There’s only one thing that writers need to know to become a great author: your writing sucks.
No matter what you do, how hard you try, or how many times you check it yourself, it will still suck. Know why? Because you, dear author, know what you MEANT to say. You have a mental image of what should be happening. The problem is that you didn’t necessarily make that image appear on the page.
This is why we need editors. Those poor souls read our crap, tell us when we miss the mark, and then get screamed at by psychopaths with a writing addiction who can’t believe you talked about their baby like that! Yes, I do it too, and I try to learn from it when it happens, but it will happen.
You see, being a good author isn’t about having great ideas. A story can be great and still be written horribly. Typos happen. Comma splices happen. Missing punctuation happens. Leaving out words happens. We all do it, and the faster you type (ahem, I speak from experience here) the more likely those little issues are to crop up. Your fingers are flying, transposing letters, and you don’t want to stop the thought until it’s done. You’re on a roll. You’ll change it in a second…
Then your spell check doesn’t see it. It doesn’t know that should have been who not how. Change or chance? Now/not? Those are my worst ones.
Then there’s the redundancy factor. Sometimes, we redundantly use the same word over and over, forgetting that the redundant use is annoying. Redundancy crops up mostly with nouns and names because we think of the simplest word to use, forgetting that a few redundant repetitions of a redundant word really grates on the eyes! (Wow, that was actually hard to type!). Ahem. But, in all honesty, if your character’s name is in every paragraph, you’re doing it wrong. Try a pronoun or descriptive phrase, like the person writing this, the blogger, the author, the insomniac with orange hair… you know, not just Auryn, Auryn, Auryn.
See, when we know what the story is supposed to be about, we so often forget what the story is ACTUALLY about. We stop reading what is there and add in a few words to fill in the gaps. Forgot to put the subject into that sentence? No problem. You won’t even see it, because your mind already knows it should be there. Let’s not talk about the sex scenes with extra hands appearing out of nowhere. Totally kills the mood! Oh, you’ll catch a couple, but not even the majority of them.
Not until your work is published.
And then it’s too late! People can see that you suck. They rate you on the mistakes, refusing to ever read your work again, tell their friends how bad your work is, and you’re left to start ALL over. A new book, maybe a new name on the cover, and certainly a new start at building a fan base. It’s hard enough to do the first time. Trying again? Ugh.
But, there are a zillion people in the world that would love to help you. Ask a friend to read it – and brace yourself for his or her honest opinion. Then edit again. As another friend. Rinse, repeat. When you can’t find anything else to make better, then hire an editor. There are people out there who will read your work and rip it apart for only a few hundred bucks. And trust me, if I can get a novel edited for less than a grand (at approx 140k words) then so can anyone else.
Pay the money. Just do it. No school friend or buddy is going to know the difference between an em-dash and an en-dash. Semicolons, fragments, adjectival phrases, intro commas, curly quotes, straight, drop caps, page margins, font size, kerning, leading space, first line indents….. trust me. Pay someone. It’s easier than learning it all yourself.
And then, when all of that is done…. edit it again. Because, my aspiring author friends, it isn’t your STORY that has issues. It’s your writing. You’re human and we all make mistakes, so don’t feel bad about it, just accept that it happens, and make sure you fix it before publishing. Identify the problem (you aren’t a machine) and find the solution (hire an editor).
Now excuse me… I have to go back and edit this crap I released with only five editing passes. How did this stuff make it through? I KNOW I fixed that once… gah!