Writing Tips – Willingness to act on suggestions

We began these discussions with two somewhat touchy subjects for authors: editing, and criticism.  Those two elements involve interaction with readers; our next subject, not so much. This bit of work is really yours alone: Your willingness to act on suggestions. Your attitude about reworking your book will be a major factor in the success of the project.

Editing is about mechanics. Criticism is about content. When either of these monsters raise their head, a writer should never run and hide. The entire effort to write the book will have been in vain, if the writer cannot agree to make changes when they are pointed out as necessary.

A first book is a major achievement for anyone. The list of authors who published that first book, sold several million copies, who never wrote anything else… Well, that’s a tiny list. A first book is a foundation. If done well, that first book will lead to the second, and readers will be waiting. Readers also hope, and fairly demand the second book be better than the first. That is not going to happen if the author refuses to learn from the first work. Writers must be open-minded to the feedback they receive.

They should also be willing, when all the feedback agrees—to accept that the first novel may not be ready for publication after all. Try and make a list of authors who only had a third, fourth or fifth book published at last; there are several hundreds of those fine writers to list.

The key to making a good book better is the willingness to keep writing, even in that first book. The best editing, as mentioned in our earlier discussions, is the spare, subtle editing. The best revisions to make are those that bring great improvement with just a small adjustment to the story. Yet, sometimes an entire chapter is the problem. Perhaps a whole character is completely out of place in the story. Several very famous authors have admitted in fawning interviews that they removed things that weren’t really fitting into the story. Bestselling authors everywhere have tackled the monsters of ego and pride, and put the book first.

Poetry is one of the few written expressions that an author can create, and then say, “That’s what I said. Live with it.” Songwriting is another—sometimes. Book publishing is undergoing a revolution this very minute because of technology. Millions of writers are writing. However, a published novel is a committee creation. That reality will never change.

The entire publishing industry is about making the best product possible. The mathematics applied to the business of books is as extreme as anything NASA uses. Every person who handles the text before publication is charged with making the book better. Even in small publishing houses, like JournalStone, each team member has a duty to improve the book. The large publishing houses have an army of frontline workers who weed out the poor stories, the mediocre stories, and the unskilled writers. They also screen out writers who are difficult to work with…. The number of book submissions is too vast to count. An author has won a great victory to get so much as a request for a first chapter from any agent. Every door of opportunity will suddenly close, if an author refuses to accept the work of altering their book to improve it.

All this work is applied so that first book will please readers. Everyone involved hopes the second book will be praised. The goal is to have a third book ready; to keep feeding readers, to keep creating sales. Those rewards only ever come to authors who apply all their skill to their work, even to admit they must change what they have written because the committee agrees it should be done.

Within that effort, may lay a tremendous amount of room for the committee to argue and hash out any points of contention. An author, who gets their way with a publisher, is a lucky writer. Readers have been going mad recently about vampires that sparkle. Just imagine the committee arguments about that theme in the book.

What a perfect segue to our next subject for this discussion: Surprises. Authors, who can surprise their readers, will always sell books.

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