Writing Your First Book Without A Ghostwriter or Substantive Editor Will Eff You Up
If you are passionate about writing a book, or about having written a book, then the book becomes one of the most important things you’ll ever do. Author or writer success is not about becoming well-known or signing contracts or selling books; it’s about creating a written work that expresses what you had inside you that needed to be said.
I’ve worked with dozens of writers and authors, fiction and non-fiction. Even when I find a killer plot, unbelievable characters, and grammar worthy of both Strunk and White, the first book from a writer or author needs help. Why?
As you write that book, story, essay, article, or white paper, you are right up against it. There is little space between you and the written words. By the time you draft, rewrite , line edit (which most writers do on their own) and do a final draft, you have seen those words too often.
You’ve fallen in love. You have grown fond of those words, phrases, similes, metaphors, and dialog snippets. I’m telling you, even if you bother reading carefully, and many authors and agents do not, you are physically unable to see errors in your syntax, problems with your dialog, and clunkiness in your prose.
It’s Unlikely You Can Kill Your Darlings
We all make mistakes — even grammar gurus. We all write ineffective dialog — even Stephen King. There is no author who has never written clunky prose. There are two reasons we don’t see this stuff in our own work.
- We have page blindness — we can’t see the text through our love of the writing. The author understands what she meant to say, and she sees that on the page no matter what.
- We do not read out own work, or we don’t read it carefully. And I promise you, no matter how much you swear you’ve read the finished draft, you probably haven’t.
The often misquoted writing advice, Kill your darlings is a great rule. Faulkner didn’t say it, Arthur Quiller-Couch did. And what he said, I discovered, was
“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings”
That means, there are two rules writers and authors need to live by:
- Always read your writing, thoroughly, before you pass it on, even to your mother, boyfriend, or best fan. If you can’t take time to read it, who will?
- Murder your darlings. If you are particularly attached to or enamored of a patch of writing, the best thing for you to do is delete it. Think about that.
Why You Can’t Be a Serial Killer Like Dexter
The truth is, you can’t and won’t murder because we’re just not made that way. When we write, we believe every word is a pearl. Truth is that until we have some solid experience under our pens or keyboards, we believe our own mythology, and that is why you need to hire a substantive editor or ghostwriter for your first book.
Those who dedicate time and skill to developing other writers and authors have a unique talent for reading what’s on the page, not what we wish is on the page. We talk with you to understand your goals and motivation. We thrive on interviewing you about plot and characters. We know the rules of writing and we understand how to break them without breaking the reader’s will to stay in the story. We grow and thrive helping you succeed.
My most recent fiction client sent me an email after I helped develop his first three chapters —
Maryan, are you reading my mind? This is exactly what I had in my head, but I couldn’t get at it. You make it look so simple.
It isn’t simple, it’s logical. If you slave over a hot stove all day long, you will forget to add that essential pinch of salt that makes the sauce. If you slave over a hot text for months or weeks or years, you will overlook some essential thing that puts the sharpest point on your efforts. And that is why you need to hire a ghostwriter or developmental editor for at least your first book.