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Are you pleased by what you’ve written?

unhappyWhen I have handed in a new manuscript it is not uncommon for the editor to say to me—”Are you pleased by what you’ve written?”

Often, the answer, you might be surprised to learn, is “No.”

Consider, I have worked on the text for much of a year—if not longer. The truth is that the work seems dull, poorly written, all too familiar, full of mistakes, spelling, grammar—you name it.  It is all those things because I have lived with it day in day out all that time. Familiarity breeds laziness.

But, the very act of giving it to someone else makes a huge difference.

In this context I think of Samuel Johnson’s words, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Just knowing my editor is reading the text somehow concentrates my mind wonderfully. Or is it panic?

So I go back to the manuscript—which is annoying to editors because I am changing what they are currently reading—and when I read my text my primary emotion is … embarrassment. How could I have missed this? Or that? What does this sentence mean? Why did I send this in?

The worst moment comes when—in the course of the re-reading—you discover a major plot flaw.

One writer I know—a very good writer—once told me that she sends her manuscript to a copyeditor before she hands her draft in.  A good thing, though perhaps expensive.

Of course, I run my text through my computer’s spellchecker. Then I run it through my laptop’s spellchecker. I sometimes even run it through an external spellchecker. Guess what? 1) Each program finds things the others don’t. 2) They don’t always agree. 3) Sometimes I don’t agree with any of them.


Then I run it through my word repetition counter, and discover I used the word “terrible” thirty times. Not good. Not smart. Not good writing.

I truly think the hardest part of writing is seeing your own work objectively.

I have no problems with self-publishing. I have major problems with self-editing.

There are other things you can do. Read the work aloud to someone. Put your work aside for a month (or a year) and come back to it fresh.

Or you can send it to your editor. The truth will out.

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