Polish your work before letting it go

Image by Anne Karakash from Pixabay

As I’m away this week, here’s one I prepared earlier. It’s a rant I had a few weeks ago on Medium, but the same topic also appears in Diary of a Scaredy Cat.

Have pride in your work; at least read it through before sending it out.

Writers don’t seem to have pride in their work anymore.

When I was learning about being a writer (in class and experiential), it was drummed into me that you should never knowingly send out sub-standard work to anyone for publication.

It was drummed into me that you polish, polish and polish some more until your work is the best you think you can make it, and then polish it one last time. It was drummed into me that you edit and edit until there are no repetitions, no superlatives, no silly, stupid errors that can be so simply corrected, and that you proofread your work every time you send it out for publication.

Every. Single. Time.

Since I’ve been editing other people’s work, I’ve been amazed at the number of obviously first draft typescripts and submissions. I’ve been amazed that the author had so much faith in his/her own writing that they truly believed it didn’t need any editing, polishing OR proofreading. I’ve been amazed that the author was just too damned lazy (or arrogant) to go through their work again.

But most of all, I’ve been amazed that the publisher has accepted it.

In many cases, had I been the commissioning editor, I would have thanked them for letting me see their draft, and then sent it back for completion. I’ve even sent books back to the publisher client asking “are you sure this is the author’s latest version?”

There are some authors who can write a near-perfect first draft, and good luck to them. But in the majority of cases, we’re not all so blessed. I’m a professional copy editor, but still I carry out edits and often ask someone else to take a look too.

Professional editors, be they line editors, development editors, copy editors, or whatever, do cost money. So do proofreaders. So the more work the author can do for him/herself the better. And then, when the professional editor does get sight of it — whether direct from the author or hired by the publisher — at least s/he can get on with what s/he does best: editing and not re-writing.

Have some respect for your own work and make sure the reason a publisher rejects you is not for something that can so easily be fixed.

A version of this story was first published on Words Worth Writing and again in Diary of a Scaredy Cat. This most recent version appeared in Writers’ Blokke on Medium.

For more writing tips from me, have a look at my book Diary of a Scaredy Cat available in multi-format from Books2Read (click on the pic).