readers and reviewers are not out to get you but to give you honest feedback will make you a better writer in the long run. And in case you’re wondering how it might play out if you don’t learn to accept criticism and edit your work profusely, just take a peek at some of the heated conversations that took place between some critics on Twitter and EL James a couple weeks ago.
2. You’ll improve your writing skills. Practice really does make perfect. Even though some people have more of a knack for writing than others, no one becomes a bestselling author overnight. Being able to pick apart your own work and fix the flaws is an invaluable skill that will only help you with your future projects.
3. Your book will be more professional (and marketable). One of the biggest obstacles newly published authors face is building a reader base. With the publishing industry being turned on its head over the past decade or so, it’s led readers to become choosier about their book purchases, making it hard for newer authors to break through. But that’s actually not altogether a bad thing. When the digital age of self-publishing first got its footing, there was a lot of subpar work being put out there. Self-publishing was pretty much synonymous with poor writing, and most people just steered clear of reading books by indie authors. But that’s not the case anymore. In fact, most people can’t even tell the difference now between self-published books and ones that were traditionally published. But what that does mean is that authors are under the ever-scrutinizing eye of smart readers. They don’t just want a great book to read; they want a professional one. The editing process will help make your book just that.
4. You’ll have a better shot at getting it published. It stands to reason if you make your book professional, you’ll have a better shot at getting published. This is especially true if you decide to go the traditional route and side with a publisher or agent to get your work out there. No matter how original you think your work is, there is probably at least one similar book out there. That makes it crucial for yours to stand out. The editing process will give you that edge.
5. Your hard work will pay off! If you take the time to edit your work, I promise you will be rewarded. You will be a better writer for it, and you will very likely have a larger and more loyal fan base because of it. What you put into this process is what you’ll get out of it. Readers know that and won’t hesitate to call you on it.