Archive | April, 2010

So you want to write a book?

27 Apr

Really? Well, you’re hardly alone in that endeavor. Nearly every one wants to write a book. Correction. Actually, nearly everyone wants to have written a book. The problem is, it’s hard work! It’s discouraging and disheartening, and it takes a long time! And then, after you’ve sweated blood over it, nobody else in the whole wide world loves it as much as you do! Arrgghh.

My purpose in life is not to discourage you. Or at least I don’t think that’s it. There are more obstacles in the way of becoming a published author than one could ever think of, however, so if you don’t know what they are, how can you avoid them? I hope you’ll hang around this blog for a while, because I’ll try very hard to answer your questions, and maybe get you pointed in the right direction.  But first, some questions for you!

Why do you want to write? Only for yourself?  Then just do it! Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or anything else, if you’re the only one who’ll ever read it. Just do it. Don’t worry about the details. Just write. I can’t say that too many times. Nothing happens until someone writes something!

If at some point, that situation changes and you think that maybe someone else might like to read your writing – then, you will have to pay attention to spelling and grammar and all that related stuff. If you can’t do it yourself, you can easily find people who will help you – generally for a fee. (Note: I’m one of them.) I’d suggest you get as much information about the potential editor as possible before making any commitment.

My way (not for everyone, to be sure) is this:  Send me x(tbd) pages, and I’ll give you my own opinion—NO CHARGE!!! If I think I can be of any help. I’ll tell you so, and give you a pretty good estimate of my fees. If I don’t think I’m the right person to be of help to you, I’ll tell you that, as well. Reasons for this could be the subject matter of your writing (I might not know the first thing about it, so how could I judge it?) or perhaps you might need more help than I think I can reasonably (and promptly) provide, depending on my schedule, and/or your intentions, etc. Perhaps enrolling in a writing class might bring you more benefits (more quickly) overall than a one-on-one experience. (Note: I do not read [or know much about] horror, techno-thrillers, or poetry. I’m also sadly inadequate when it comes to children’s stories.)

Maybe your manuscript doesn’t really need a complete overhaul. I’ve read several manuscripts that impressed me more than a little, because the writer was an excellent story-teller. Unfortunately, the writer was not much of a writer, either from lack of skills, (or talent!) or perhaps the English language was not the writer’s first language. Grammatical English is not always easy to learn as an adult for whom is it not the first language. There are little glitches in the writing that are a dead giveaway to this situation. It’s well worth finding a sympathetic editor in this situation who can decipher what you mean and then help you say it properly.

For instance, my cousin is German-born and bred. He’s very fluent in English [I’d give anything to be 1% as fluent in his language as he is in mine!] but even so, speaking is not writing, and so through the years, when reading his letters or e-mail notes, I’ve become aware of some of the tell-tale problems laying in wait for the foreign-born person who wants or needs to write in English. Many technical/engineering/ medical papers fall into this category, and a sympathetic, caring editor can be of invaluable assistance in such a case. Certainly, one does not need to drastically re-write the book or whatever. One merely needs to be sure that all the tenses are the same, and the writer hasn’t run afoul of homonyms – words which sound alike but have vastly different spellings and meanings. Believe me — Spellcheck doesn’t do it.

There are more traps awaiting the unsuspecting new author than you would easily believe. Not on purpose, mind you, it’s just that publishing (like most industries, actually – and never forget, it IS an industry) has certain conventions and buzz-words, and if you aren’t aware of them, you may certainly run afoul of one or more. I know. I did the same things twenty years ago. I think every writer has fallen into the same traps at some point or other. It is to be hoped that one learns from these experiences. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to share these important lessons.

Why do I know these things? I’ve written five books, and all five have been commercially published. They’re romantic fiction – three historical, one sort-of time-travel, but not quite – I call it my ‘weird’ book – and one contemporary. Four of them are in print, currently. I’m about to re-do the other one myself, but I’m not quite there just yet.

So, I’ve struggled, I’ve been rejected, but I do pay attention to what’s going on in the publishing world. I might not be able to help everyone, but we’ll never know unless we try. Right?

By nature, I’m a ‘light’ editor. My intention is not to re-write anyone’s book, but merely to help make it more readable. I can do heavy editing and/or re-writing, but only if that’s what the original author wants, and is willing to pay for. I offer no specific guarantees of any kind, other than this: you will have a neat, clean, professional-looking manuscript, with no typos or misspellings. Fact-checking is part of the package – you don’t want your hero riding around in a particular model car years before that model hit the dealership! You should not have rejections because of stupid things getting in your way. You will not send your manuscript to the wrong publisher, either. Believe it or not, that’s a major reason for rejection.  That – and sloppy manuscripts!

If you have questions about any of this, please ask?  My e-mail is: bookmechanic@gmail.com

And do please come back in a few days for the next post!

Advertisements