So you wrote a book? Congratulations! That’s amazing.
But do you really have what it takes? Are you a good enough writer to reach the audience you want without making a fool out of yourself? How do you actually know your writing is worthwhile?
Those are questions every single writer wonders at least from time to time no matter how many books he or she has written. Sometimes they pop into our heads on their own. Other times, they grow from a single negative review we get on Amazon or GoodReads or maybe in person.
In those cases, it doesn’t matter how many compliments we’ve gotten and how many positive reviews we’ve received. Our personal doubts or outside critiques – constructive or otherwise – can cut through our egos like chainsaws through butter.
The resulting mess is time-consuming to clean up, to say the least.
But guess what? You have, in fact, written a book! So clearly you do have what it takes. You put in the time and effort necessary to start, continue and finish your manuscript. So the question you should be asking yourself isn’t whether you have what it takes. You need to switch gears completely by focusing not on approval so much but improvement.
What you really need to be asking is: How do I strengthen my current book or my next novel or my writing style in general?
Because there’s always room for improvement. Always. And it doesn’t matter whether you’ve just completed your first manuscript or you’re on your 25th. We writers never perfect our craft, only strengthen it.
Fortunately for us, there are a number of great ways to grow, mainly by seeking out other people’s opinions and advice. This could be by:
Finding a writers’ critique group: Just about anywhere you look, there are writing communities to be found. One might be offered through your local church or synagogue, on meetup.com, or perhaps posted on Craigslist. And if for some reason you can’t find one in any of those hotspots, then consider starting one up yourself! After all, if you build it, they could come.
Getting a writing buddy: While it’s always nice to get multiple opinions about your work, a writing buddy has the potential to be more consistent than a writers’ group. With the latter, you might be able to submit a chapter every six weeks, whereas with a writing buddy, you could be swapping story segments every 10 days or less. Just be careful if you go this route that you’re getting just as much as you’re giving. There are some very selfish writing buddies out there that you need to be on guard against.
Getting beta readers: Beta readers are great resources to utilize if you know how to find them. These are random reviewers out there on the internet who will critique your manuscript for free. Though – warning – some of them can be pretty harsh. You asked them for their opinion, and believe me, they’re going to give it to you. While you can simply send out social media requests for beta readers if you’re up for this route, you can also find them on organized sites such as Wattpad and Scribofile.
Hiring an editor: Depending on how thorough of an edit you want, you can hire an editor for anywhere from $15 an hour to $4,000 for your whole manuscript. $15 an hour is going to get you a speed-read edit, so if that’s all you can afford, you’re probably better off just going with beta readers or a writing buddy instead. Though that’s not to say the $4,000 option is worthwhile either, since that usually gets you a read-through with grammatical and spelling corrections, plus a summarized edit. Try going for something on the cheaper side of the middle instead ($25-$35 an hour). And regardless, make sure to ask your editor what you’re going to get out of that investment in return.
One quick note about that last statement: When I say to make sure you know what you’re getting out of an edit, what I mean is to ask lots of questions.
Will they be using track changes? Will they be adding in comments? Will they be looking for plot pitfalls as well as spelling and grammar? Are they going to look line by line, or are they simply critiquing the big picture?
For example, when I edit someone’s book manuscript, I take a holistic approach. That means I’m looking to make sure the dialogue is convincing, that details mesh together, characters are believable and the story flows well from paragraph to paragraph. So my clients get a thorough edit from start to finish, complete with a complimentary summary that highlights areas they’ve already sold me on as well as spots that need improvement.
Whatever editor you go with though, make sure you feel comfortable with them before you sign on. Don’t let them pressure you at any point.
And always keep in mind that you really do have what it takes to write a book. The rest is just practice.
* * * * * * * * *
Jeannette DiLouie is the published author of 10 books and counting, and the Chief Executive Editor of Innovative Editing, a full-service editorial business with a special focus on authors and authors-in-the-making. You can find her writing insights and guidance at www.InnovativeEditing.com, and her books on Amazon.com.