Writing and editing your book

Being an author and getting your novel or story published is not an easy job. First, you have to write the whole story — yes, all 80,000 words or more, or less if it’s for children — and you need to finish the book. Then, there are rules an author needs to follow.

This original story that you have just finished is called a first draft. What a special feeling it is to finish this story; now you have a few more steps before you can submit it anywhere that might consider it for publishing, like an agent or directly to the publisher.

When the first draft is complete, then the author has the opportunity to start at the beginning, read every word and make changes or corrections as they read. You, as the author, will be surprised how many small and large problems you will find. Maybe you typed the word “the” twice. You eliminate one and keep reading. Then you might find that the heroine “brushed her raven black hair” and later in the story you decided to make her a redhead but you forgot about this reference, so you fix that. As you continue, you will find typos to fix, maybe facts to fix so they match the rest of the story, or maybe even grammar to correct.

So, after this second draft is finished, let it rest for a few hours or overnight and then start your third draft. I’ve had famous authors tell me they read the third draft out loud and they catch even more things to fix. After this third draft is finished, you are ready for a professional editor. I don’t mean your wife or brother-in-law, unless they are professionals. I mean someone with the title of editor with the credentials to prove it.

Now you meet with the editor, confirm their routine and what they charge per page, etc., and then either send the required first part of the manuscript to them, or start the search for another editor that you think would be a better fit.

Let me explain Routine of the Editor: Will they request the first 10 pages of the manuscript before they agree to edit? Usually, there is no charge for the first pages that are requested. It may be 10 or 25 pages, depending on the editor. What the editor is looking for is if this manuscript is as good as the author can make it, if the author appears to know about correct use of punctuation and grammar, or if this manuscript will need a major overhaul. At this point, the author will have given the editor his or her best work.

The editor will then contact the author and provide a time frame (like, “It should be ready to return to you in three weeks”) and the author and editor may use this time to discuss the method of payment if they haven’t already. Will the author mail a check or will there be another meeting or how will payment be made? Payment is usually upfront.

Some authors will frown at this editor-author meeting, but this is essentially what happens and an author cannot afford to submit a manuscript to a publisher or agent without this professional help.

This is just an overview. Authors should be aware that each meeting of editors and authors may go a little differently. And, authors, usually the sending of a manuscript is done online, so if you’re not skilled in emailing attachments, find someone to show you how.

Writing a novel is a special talent. Congratulations on finishing your novel. Happy writing — and good luck finding an editor you can work with.

Quote of the week: “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” — Zig Ziglar

— Donna Lee Anderson is the author of two novels and a reference book for writers. Contact her at welltoldtales@aol.com