Have you been cherishing your manuscript for years? Do you stay up late into the night, keeping it company as you sip your glass of Pinot? You kind of want folks to read it, but you’re, um… a bit, afraid of what people will make of it when it goes out into the world.
Should you be trying for a traditional publishing deal, or perhaps sponsorship from the Majestic Pinot Wines’ company to help you self publish? You love your manuscript – it’s more important than anything else – but at times I bet you also sometimes despise the darn thing – it’s taken you so much time and caused you more than the odd tear. You have a complete story arc, or at least you think so, but you’re now stuck – spending ages deleting the odd word and reworking a sentence, (it might all be progress, but how long have you got?).
I reached that awful stage where I was unable to see my 70,000 words as a viable project, so I re wrote it four times – and it was still an appalling mess. My family tiptoed around the kitchen table where the laptop and I lived. When I finally shut the lid and moved it away, my partner pointed out the computer-shaped patch left on the table, where the sunlight had faded the varnish around it – an alarming reminder of hundreds of hours of struggle.
So – what next? Unless you’re an editing pro, the way forward could be to get someone else’s view of your manuscript. You know your book better than anyone else, but you just might have missed a few things. I did. I discovered grammatical features I’d never heard about – something called a clause for instance; previously, I’d thought that was something to do with Santa!
Accepting constructive criticism shouldn’t be that hard, right? But you are dreading it. After all, how dare anyone have the nerve to comment on your work? Even if you did ask them. Another pair of eyes peering at your manuscript can seem scary. But you’re a writer aren’t you – and that’s what writers have to do? OMG, have another Pinot!
If you publish your manuscript as a book, without having it checked, who knows how many will view your mistakes? Even if you only sell 50 copies, people have a habit of lending books. Brilliant! Fine! Until Great Aunt Maud’s friend picks it up – she knows her semi colons, and is less than impressed with yours. You secretly hope that she hasn’t worked out how to put a review on Amazon, but I bet she knows all about it.
There’s another problem with trying to do everything yourself. Can you really see what’s
been going on with your manuscript when you are so involved in it? It may be difficult to hear what others have to say about your sentence structure, punctuation and spelling, but would you attempt to plumb in your own bath? I thought my partner could do plumbing. So did he. But when the kitchen ceiling collapsed after a water leak, we realised it would have given us less anguish, and been far cheaper to have found help earlier. That decided me. I would seek editing help from the professionals. So my manuscript went out, and the ceiling came down. We sat in the dark on that
snowy March evening, listening to the water drip relentlessly through the kitchen light fittings. The only soothing thought was that despite the house falling down the book might be saved.
Later, I was very glad I’d made that choice. In an already overcrowded pool, a professional assessment can help your work stay afloat. Imagine watching your book struggle in a swimming pool with all the other new books and without any survival equipment. It’s too late to dive in after it. Unless you can afford to go for a rescue reprint (costly and a load of hassle) you’ll have to let it go under. To me, an assessment gave my book a left arm band; the edit a right arm band and the proof read a rubber ring. My book was ready – prepared for the wave machine to be switched on.
If writing is a hobby, rather than a career, you may find it difficult to justify spending money on writing services – they aren’t cheap – but then few pastimes are for free. I expect golf, or horse riding cost a fair bit. I viewed the financial outlay on my book as equivalent to a gym membership. I haven’t got any thinner, but my book got into shape and put on a bit of healthy muscle. Yet, many self-published authors still don’t choose these basic, but essential preparation procedures and I guess that’s part of the reason that some self-published books still get a bad name.
Even so, it was hard to let my new paperback go out into the big wide world. I gave the first few copies of ‘Strays and Relations’ little fabric covers – hot water bottles if you like. I wanted them warm and protected when they went on their way.
Of course, like me, you’ll probably still worry about your novel leaving home. But if you
can’t sleep at night, you could always have a bath, or a Pinot – or both – and take comfort in knowing you have given your book the very best chance.