Best-selling thriller writer Ian Rankin writes a book a year. At a certain point, usually at the end of the first month, he is struck by "the fear." He becomes convinced that all the work he's done so far has been a waste of time, that this new book won’t be any good. When he mentions this to his wife, she usually asks, "Are you on page 65?" He then realizes that he goes through this phase with every novel, always at the same point. Many writers experience this kind of doubt about their work. And, as writing is such a lonely profession, they don't all have someone with whom they can share their frustrations.
Self-editing can be harder than writing because we grow to love our creations, and we often have difficulty seeing them objectively. We have a hard time destroying the little superfluous bits that keep our manuscripts from greatness because it feels like we’re destroying pieces of ourselves.
I’ve never met a writer who hasn’t wanted her reader to get completely lost in the words on the page. While there are many things that separate fact from fiction, there’s one thing that all writers ignore at their peril: a good, hard, honest self-edit. Let’s talk dialogue. Fiction writers learn quickly that there’s nothing as terrible as stiff, unrealistic dialogue to pull a reader out of the story. The first place to start is by cutting out as many dialogue tags as you can.
Novelists love stories and are often motivated to write by the effects a story can have on a reader. There's a real power in being able to touch the emotions of someone, a stranger, who lives far away or even far in the future. What better reason is there to write than to inspire others to follow their dreams? And yet, too many authors waste that opportunity. They confuse their reader with awkward phrasing, distract with careless typos, or turn off a potential buyer with a poor quality product.
You’re stuck. Something about your book just isn’t working, but you’re not quite sure what it is. Time for drastic measures. Yes, you could tinker away at the sentence level or rearrange a few chapters here and there — but when your ideas stall or you've written yourself into a corner, maybe it's time to do something radical to shake things up and revise your book. Why not GO EXTREME!? You can always return to your original stinker of a draft if these attempts at radical revision fail, right? So yeah; you’re totally safe to play around and get your hands dirty. Here are four things to try when your manuscript feels like it’s falling flat.
Like any craft, the beauty of writing lies in the creative process combined with the workmanship and joinery that lie beneath the surface. So writers, don’t panic! You’re not out of a job. Apple’s next major innovation is not going to be the iTolstoy. Please carry on writing wonderful stories for us to read. But, while a computer program can’t generate a compelling narrative or sympathetic characters, it might help make a good story even better. It's where technology can make a difference.
Hiring an editor is an important step in publishing a book-length manuscript. And now BookBaby offers an affordable editing service for authors. But for smaller projects — short stories, essays, academic assignments —it's not always possible to get a professional editor to check your grammar and structure before submitting. But you can still bring your writing skills to perfection when you access the right tools.