I broke my promise. Or at least, I told myself I had to try and read my book through as a reader – no taking notes, or crazy-focused analysing. . . just read the thing. I lasted one and a bit chapters before I realised: I was noticing things I wanted to change, and if I didn’t write them down as I went I’d never remember them. So I started making notes on a post-it. Filled that. Went on to a sheet of paper. My writing got smaller and scruffier as I went on, and yet by the end I’d filled a side and three-quarters of A4. Talk about depressing.
But, it was tweaking rather than mistakes on the whole. Things like, that sentence is fine but if you did it like this it would read that little bit easier. Or that word’s okay but this one might be better. Little niggles only. Except for the couple of places where I had the wrong tense of a word, or the sentence didn’t quite make sense somehow – I knew what I meant but would other people.
Throughout, I alternated between being amazed that I’d written this, having horrible doubts about the quality of the actual novel (forgetting any editing issues, was this a good story?) and eagerness to finish so I could work on the follow-on book. Setting my book on the shelf next to the work of professional authors was a big mistake. Hiding it away seemed a cowardly waste. What was I supposed to do?
I decided the best thing would be to do as I had with the manuscript assessment: I’d read it through, I’d have a ‘cooling-off period’, I’d look at it again and work out what I could learn from this.
Here’s some things I picked up on:
- If becoming an author through traditional methods takes determination, so does self-publishing. Not that I’ve done that, but it’s become clearer that it really is all on you: the content, the cover, the marketing, everything.
- If it’s a story you’ve been working on for a while, it’s hard if not impossible to turn off the writer/editor side of you.
- Editing for yourself is hard, but it is possible. Also, you may have to read through your manuscript twenty, thirty times to achieve a good result, and even then you may still find things you’re not happy with.
- Editing your own work is made harder by the fact that you wrote the thing – you know what you meant, you know the characters (or should do), it’s written in your voice so it’s familiar, and it’s hard to know when to say it’s finished.
- Although it looked professionally done, at the same time the book had a certain something that made me think self-printed. I thought at first it was to do with the cover I chose, or the sparse information on it, but then I wondered if it wasn’t the size of the book, or the finish. . . On the other hand is this an issue since it was self-printed? (At this point I think I was turning a bit neurotic about the whole thing!)
- If I did decide to self-publish, the process of designing a proper cover might make me think twice – the puzzle of trying to get the right look and information that perfectly suits your story. . .It’s a tricky thing.
- I hate choosing titles. I think I like it, I’m not so sure. Yeah, that’s good, but then again what about this. . .
- Inside layout: you want your title on a right-hand page, obviously, but than you don’t want to start your first chapter directly on the back of that page. Believe me, it doesn’t look right. Also, make sure your chapter headings stand out; just having them bigger or bold or whatever may not be quite enough.