I decided to try something new with my latest book, Turn Your World Around in 80 Days, by hiring a professional editor. This particular project is near and dear to my heart, and I wanted it to be as good as it could possibly be. It took several weeks of research to find an editor that charged a reasonable price and possessed the expertise to do justice to my subject matter. I sent a sample of my manuscript and received such great feedback that I immediately moved to the next step.
The initial edit took about three weeks, then I used the track changes feature of Microsoft Word to accept or reject each of the edits made. The editor also included comments to help strengthen the structure of my writing and maintain a consistent style and tone. A large portion of the manuscript had to be rewritten, but the finished product was so much better than it would have been if I hadn't enlisted the help of an editor.
If you want to produce a quality book, I highly recommend engaging the services of a professional editor. Do your homework and find one who understands your genre and whose prices are within your budget.
A good outline can save you hundreds of hours of effort that would otherwise be spent rewriting. Knowing exactly how the individual pieces of your book fit together can give you clarity and direction, strengthening the final result.
Plot and structure problems should be resolved in the outlining phase, before the writing begins. Then you'll know exactly what to write about each time you work on your book, and after each successful session you can begin thinking about the next.
A non-fiction book is nothing more than a series of essays. A fiction book is nothing more than a series of scenes. The art of structure is found in learning to place them in logical order.
Your first outlines might be somewhat generic, but they'll get more detailed and useful with practice. For me, creating a good outline is the hardest part of writing a book, but it pays continual dividends and is ultimately well worth the effort. Houses begin with blueprints, and good books begin with good outlines.
Some artists remain undiscovered until after they die, yet they live prolifically creative lives. This can happen because they choose not to disclose their creative talents, as in the case of Emily Dickinson. It can also happen when an artist feels the call to create, yet is so bold and innovative in comparison with contemporary works that the public is unsure what to think. Vincent van Gogh and Gustav Mahler fall into this category. Their art was poorly received at first, but they were masters of their craft who created timeless works.
Every writer has his or her own reasons for writing. Some write for fame and fortune, while others write to make a statement or as a way to understand the world and themselves. Whatever your reasons for writing, sharing your work with others can provide a sense of purpose and meaning, even if it isn't well-received.
As an author, I would rather create authentic works that stand the test of time than write a bestselling book that quickly fades from memory. That's part of my value system, to make lasting and meaningful books.
Every writer must discover what fuels his or her creative engine. The only way to do this is to experiment and share the work you feel called to create, continually searching for the right mix of authenticity and purpose that meets your specific needs.
You have a unique story to tell about how and why you do what you do. There are no guarantees about how the journey will go, but you will know more after beginning than you do now.
Don't be afraid to create. Don't hesitate to share your work with others. Step into the arena and be seen.
Several years ago a good friend of mine decided to write a novel. I was excited when she showed me the first few chapters, but quite quickly her progress began to slow. She was making major revisions as she wrote, changing characters and key plot elements along the way. After several rounds of major changes, she lost steam and her novel remains half-finished.
To avoid a similar fate, when I started writing I used a technique I call "write forward" to create my rough draft. The idea of "write forward" is simple to understand, but it can be hard to do: only add new words to the end of the manuscript, saving the process of revising until after the rough draft is finished.
There are several benefits to this technique. First, it gives me an incentive to do a little more planning up front, which keeps me from writing sections or chapters that are later discarded. Second, it helps me get to the finish line more quickly. Staying focused on the goal allows me to separate writing and editing tasks, which makes sense since they each require a very different mindset.
A completed rough draft is a motivational tool for me. Although a lot of hard work still remains, I find it easier to massage existing words than to write new ones. Once I've made the effort to write a rough draft, I also find myself wanting to honor that effort by creating the final product.