Fighting Myths Again…
Beginning and early professional writers always seem to focus on needing to have editors and copyeditors and beta readers and everything else. Always overkill and usually, almost without exception, it also kills their writing and stories.
Some background. This obsessive desire for editing and copyediting on novels comes from three places.
— First, it comes from 1970s-1990s traditional publishing habits that have stuck around and passed around as needed like myths of a big tall walking snowman with a chainsaw. In other words, too stupid for reality in 2020, but still believed by those coming into the publishing profession.
— Second place all this editing stuff comes from is fear by the newer writer than their own work is never good enough unless touched by a committee of people who pretend they know more. And wow do you hear beginners make all kinds of arguments about why this is critical to their work, not realizing that obsessive editing hurts their work.
— Third, early writers think that words matter far more than story and that good writing is in perfect sentences and perfect grammar, so they absolutely must let a bunch of people polish and beat on their writing until it is perfect. At least in every sentence.
Story sucks, no voice left, no life left in the poor beaten corpse of creativity, but they do it because of fear and a belief that words matter more than story.
All three of these origins are deadly to a writer’s art and voice.
So what is needed?
Readers will notice too many mistakes, too many typos if not caught. So you have to make an effort to clear the typos.
So you need two things.
— A first reader to find typos, maybe. If they start critiquing the story, run. This person should just be a reader, nothing more, a person who might find that you had a character put on a hat on page six and then put on the hat again on page ten. Readers notice that sort of thing. (NOTE: I said one. Not a bunch of beta readers. Just one.) You can often do this step on your own by simply reading the story aloud to yourself or a friend.
— A copyeditor to find typos. If they start critiquing, find another one. This person should also be a reader and you can find this person at a local library or local community college and they are cheap.
That’s it. After that get it formatted and into book form and up for sale.
But through the entire process it is up to the author to defend his or her own work, to believe in the work, and to actually care enough about the work to defend it.
You are not defending your work when you invite a bunch of people to beat on it.
Poor little story. Written by a spineless new writer who has no faith in the work, so invites people to kill the poor little thing because, as with most bullies, the writer is too afraid to stand up and defend the work, so instead they bully it.
Storytelling is not stringing pretty words in perfect grammar together. It is getting the readers to climb inside a character’s head and follow that character through events until the story is finished.
Storytelling sells. Good grammar and perfect sentences seldom does.