A few weeks ago I was contacted by a new novelist about possibly editing his manuscript, but he had one major concern: I gave a three-star review to a book that was receiving five-star reviews from others. “Obviously he’s doing something right,” so why didn’t I like the book?
I gave three stars because the book was technically flawed. It was full of back story, info dumps, and telling. It took 10 pages to explain what could have been shown in two. Still, it received rave reviews by others, so why should a new writer hire an editor when he writes in a similar style to this award-winning author?
I decided to be honest: I believe this author’s name sold his second book. This is an issue that continually frustrates me – successful, multi-published authors who break the rules but still end up on best-seller lists. They no longer need to prove themselves and their writing shows it. I’m routinely walking away from books that fail to engage me, often boring me with unnecessary details. The general public doesn’t mind, but I can no longer force myself to read a less-than-stellar book just because a big name wrote it.
The truly sad part of this issue is that new writers can’t do this.
When I wrote my first manuscript, I did what many new writers do: I looked at my favorite author and copied her technique. When I submitted my manuscript, however, I didn’t receive contract offers. Instead, I was told to show more, tell less, and stay in the action, even though my favorite books did none of these things.
As a pre-published writer it’s frustrating to know that I need to meet higher standards than an already-published writers, but it’s even more frustrating as an editor. It took me years of studying and rejections to realize I couldn’t break the rules, even though others can (and do). It’s hard to convince other writers that they need an editor, especially when their writing reflects the same technical errors found in many published books.
I can’t change the industry or standards, but I can make sure my work – both writing and editing – is top notch. As I told this new novelist, “The goal isn’t to make your work comparable to other published works, but to make it the best version of your story.”
I refuse to cut corners just because others can. I want to produce my best possible work, and I want to help others do the same.