1. You Learn Nothing
Hiring a professional editor to iron out all of your mistakes seems like an obvious thing to do - and certainly many Indy and professional authors favour this route - not least because it gives your manuscript a more polished look before you drop it off at a publisher's or else put it on somebody's kindle via Amazon. The problem with this method however, is that you don't learn from your mistakes since somebody else has done all the hard work for you. Part of the wonder and magic of writing, lies in making mistakes and then after a few months or even a few years rectifying them. It is precisely this process that makes us better, braver, and more competent writers in the long run. Writers aren't born, they evolve.
2. Reading Is Your Ally
A writer needs books like a smoker needs nicotine. If you read enough books - particularly those of your chosen genre - you should already have a good enough idea about what kind of books are being published, which characters the modern reader prefers, and what kind of language is appropriate etc. So long as you keep reading you should be able to tell what works and what doesn't in your own writing, whether you are re-reading your book for the 1st time or the one hundredth. At the end of the day you shouldn't need an editor to tell you that your narrative, for example, is going nowhere - you should be able to work that one out for yourself.
3. Remember Your Friends
If you have some friends (and this includes writers' groups) who are well-versed in literature, and whose opinion you trust, don't be afraid to ask them for feedback. For my first novel, I had at least four or five friends trawling through my work, highlighting mistakes and giving occasional feedback. It was annoying to discover that I'd made some errors but once I'd rectified my mistakes I felt not just better about my project, but also a more accomplished, more knowledgeable writer, not least because with their criticism came some much needed praise.
4. Occasional Mistakes Are OK
What?! Are you serious? Yeah, so long as they are minor and the kind of things that the reader can skip over without too much worry. As a reader myself I prefer the odd spelling mistake any day to bad, unconvincing narratives, two dimensional, cartoonish characters, or else flat, unvibrant prose. Ultimately, as a writer, you have to make sure that from the first page to the very last your story and your characters keep the reader's attention to such a degree that when they finish they go and tell their friends all about the great book they've just read.
5. Cash Returns Are Minimal
As a result of publishing Jack Strong and the Red Giant on Amazon I've probably made around $100 to date. Not great, but not bad either. But this figure would have looked much worse if I'd have forked out between $100 to $400 for a professional editor who may or may not do a good job (I've read books published by the small presses with plenty of mistakes in them). So save your money, invest in your reading and writing and buy a kindle, a computer, or even just some good books. Ultimately, things like these will prove to be of lasting benefit to you and your (hopefully long) writing career.
If you would like to comment on any or all of the points raised in this blog post then please do not hesitate to do so. I would love to hear from you.
If you would like to read my debut novel, Jack Strong and the Red Giant, about a bullied, 12 year-old boy's adventures on a mysterious spaceship then please click on the link below: