This taught me that I really, really have a problem with my manuscript. No, really. I swear, really.
It’s important to realize that the first draft is going to be the worst version of your book. I’m writing a space opera, so it’s got lotsa words in it, but I had no idea how many of them were useless words.
You see, I write a little, read, reflect, then write some more. That’s just my way. I spent 20 years as a technical writer, so I thought my creative writing skills would still follow the rules of best practices. After reading this article, I discovered that I know how to follow editing rules for most technical writing situations, but not so much for the book-writin’. In fact, I went through the list of useless words in this article and was shocked to find out how many times I included them. My worst culprit was really. It really, really was. In fact, I think I should attach a device to my temples that will give me an electric shock every time I write really again. (Really—BUZZZZ!) It’s embarrassing to admit, but really appeared in my unfinished manuscript hundreds of times.
We writers need to remember that [editors] are primarily here to help us and not criticize us.
After I stopped blushing over my atrocious skills, I went through the manuscript and corrected the sentences. You know what? Rewriting them made them so slick. It was just like how editors’ comments back in the day made my technical writing tighter and easier to read. I have the greatest respect for editors. They actually love the written word and want it to look its best. We writers need to remember that they are primarily here to help and to not criticize us.
I still don’t know if I’m going the traditional publishing route or if I’ll forge on as an indie author. I might lean toward the latter option because I’d like to walk through each step of the writing process to keep learning best practices and to understand what makes a professional product. (Yes, my artist’s hat just flew off, replaced by my businesswoman’s fedora.)
Part of my education is to eat humble pie with two forks at once, so I can take constructive advice. I want my chapters to sing. If you don’t like my book, I want it to be because it’s not to your taste, not because it seems amateurish and rushed.
If you’re writing your first novel, or your 20th, take a peek at this article to see how well you score. It’s OK, you don’t have to tell me the results. And if you do, I really, really, really, really, promise not to breathe a word. Not even a useless word. 😉
Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa.