Note to Self: Never Underestimate the Value of a Good Editor

D2 (my #2 son) has accomplished something I never have.  He's received a rejection letter.  He wrote a very original piece of speculative fiction that I've never before seen treated, with some great ideas and choice humor.  Okay.  To be fair, I thought it was choice, as did his wife, Lynda.  His brother and sister-in-law thought not so much, but then, they don't "get" him like we do.  (Okay.  Nobody gets him like we do).  Still, D2's book was so him.  It was funny.  And thought-provoking.  And original.

But, it wasn't ready for publication or even a query letter, and he knows it.  He hasn't let the rejection from Thor discourage him.  He's considering rewriting it from scratch now that he's older and wiser.  He's just been too busy being a husband, father, and full-time post-graduate student to devote any time to his passion, writing.

Being his mother as I am, I want him to succeed.  I want the entire world to know how brilliant he is.  (Did I mention he's halfway through a second book that is absolutely fabulous?)  While I was driving to Austin with him a couple weeks back, we had a discussion about self-publishing.  It went something like this:
me:  No.  Honestly.  A lot of good writers do it.  It's the wave of the future.
D2:  . . . I don't think so, Mom.
me:  You get a bigger chunk of the royalties.  A lot bigger.
D2:  I don't want to— [here he struggles to explain] —start out as that kind of writer.

Essentially, he very astutely points out that he doesn't want to look like the kind of rejected writer who had to resort to self-publishing to get his work into print.  He doesn't want that a kind of reputation.  He won't foul the waters before he ever dipped in his feet.  After all, one rejection letter does not a failure make.

I argued that getting picked up by an agent and/or a publisher out of a slush pile is a crap shoot, at best.  And, quite a few very good authors have started out self-publishing and then have been picked up by mainstream publishers once they'd established their audience.

Both points of view are valid.  And relevant.  Because I've been reading some quite-interesting and well-written self-published books lately (specifically for Kindle and other ebook modes of delivery), I won't ever say that a person should always rely on an established publishing company to produce their work.  I do not believe that stamp of approval is paramount to success.  However . . . 

I have come to the painful realization that the one thing no author should do without is a good, qualified editor.  I don't mean a family member, as they will always love everything you do (except my brother who is brutally but kindly honest), or friends who aren't that much more objective than your mom, or who will at least keep their mouths shut as they value your friendship.  I mean an honest-to-goodness pay-for-what-you-get willing-to-tell-you-the-truth editor.

Why this post just now?  Well, in addition to the great stuff I've been reading lately, I've also been reading some not-so-great stuff that could have really benefited from a good editor:  somebody who could say "cut this out", "move this there", "what exactly are you trying to say here?", "what is your subtext?", "where are you going with this?"  In short, someone who can help you become a better writer and your book more marketable.  The right editor will help you get your manuscript submission-ready.

Over the past couple of days, I've happened across two very intelligent, very savvy editors, one with publishing-house experience and the other a published author.  They maintain very helpful and informative blogs.  They're well-worth following.  I have them on my "blogs for writers" roll (in the far right column) until they get buttons for me to grab.  I have every intention of devouring their advice for breakfast every morning.  

Writer Susanne Lakin
C.S. Lakin (@CSlakin) identifies herself as a Christian author who writes fantasy and suspense/thrillers.  Her blog, Live Write Thrive (@LiveWriteThrive) offers lots of great tips on how to succeed in your writing endeavors.  This particular guest blog post by Claude Bouchard  (@ceebee308) on how to utilize Twitter is very cool and actually works. is her portal for her editorial services.  That particular link makes the argument for a professional editor better than I ever could.  I like Susanne.  She's very accessible.  

The Novel Doctor,
Stephen Parolini
Before I found Susanne, I found, the website of Stephen Parolini (@noveldoctor).  Steve is witty and wry, a fun read, and generous with his good ideas.  To quote his tag line:
Some people learn best from step by step instruction.
This blog isn't for them.
Steve's blog (that I can see) has been around since 2009, and it's chock fool of authorly goodness.  His tone and style make it easy to digest what he has to say.  I particularly enjoyed his post about what your WIP is really trying to tell you.  Details about his editorial service can be found here

As a writer, I know bringing in an editor is a scary process.  You not only put your ego on the line, but it feels you offer up your baby for sacrifice.  Do I really want to know what an editor thinks?  Um.  No.  This is where I turn on my heel and run.

My big bro, Chef Scott
. . . Come to think of it, my brother, Scott, didn't actually tell me what he really thought of my work until I got good enough that he wouldn't shut me down completely when he did.  For that I will be eternally grateful.  As it was, Even though I finished The Famous Mrs. Darcy, I completely tossed the manuscript and started over after our last online red-pencil-of-death session (to steal Steve's phrase).  But, that's a good thing because he convinced me I wrote well enough to stand on my own.  I didn't have to prop myself up against Pride and Prejudice any longer.

So, bottom line:  have enough faith in yourself and in your work to engage a professional editor (perhaps read some of the works they've edited).  At the very least, find someone insightful and well-read enough to understand the elements of good literature—someone you trust to be honest and kind—and then listen to what they have to say.  

If nothing else, think of it as pre-marketing.  From a reviewer's POV, it's difficult to stare at a blank screen thinking uhhh . . . erm . . . while one drums up the courage to write an unflattering review.  A good editor will keep the negatives private so the reviewers can gush all they like.

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