Imagine you just completed your first novel and you’re ready to share it with the world. What’s the first thing you should do?
Patricia V. Davis, author and e-magazine editor, had a quick answer for the audience at Sunday’s Redwood Writer’s meeting in Santa Rosa: You find an editor to get the book ready to pitch to agents and publishers.
Davis, author of “Harlot’s Sauce,” clutched a baby doll to her chest and walked up the center aisle of the Flamingo Hotel’s window-less meeting room. Here is your baby, your book, she told us. Wanna see it? She showed the doll to a book editor among us. Laughter broke out. Eventually the rest of us were able to see the doll had three eyes. Her point: you may like the three eyes or not even notice the three eyes. An agent or publisher will see it right away, so get an editor to help you recreate that baby with just two peepers.
Thirty years in newspapers has confirmed to me this truth: Almost everybody needs an editor. A three-month stint filling in as a night editor was liberating for me in this regard. I came to see that I should stop beating myself up for failing to reach perfection on my own. I have yet to work with a writer whose stories didn’t get better when they passed through an editor’s hands.
For young adults who want to write that book some day, I would encourage you to remember Davis’ words. I would add one more bit of advice: before you get an editor, join a writer’s group. It will save you hours and hours (and lots of money) with the editor. To use Davis’ symbolism, they will tell you (gently one hopes) when you have placed the baby’s head where its bottom belongs, and vice versa. Once they have helped you, an editor can do more of the fine tuning needed to make your manuscript sing.
I know many authors out there have much more experience about books than I do, and they might have some cautions or qualifications to add to Davis’ advice. Fellow writers, what would you say to young aspiring storytellers?