“Love the book,” does not mean that your work is done.

Last winter I hired Henriette Anne Klauser to put my novel manuscript through the paces of a professional edit. It was money well spent. 

When Henriette and I had our first phone conference I told her I wasn’t looking for someone to blow hot air up my skirt. She assured me she would never do that. (I never expected for a moment that she would!) Dr. Klauser wouldn’t have the business that she does if she condescended to her clients that way. 

My expectations were to come away smarter and wiser. I’m happy to report a ‘yes’ in this. She provided me with eleven (11) pages of single-spaced notes, comments and questions to study as I revise and clean things up. 

The good things she noted are: 

  • Well-written story with characters she believed in
  • Authentic sounding dialogue
  • The book has “good bones”
  • “You got the protagonist up a tree, threw rocks at her, and got her down again.” (I can live with this!)
  • My manuscript was formatted properly making the book clear and approachable for her to read and work through. (This is way more important than I believe a lot of new writers want to acknowledge.)

“Dang,” you say, “you’re all done, Bec! Right?” 

“Not so fast my pretties . . .! ” (witch cackles erupt in the background…) 

As I review the notes and stack of pages with post-it notes protruding out the right side, I know there’s an elephant-sized revision task ahead of me because of my inconsistencies in: 

  • family and/or business names through the story
  • use of ellipses, italics, quotation marks
  • wordiness, or not enough words to be concise
  • pacers to mark time shifts
  • colon usage
  • misplaced modifiers, etc, etc. 

It became clear that I don’t trust my reader nearly as much as I thought I was. I hate it when a writer does all of the work for me in a story, and here I’m guilty of the same crime. 

From my own study and research I’ve come to know the pointlessness of “junk” words, and I will have to deal with them on a one by one basis through this 300+ paged manuscript. Words like: had, there was, get, went, very, felt, realized, saw, wondered, seemed, and decided– to name a few. There is no reason to allow excess use of these words to come between the reader and the overall flow of the detail and pace in the story. 

My two personal worst are: 

just       (186 incidences)

so         (176 of these little critters. Want to place any bets on my really needing all of them to tell this story?) 

I don’t have the courage to tell you how many ‘had’ words I found. Maybe I’ll share that some other day when I’m farther along with the revision process. 

It’s all fixable, of course, but as I page through the pencil-marked copy it occurs to me once again that the average book reader can’t possibly know how much work goes into a book. 

All of these little details do matter, and I hold to my opinion that good books require many eyes.

Thanks, Henriette, for your extraordinary set of eyes! 😀 

Now . . . it’s back to work for me . . .


7 thoughts on ““Love the book,” does not mean that your work is done.

  1. Here is another word often overused by writers, myself included. The word “that.” Some times it is important to use; however, many times it is overused and should be eliminated. Once you start to notice how much it is used and does not add value to the sentence, you start to become more discreet in how and when you use it. Best wishes to you in the next editing stage!

    • Hi Bren!

      Very astute comment here. Thanks for “that!” (I couldn’t resist!!). It really is a tricky one, too. I find myself hemming and hawing over it frequently in the short pieces I write: Do I really need it, or don’t I? Most of the time, I find that it can be left out and things read quite smoothly.

      Good call, here, girl! Thanks for contributing.

  2. I’m delighted to read your comments and the cautions you passed on to your readers. Work that pays off is a wonderful use of time. It will be great to see the novel. And now, I’ll hunt down some of my own hads.

  3. Sounds like you have a daunting task in front of you…

    Good Luck! And Hang In There! It seems likely to me that you will succeed.

  4. I think an editor is indespensible; and being able to find one who works for you in true discipline and honest reporting is like beyone a keeper, it is a bona fide gift. The real benefit of being published is having the editor; freelancing and self publishing the freelance editors are costly, but no doubt about their value. I can only imagine how great your manuscript will be.

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