Recently, I contacted an editor to help me with Mist on the Meadow, my newest creation. I've worked with this editor before, and I was comfortable with her style when I sent her Living Canvas. We were still getting to know each other then. So when I contacted her this time, I expressed my desire to improve my writing. Boy, did she answer the call.
I'm still "cleaning up" Mist on the Meadow, so I don't feel that it is finished yet. This is a good thing. Particularly since I now have homework to do for the editor before I hand it in to her. I am aware of certain "crutch" words in my work, words that are overused and/or unnecessary. I know the difference between passive voice and active voice, in fact I read a blog post this week (maybe it was last week, time is getting away from me) on just that topic. So when the editor sent me a list of words to cull out of my manuscript (or at least trim back), I was shocked to see how many of them had slipped through. She also clued me in to some of the passive phrases that are commonly used. Ouch. I was amazed at how often I had used these "bad" things. Bad habits. I also discovered an idiosyncrasy of mine, a speech pattern of my own.
Just when you think you know what you're doing.
I'm always learning something new. I thought I knew what to look for, and in many cases I did. Some of it happens naturally when you realize something doesn't sound right, and some of it sneaks through anyway. By picking apart and looking for these phrases independent of the writing process, they become much more apparent. I've added a new step to my writing routine as a result.
In addition to the mechanics, editors can also dissect your plot points. What works, what doesn't, what's been dropped along the way. They don't have the same emotional attachment to the story, and that subjective part? The part that keeps agents and publishers from connecting to it? Editors don't have to connect with the story, just the writing (although it helps if they like the story). Their job is to see the disconnects, the places that sabotage those agents and publishers from connecting. When I was younger, I had a hard time reading a Harlequin romance novel because I spent more time picking out the mistakes than I did connecting with the story. I can say that today the editors are much better, and I don't feel that same reluctance to pick up a Harlequin. That experience taught me that it doesn't matter how good the story is. If the writing isn't strong enough, you're going to lose your audience. That's why I want to grow as an author. I want to be a better writer. And that's why a good editor is so important.
Mist on the Meadow will likely be available for publication/distribution early next year. In the meantime, check out Living Canvas. For those of you in Illinois, there is another book signing this weekend in Hoffman Estates (click on the Events tab above for details). I hope to meet you there!