I got an idea for a fictional story eight years ago and I finally started writing it in 2014. My plan back then, was to get it edited by a pro and get it published.
On reflection, I tell myself ‘Welcome to the world of writing,’ probably one of the greatest lessons in patience, and it isn’t over yet because of editing.
On Writing: After finishing my first draft, I was so happy I contacted a pro editor and forwarded them an excerpt for an estimate on how much it would cost to edit. I waited patiently for weeks to get a reply, which was ok because I was busy, they were busy, and although I’m the sort of person who likes to get things done quickly and efficiently, I want to be professional and delays are normal. I did send a follow-up email maybe three weeks later gently asking for an update and they were still busy.
When I got a reply three months later, it was some of the best advice I’d ever received. The editor wasn’t going to take it on because the story needed structural editing (which they couldn’t provide) and they recommended I join a writing group. This editor also spent their valuable time giving feedback explaining the ‘Show don’t Tell’ and ‘Get into the action as quick as you can,’ rules based on my story, so at least they’d taken a look. This was a blessing, and this person probably isn’t aware of the impact their advice had, I was lucky and grateful.
Rolling up my sleeves, I understood and re-wrote most of the beginning, considered the main plot and added some major events relative to the story. I felt the new version to be much better and happy, I set about editing the nonsense out of it.
Editing is easy (no it’s not!) I just need to read it, mark changes and edit it, simple (no it isn’t!) At this point I hadn’t joined the writers group yet, I wasn’t ready and there was still a long way to go before I would feel ready.
On Editing: Re-reading after editing, it still didn’t flow how I wanted it to, so I again printed it, read it and edited it, making further corrections and changes before printing it to read again (4th edit).
Wait…. Still it wasn’t right. It didn’t carry the feel I wanted and the flow didn’t flow. I had a eureka moment, the penny finally dropped, it dropped again later and again since. I was reading books thinking about mine, wanting it to be the best it could be, realizing it would take me weeks, months to edit properly and it’s still ongoing now.
Lesson: Follow your gut feeling! You want it to be good, but be honest with yourself if it’s not and figure out why.
Lesson: Book reading in your genre, especially recently published books is important. In other books, you might like what you see and think ‘Hey, I’d like that kind of voice in my story,’ but you also have your own voice to consider. Appreciate other peoples using theirs to improve your writing and editing, but keep the vein of your own voice throughout.
Editing so far is much harder than writing the story. It’s time consuming, and what you see on your MS one day, might look different the next and need editing again. Now I take a week to edit a single chapter because I have to be sure every line and paragraph flows perfectly and seamlessly. I also read from the beginning on occasion because I might make little adjustments here and there, but nothing drastic.
I’ve just joined the Singapore Writers Group (http://www.singaporewritersgroup.com/) and I’m looking forward to learning more and meeting great authors (we are all in the same boat with the same goal). I’m also following authors and literary agents on Twitter picking up tips, listening to useful advice and I’m subscribed to a few helpful blogs.
I’d advise anyone serious about writing to get themselves on Twitter following authors and industry professionals, you’ll pick up a lot! Be selective and think about those tools that you can get the most out of with the minimum of effort, because your time is precious and you can’t monitor and do everything.
The most important tip is to never give up, stick to your goal, be patient and learn as you need to. You can’t do everything at once but every little effort you do make, will help tremendously.