I saw this floating around Twitter a few days ago:
The hard truth: self-published books are often bad because the writer couldn’t face 3rd-party scrutiny. A good editor makes the book better.
— Jo Bell (@Jo_Bell) November 11, 2015
It made me wince in recognition. I have seen some truly terrible self-published books. (I have also seen some truly terrible traditionally published books, and in most cases I muttered, ‘Get a proper editor!’ and in one I appended, ‘And make it someone who knows that low-church bishops don’t wear soutanes, or at least don’t call them that!’)
It made me smile. On this count, at least, I have nothing for which to reproach myself, except perhaps for only paying my army of editors in promises of gin.
At present Speak Its Name is with five different people. Two of them are looking at overall language and structure and hunting plot holes. Another two are nitpicking: searching for errors in my portrayal of the High and Low Church wings of university Christianity respectively (though the word ‘soutane’ is not used in my book).
And the fifth is telling me where things just don’t make sense. He opened his critique with the words ‘I am probably one of the most critical people you will meet’, so I was expecting it to be dire; in actual fact it was rather like being savaged by a very fluffy kitten, particularly after the first general editor had suggested I cut half the first chapter. Having said that, I’d cut forty thousand words off my own bat, before any of this crowd got to look at it, because I knew those bits just didn’t work.
I’m working on incorporating all those people’s suggestions into my text. I’m waiting on some of their suggestions; these are all people who have day jobs and/or children, and I’m only paying them in gin! I’m also glumly aware that I need to standardise my inverted commas, some of which are straight and some of which are curly, depending on which program I was using when I wrote the scene in question. I’ve already fixed all the en dashes that should have been em dashes.
The inverted commas are going to be tedious, but they’ve got to be done. It’s all got to be done. In a little while – perhaps a month, perhaps longer – people will start reading it, not because they are kindly pulling it to pieces for me, but because they want to read it. Now, that’s scary.