So I knew Johnny was the editor for me right from the get go, when I was first deciding to write a novel. I had wanted to write this novel several times over a period spanning a decade, but the time was never quite right. So being the [occasional] optimist, even before I put pen [fingers] to paper [keyboard], I started looking into how one goes about producing a novel from start to finish.
This was when I decided that editors were a thing you needed [logic below], found out book covers can be expensive, and avoided as much as possible all the decisions to make on publishing. This was when I visited various ‘editor’ websites; and found some of them splattered with terrible grammar, syntax and even spelling mistakes! One even had an entire paragraph dedicated to how help was given in making sure prose was clear and easily understood – and I could barely understand what the hapless fellow was trying to get across.
Oh dear great and wonderful flying spaghetti monster.
I was stepping into a minefield.
Luckily, I stumbled across both [I think] Jan Ruth’s blog and Louise Wise too, where I heard about John Hudspith.
I thought it sounded good, so I hit up my old friend oh great and mighty oracle of everything.
Now I am [on occasions] a pessimistic bastard, so of course I started to check all the testimonials. I was overcome with relief when it all rang true. Books edited by Johnny really were excellently edited and he really was everything I was looking for.It was not just a case of the internet said it, so it must be true – a trap which many a weary internet traveller falls into. There were thousands of good reviews of many, many books; reviews by unpaid, unsolicited internet people going about their business on Amazon; for books edited by Johnny. So I found the man I wanted to edit my stuff. One hurdle, jumped.
I’m not ashamed to admit I am new to story writing, nor ashamed to admit I need some professional help to get my [writing] shit straight. It may perhaps be a well-kept secret that the people you see and think to yourself – wow, that manager/writer/actor/athlete/whatever is literally amazing at everything he/she touches – actually… aren’t. The favourite books you read are beta-read and copy-edited and development edited and proof read and have artists crawl all over them; your favourite athlete has a nutrition expert, a cardio trainer, a lifestyle expert, your favourite…. you get the drift right? Lets not get too repetitive here.
But wait; there is actually a second thing, a second thing even more important than knowing nobody shits to the smell of roses. Maybe you are some 6.2ft tall, gleaming fiction-book super-hero who has an imagination that cannot be matched. Well, ever heard of the curse of knowledge? It applies to normal folk as much as it does to you super-hero lot.
You see when it comes to anything that involves getting your opinion, or your idea, your imagination or your whatever, out of your mind and into another – there is a battle of construction.
You see, I may be standing in the most wonderful garden of imagination, but you cannot see it. My garden. For me. In my mind. Get out it’s not finished yet. It has a big wall.
So if I want to let other people see into it, I need to construct a window; and I want this window to show you the best bits of my garden, not the weeds in the corner or my crappy old shed that I can’t be arsed to… well anyway. I need to construct a window.
And this is what the curse of knowledge is. I know what is in my garden. I intend to let you see it, so I craft a window. But the window is too small, and I’ve got it too high, because [for the sake of this analogy] I’m a tall bastard. When you look into the window, you can only see the wall on the other side, because of the angle. Because [maybe for the sake of this analogy] you are short.
But I am tall so I am looking in and nodding to myself in self-indulgent glee, yes, nailed it, look at all my fucking lovely flowers. And I am a super-hero right? So I don’t need anyone else’s opinion.
But poor shorty standing outside, later when you’ve sauntered off to start telling everyone to come look through your lovely new window?
Nice garden mate.
Well this is the curse of knowledge, and this is why you need an editor. You may very well know what you want on your paper, and it may be a wonderful thing. But you cannot truly know what it looks like for someone else who does not know the whole story, the whole plot, the whole view; because you do know these things.
You may say, oh, but this is what beta-readers are for. Yes, good beta-readers are excellent to have. If you are really lucky, you might even have five authors as your beta-readers who probably understand all this rambling [yes, I’m still jealous and no, I won’t stop being jealous until I reach something similar], but, beta-readers are not editors. They are likely easier to envisage as pointer-outers of things.
Perhaps Johnny truly became the editor I had hoped for when I sent him my first draft of chapter one, and he wrote an entire page on a single word I had chosen on the very first line. Yes an essay, crammed into the side margin. In red. About a single word. In the first bloody sentence.
Or, perhaps, Johnny truly became the editor I had hoped for after poor work that had gone through beta-readers, and peer-reviews on youwriteon.com; none of them noticing the mistakes or realising where things could have been better explained. Then these same things were immediately picked up by Johnny with remarks that seemed so obvious after the fact, that I felt embarrassed to have sent anyone the work in the first place.
“Mike, this is not good – in fact, I hope you will realise it’s pretty awful – it’s clunky, it’s arse about face, it takes some adding up. Boy does it. I had to read it thrice, and still I’m not sure I know what you mean.” – John Hudspith
The sentence that this was aimed at had been through 5 beta-readers, 5 peer-reviews, and several friend-readers. I thought it was fine. So did they. Then, I realised it was not. Thanks Johnny!
Basically, this is a long-winded way of saying: guys, get an editor. And I know a really good one.
Links to mentions in this article.