You don't have to be brilliant at writing to write a great novel.
Several authors are fantastic at building a story arc, creating gripping plot lines with believable characters, but are not so hot at sentence construction or grammar.
And that's okay – because there are people out there who can help you.
From the developmental editor, who will steer you in the right direction when it comes to plotting your book, to the copy editor who cleans up spelling and grammar, there is a wealth of experts out there who are on your side, and just as invested in your book as you are.
Here's an excerpt from a really gripping book I edited recently. The author knew her story was good (and it really is) but wanted the grammar and punctuation cleaned up.
I spent a little time reading through and changed the opening paragraphs from this:
Eight-year-old Daniel Edgar lay on his bed, sore from the welts from his father’s belt. He had overslept by five minutes making him late for breakfast, his father was livid. He tried not to give him the satisfaction of tears, had taken it like a man until he got to the sanctuary of his room where he let all of his emotion unleash. Half an hour later he heard the sound of his mother Mary entering the room, she rushed over to him, kissing his head and soothing him, she softly cried. “Why did you have to be late?” She whispered, “You know how mad that makes him. She gave Daniel some paper and pencils, “maybe you can do some drawing?”
Eight-year-old Daniel Edgar lay on his bed, sore from the welts left by his father’s belt. He had overslept by five minutes, making him late for breakfast – the welts were a mark of his father’s anger.
So many people have great ideas for a story but think they can't write; they're no good at it.
Just have a go! Sit down and type without looking at what you're writing.
Dictate your copy out loud into a speech-to-text app.
It's such an achievement just getting your story down on paper.
Read it through; get a friend to read it through. Does it have potential? Could it become a real book? Will it have readers laughing, crying or hiding behind the sofa?
Then consider getting a professional on board to whip it into shape and, voila, you have a manuscript.
Setting up Green Gables Editing, I was establishing what sort of products I would provide. In addition to proofreading and editing for businesses and individuals, I thought I would deliver a writing service for those who might not have the time, inclination or confidence to write themselves.
And then a friend suggested a “drop-a-strop” facility saying it was a concept she had been mulling over herself. (For the record, she isn’t a writer or editor, and wasn’t being entirely serious, so I’m honestly not stealing her idea…!)
I thought it sounded brilliant – a special service writing complaints letters for people, to whomever they’re annoyed with. Well, not anyone. Mainly companies and businesses. I draw the line at sending angry missives to philandering husbands or nosy neighbours.
I have form in this genre myself. I went through a phase in my twenties when I was free of family constraints and so had the time to sit down and craft an acidly worded tract of complaint.
For the purposes of this blog post, I trawled through my catalogue of carping, and the images you see here are excerpts from those epistles. How wordy! What an intense sense of displeasure and having been inconvenienced!
But also how egotistic, almost snobbish. Obviously it’s important to be detailed and clear about the subject of one’s complaint, but it will also get you further if you remember there’s a human at the other end, reading your grievances. More understanding, and a lot more readiness to accept an explanation, will allow for compromise and a satisfactory, amicable outcome.
Anyway, if you’d like to “drop a strop” with a service or business that you feel has failed you in some way, and don't quite know how to word it, I’ll be more than happy to chat about how we can get your message across – politely…
With thanks to Ruth H-P.
This is the bit where I write about wordy and linguistic things that take my fancy...