If you write, read this!

OK, so you’re a writer. Not only that, but you’ve been lucky enough to have your work looked at by a PROFESSIONAL READER. Maybe it’s someone from a writing advisory group, or an agent, or an editor. (Someone who isn’t related to you or your BFF from school, anyway.)

This is IT! Your masterpiece has been checked out by some kind, sensitive, thoughtful individual who’s written back to you with their comments and you are THRILLED. All you have to do is read them and they will make your work better, stronger, more readable and crucially, more saleable.

Ready, steady … eugghhh.

I have a publisher (yay!). I have a book out (yay yay!). I’ve written book 2 and it’s at the line editing stage, which means we think we’ve got the story sorted and we’re just making sure the basics like grammar and punctuation and occasional bits of description are spot on. I have a truly delightful editor called Imogen who is a dream (yay yay yay!) and it’s always a treat when my draft comes back with her comments and we’re ready to move on to the next stage.

Until I start to read.

‘WHAT? You mean THAT hyphen? But I SLAVED over that hyphen! And that charming expression? What d’you mean girls don’t say it? And that comma? THAT comma? I spent days deciding about that comma!’

It’s like that for two or three days. I’m shocked. I’m ungracious. I grump about. I don’t doubt for a second that she’s right, but it’s not always fun actually having to admit it.

So thank God, as always, for Justine Windsor, who writes the Welshcake blog. Thanks to her, I spotted an essential bit of writer’s kit by Nathan Bransford. It’s short and pithy, and should be required reading for all writers before they are allowed to read and respond to editorial advice. Because even though this advice is what we’ve dreamed and prayed for all our writing lives, it is, as Nathan points out, ‘radioactive’ when it arrives, and must be treated with appropriate caution and respect.

I’m off to Manchester High School for Girls on Wednesday (hooray!), followed by a super-glam reading/party at Simply Books in Bramhall (yippee!), and I shall truthfully tell both audiences that what I do is quite simply THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD. And they’ll believe me because I’m a) right and b) very convincing. I probably won’t tell them the bit about the line editing, but I’m telling you just in case you need to know about Nathan’s blog. And if you read it, and if it makes those tricky editing moments a leeettle less painful, just remember: you read it here.

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