There is a Japanese proverb that says, “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.”
I certainly found this to be the case when I wrote my novel, Wings. It took more than a year to write, although this included a period of nine months when it sat in the drawer, untouched and almost forgotten. When it was finished, I sent it to a publisher and prepared to wait.
I didn’t have to wait long.
“We like it,” replied the publisher within a week. “But it’s not of publishable standard yet. You can pitch it to other publishers if you like, but our recommendation would be to obtain a reader’s report.”
The two major weaknesses were a lack of revelation of the character’s emotional response to major events and a scarcity of description about setting. They did observe that my natural writing style was lean and uncluttered, so they cautioned me against going too far with my descriptions and emotional responses. There were also some mechanical issues such as an over-reliance on “ly” adverbs and a passive writing style through the use of words such as “had”, “was” and “am”.
The reader’s report was an excellent initiative and assisted me to make the leap from “gifted amateur” to “polished professional.” The suggestions rang true and the fact that they used examples of my own writing to point out the areas for improvement helped me to grasp their suggestion and apply it to the rest of the novel. The fact that a publisher expressed interest in my work provided more than enough incentive for me to continue the process of refinement.
It took me a couple of months to rework the manuscript in accordance with the feedback. Within ten days of submitting Wings to Really Blue Books, I had an offer to publish. This was not the end of the editing process. My fantastic editor at Really Blue Books went through Wings line by line, identifying inconsistencies and weaknesses, and making numerous suggestions for improvements. None of the changes by themselves were large, but when put together, they have combined to make Wings immeasurably better than my first (and second) attempt.
In summary, professional editing help can be of great assistance in raising the standard of your novel and making it attractive to publishers. Despite the fact that Wings had been written to a high standard, the advice and feedback I have received from my editors has enabled me to raise the bar significantly. The Japanese proverb has proven true. The insights I have gained from my editors have been worth more than a thousand days diligent labour on my part, and I can now apply the learnings to my future novels. However, even with the learnings I have attained, I’ll still be looking for an editor when I’m ready to release my next book!