Simon Wood

SHELF LIFE: My Inner Circle

I can’t send anything out unless someone has read it.  I don’t have the confidence or the objectivity that what I’ve written is good enough to send out.  On one hand, I’m bound to have made some daft error that will condemn me in the eyes of an editor.  Many years ago, I submitted a manuscript with all my notes written in the margins and my crossings out.  I’d picked up the wrong draft and sent it by mistake.  On the other hand, I might think the story is ready, when it’s still over-wordy or something.  So I need a second set of eyes to look my stuff over.
Like I’ve mentioned before, Julie is my primary reader and editor.  She works very closely with me on everything.  She doesn’t even like me leaving the house by myself.  I get into trouble very easily.  Julie, Julie, these men said I couldn’t swallow all these balloons full of white powder, but I proved them wrong.  I’ll be home late tonight.  I’m off to Columbia.  For this reason and many others, she goes through my work, correcting grammar and logic issues.  Julie’s great for this, because she’s a technical person.  Her talents lie in correcting structure.
But this is only one part of the review. Julie gets too close to the material after a while, so I need a number of readers for other aspects.  If I’m having trouble with certain scenes, chapters, what have you, I have a number of experienced authors who’ll give it the once over.  They know what works and what doesn’t. 
Until recently, I had a grammartologist on staff.  Me and grammar, well, we shook hands once at a party, but I’m not sure I’d recognize grammar if it said hi, so I need help.  Julie’s late father stepped in there.  He’d tear through the manuscript and make all the final adjustments that wouldn’t get me laughed out of an editor’s office.
I have a couple of people who are just fans of the genre.  They’re veracious readers and that’s good for me.  The more I write, the less I get to read.  There isn’t the time, so I need a couple of buddies that read everything to help keep me current.  I send my manuscripts their way for a reader’s gut reaction. All I want to know from them is whether they liked it.  Was it fun, different, a page-turner?  The problem of staying within the circle of editors and other professionals is that you get a one-sided view.  My reader readers give me a feel for what likely readers are to think.
I need all these people for their various skills, but I just can’t pick anyone.  Their input is vital.  I need people who are brutally honest.  I can’t afford to have people be kind.  My special readers have no qualms about telling me how much I suck.  Sometimes, I think they enjoy their jobs a little too much.
The reason I go through this is that first impressions count–especially in publishing.  I want everything I turn in to an editor to be better than the last thing I turned in, even if I have a contract for it, or they’re going to change or tweak something anyway (and they will).  It doesn’t matter.  I don’t want him thinking I’m sloppy.  I want to make the editor’s job easier.  The less time he has to correct the obvious, the more time can be spent on correcting the not so obvious.  I want all these people to make me a better writer.
So please join me in giving all my readers a round of applause, because none of them are getting a cut of the royalties…

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