Why I’ve brought in ‘The Red Pen’

A couple of weeks ago I embarked on a major mission. I printed out the first 100 pages of Book One, having decided to wield my red editing pen over it, prior to perhaps self-publishing. About a week later, I summoned up the courage to start reading it.

I now have to apologise to the 10 agents who’ve received this book as a query. You

Look at all that red pen!
Look at all that red pen!

will see from the photograph here, just how much red pen I’ve put on it and I’m actually quite ashamed that I let the manuscript go out when it needed this much more work. Anyone who knows me in my day job will know I’m about the pickiest person when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar, and rewriting sentences to make them flow. I won’t allow anything to be published that hasn’t undergone rigorous scrutiny. So why had I not done that here? Why had I allowed limp sentence structure and writing that was not even in my own voice?

All I can say is that I’m now looking back with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. I wrote this book between 2007 and 2009 and probably haven’t looked at it since sometime in 2010. Obviously I have a little more distance and objectivity. So far I’m not making changes to the actual plot – that seems to be hanging together so far – and I’m still getting butterflies in my stomach at all the moments when the reader should get butterflies. Whether they’re genuine or just because it’s my work, I don’t know.

But what I do know is that when I’m ready to send this book out to a professional editor (as part of the self-publishing process) it will absolutely be the best I can make it. It’s not like me at all to let something go that wasn’t perfect, but I think I was at the stage of ‘If I don’t let it go out now, I never will’. Now, having written a second book, plus several short stories and embarked on a third book and a novella, my writing is much more mature. I’m more mature. I’ve read God knows how many books since then and learned something from every single one. I’ve talked to writers, I’ve read blog posts and I’ve given people sneaky peeks at what I’ve written. (Most recently a work colleague read the start of my novella and wailed ‘But what happens next? I need to know’ – thankfully I know what happens next but was not prepared to divulge the information!)

It’s comments like this that boost me when I’m feeling down about my work. I can fully see why those 10 agents turned my work down, and to be quite honest I’m not upset about it. What it’s done is make me take a long hard look at my work and make me resolve to be better in future.

This weekend I’ll continue to wield that red pen and the book will look better for it.


2 thoughts on “Why I’ve brought in ‘The Red Pen’

Add yours

  1. Hey, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve just discovered the dramatic effect of changing media (ie computer screen to printed). It’s like your precious words get printed out in colour, with the mistakes helpfully highlighted for you!

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