Monday, February 22, 2016

For Your Eyes Only--Not!

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm the type of person who likes to make a good first impression.

I know that a first--or even third--draft of a manuscript is supposed to be full of errors and sloppy writing. The important thing is to get the story down, even if the writer is the only person who understands what all that drivel is supposed to mean. "You can fix it later," is what writers are always told when they find themselves panicking about getting the story written right the first time. It's after two or three, or more, drafts that the story becomes cohesive and crisp and the writing is cleaner, more fluid, more ready for the eyes of someone other than the writer.

When my manuscript is ready to send to my beta readers and editors, however, I always hesitate. How good is it? How many typos are still floating around in it? Did I explain that plot twist in a way that makes sense? Did I get everyone's name right? Yes, of course, it still needs work, but...

It's then that I find myself in the position of the person who tries to tidy up the house before the cleaning service shows up.

Very often a writer needs a fresh pair of eyes and ears to find the problems that lurk in a "finished" manuscript. After reading one's own words over and over, and sometimes mentally fixing them along the way, it's easy to become blind to mistakes that are obvious to a fresh pair of eyes. Having someone read your dialogue out loud suddenly makes clunky passages--and extremely long ones!-- easy to spot.

No matter how much some writers want to believe that they are fully capable of editing their own work, it's in their best interest to let someone else, someone with a good grasp of language and literature, someone who is seeing the writer's words for the first time, read through the manuscript and find those errors that hide in plain sight; identify the dialogue that doesn't ring true; point out the inconsistencies that somehow made sense when the writer put it down on paper.

As much as writers would like to think that they have the ability to present to the world a finished book without the help of others, it comes down to having the humility to show a few people--people who really care about you and your writing career--your imperfect work (or the dust bunnies under the sofa, if you prefer) so that they can help you make it, if not perfect, good enough to show the rest of the world.

I'm always grateful for my beta readers, editors, and fellow writers who offer criticism, help, advice, and lots of encouragement. I wouldn't be where I am now without them!

My editor-in-law who has degrees in language and education... and loves to read!

My number one beta reader with an eye for detail and continuity!

Best writers group ever... helping me keep it real!

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