Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

Handsome hubby putting up the new number plaque.

We're slowly settling into our new home, and we have tons of home improvement projects to do. Of course life goes on in the publishing world as well, and things aren't getting any prettier there, either.

As a freelance editor (see link above or click here for my editorial services), I come across a lot of  manuscripts which remind me of pesky home improvement projects. It's possible that a "house" might be able to come about utilizing the material involved, but it's going to take a lot of  "sweat equity" as they say on PBS TV's This Old House. The "home" isn't going to be complete and livable (readable) without some blood, sweat and tears. You might even have to listen very closely to your "architect" (editor), who is trying hard to help you build a sturdy "home" and not a ramshackle shed that blows apart in a strong wind (or critic's harsh review), or else all your hard work might be for naught.

Dropping the extended home improvement analogy, what I'm trying to say is this: The truth of why your manuscript isn't working may hurt. It can hurt a lot. In my opinion,  it's far better for an author to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth upfront. How else can an author make intelligent decisions and receive the guidance he/she needs to craft a strong story without knowing the truth?

This doesn't seem to be the going thing in the electronically published world right now. You can't get an agent or editor to take on your book--it's not your book's problem! You just need to pay Amazon or whoever to self-publish your work and ta da! Instant millionaire! The tragic thing is that many of these self-published works aren't quite ready for prime time, even if the self-published author paid someone (or didn't) to proofread for typos, misspellings, and other grammatical gaffes. The ideas behind these works aren't ready, or they've been done before a billion times. Yes, the truth hurts. Your idea might just suck.

Worse yet, your idea might be highly offensive--or libelous. What good is it if you ignore an editor's advice when he/she warns you of possible litigation if you don't back off grinding your ax into your ex-girlfriend, employer, brother-in-law? You publish a book that offends people and makes you look like a grudge-carrying, mean-spirited bully. What is the purpose in doing something so childish and cruel?

Writing is a private act, but publishing is a public act. Never forget that once your words are in print (electronic or on paper) you can't take them back. Always keep your target audience in mind. Who are your readers? What are their expectations? And, more importantly, do you have more readers in mind that just you and your mom?

In all your writings practice objectivity and balance--and listen to your freelance editor when he/she tells you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You pay a professional to give you professional advice. Listen to it. Learn from it. Live with it. Grow.

For more information on how to become successfully published, check out my funny how-NOT-to writer's guide, available in print from Smiling Assassin Productions. Or drop me an email. I don't bite. Really, I don't. Promise. But I warn you, I'll tell you the truth. Unvarnished. It's how I roll.


A J said...

I totally agree! So many wannabes think completing their manuscript automatically qualifies them for the title of Author. It doesn't. Their families and friends might say the work is wonderful when they really think it's a pile of crap. Let's face it - they don't want to offend the budding author as they have to deal with him/her every day. And does the wannabe accept even constructive criticism? Frequently not. Their head inflated by the above family and friends, they approach a publisher. Let's say for the sake of argument that their work is accepted - the wannabe gets the first edits back and throws a massive snit-fit because someone dared to criticize their wonderful work! Result - no one will work with them.

Wannabes - If you can't take criticism from the professionals, don't submit your work and just don't waste our time!

Celine said...

Well said, AJ! Someone once labeled the younger generation the "It's all about me!" generation. They can't take constructive criticism (constructive--not destructive, which is what "snark" is) and they don't like to work hard to improve their writing. Everything in life is supposed to be offered to them on a silver plater and when someone begs to differ... You get the picture. They don't act like professionals.

Growing up involves pain. Growing in writing abilities involves lots of pain. Get used to it or go find something else to occupy your time.

Stephanie Kelsey said...

Well said. You can write anything you want, any way you want...until you want to publish it. Then you need to get a professional involved.

Cindy said...

Amen, Stephanie! I think professionalism is what is lacking lately. This huge rush of "indie pubbed" (what used to be called "self-published" or "vanity published") authors tend to think they don't need editorial advice or help. Their books are perfect as is, and how dare you recommend improvements. This amateurish attitude is what's deluging the book market with a lot of mediocre material. I just wish it would stop.

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