Updated: May 2, 2020
Here is Part 2 of my self-publishing journey. I've been busy with a lot of little things over the last week(s) but also felt like I had hardly done anything. Do you ever feel like that? Well, I realised I hadn't really written anything new and thought I'd better hammer out this blogpost before I forget. Going from Blank Page to Published (and all the struggles and lessons I learned in between) is teaching me a lot of patience. And I mean A LOT! The first test of patience was the editing process.
Part 2: From First Draft to Editing
After finishing my first draft of the picture book, I left it for a few days. I read other picture books, as well as Haruki Murakami's 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running'. (There is a more detailed blogpost and link about this book here.) I started self-editing and fine-tuning it after taking a step back and a few days to refresh my mind. I ended up adding more to the story! The whole writing process was therapeutic so I just kept going. But it was not helpful during the editing process when I was supposed to be cutting words, not adding them! Typically, a picture book should not have more than 1,000 words and I was close to 2,000 already! I created a separate document to continue the story and the long version was born.
After a few attempts of self-editing, I decided to find a professional editor to help with the process. Never underestimate the importance of an editor! Even though I have done editing of other people's writing, it is not the same when it comes to editing your own writing. Simply put, you can't edit your own writing because you know your own story so well. When you read your own writing, your brain fills in the gaps and you can easily miss things, add words that are not there or not see words that are. You read it the way you have it in your head, not the way it is actually written. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I discovered a 'read aloud' function on Microsoft Word that helped me pick up on those. A professional editor not only helps you with grammar, sentence structure and spelling, they help you look over your plot, character development, and flow. I didn't know that there are so many different types of editors either! So when I searched online to find one, I had to figure out which one I actually needed: developmental editor, evaluation editor, content editor, line editor, copy editor and finally, proofreader. Luckily, for a children's picture book, it was short enough that I didn't need really extensive editing in terms of story development. I just needed someone to make sure the sentences flowed, and there were no grammatical errors or inconsistencies. So I asked for line and copy editing - yes, even a story of 1k words needs this because even after I had read and re-read it a dozen times before I sent it to the editor, she still found areas I needed to change and improve on. It took a little longer than I expected, too! She did tell me she hadn't edited a children's book before, but then I had never written one before! We all need to start somewhere, so I took a chance! She actually had some great suggestions and feedback on how to cut the story down. I had already cut out all the additional details and added them to the longer version but I still really struggled. There was so much I wanted to keep and even add! She was super patient with me and we even worked on the manuscript over Google Docs together near the end!
For the longer version, I decided to ask a more experienced children's book editor who was a children's book author herself. After the first round of editing, I received a 10-minute feedback video with the edited manuscript! Her notes and edits were so detailed as well! She said that she really liked the story and was so touched by it - she even cried at the end! I was ecstatic! not about the crying, but that she was moved by it - which was the goal! Watching her video made me cry, too! I felt - for the first time - that I had written something meaningful and worthwhile! I wasn't wasting my time on a pipe dream that would never take off. I could actually write something that people would enjoy reading and affected them emotionally.
I should also add at this point, that I had not told anyone in my family or my circle of friends that I had started doing this. I only started telling a few close friends and a bunch of complete strangers (who are fellow writers) on the Internet when I was getting my story edited! I still hadn't told my mum! I joined a bunch of groups on Facebook for fiction writers and authors of children's books and even joined a group chat on Twitter and shared everything there! That was probably the bravest thing I had ever done for my writing! Writing is the easy part. It's the sharing it and letting other people read it that is nerve-wracking and intimidating. As a newbie, I thought I did not fit in with these groups and they would not think I had any talent. In fact, I was the only one that was being harsh on my writing. Everyone was actually very encouraging and supportive!
Anyway, it took so much courage for me to finally share it and send it to an editor. But I knew that if I didn't make that leap and just send it off, I would never get anywhere with it. It would always and forever be a 'work in progress'. For anyone who dreams of becoming an author, the first big step is to hire an editor! I must admit, I was really scared and nervous that I would get negative feedback. I was expecting a lot of it for a first draft. I gave myself a pep talk before opening up those emails and said that all feedback is good feedback even if they are negative - otherwise, why else do you even need to hire an editor? I am glad that this story didn't disappoint! I just hope I can keep it up for other stories in the future!
At this moment, the long version is still being edited and it's in its third round. I truly admire the patience of novel writers and editors. I never thought I would be this impatient waiting to hear back from my editor! I don't know if I ever would write a full length book or novel one day, but if I ever do, I do not look forward to this part of the process!
To be continued in the next post...