Books aren’t written, they’re edited.
Looking back and forth between my original draft and my current manuscript seems to bear this out. The former was a story, fit to be heard, but not read. If we still lived in the age of Oral Tradition, I’d have released the bugger unchanged and relied on future bards to tweak the nonsense into perfection. However, the legacy of Gutenberg means that there will be ONE copy that goes to print. The thing has to be golden. And that requires a team.
The first person to join me in this endeavor was my wife, who came home from work every day and asked, “How many pages do you have for me today?” Her enthusiasm and input helped shape the book as it was being written. She’d highlight ugly stuff in yellow and passages that weren’t to be altered in green. The incredible green/yellow ratio kept me going, and it would have been a very different story without her guidance.
Next came my first editor, and the person who taught me to write semi-correctly. She gave me the power of the Em-Dash, the concept of proper punctuation (still working on mastering it) and an eye for spotting major writing errors. It helped that Lisa was a huge fan of the genre in general and my story in particular. Without her professional editing and advice, I probably wouldn’t be taking this seriously as a career. It’d just be a tale I wrote for friends and family.
It’s fitting that my mother, my highschool teacher, became my typo sleuth. She taught me to read and fed my passion for books. I do feel sorry for how many times she’s gone through my manuscripts finding bugs, but she insists that the sixth reading of MOLLY FYDE AND THE PARSONA RESCUE really is the best.
When my publisher, Nadene Carter from NorLightsPress, comments on how clean the manuscript is, I really owe these people a lot of the credit. There’s also been a dozen others from SciForums and other sites that offered input and criticism. It’s no different than the book’s cover, which has been shaped by a continuous loop of suggestions, examples, and mock-ups.
As Nadene and I work through the first book from stem to stern, the collaborative process continues on the second book and overall design elements. Which gives me an idea (one that I’m sure isn’t original): why not write a wiki book? And I don’t mean one of those stories that someone starts and everyone adds a sentence, I mean a total document that is worked on by thousands of volunteers, like software code.
Start with a rough draft and publish it on a freely-editable site. Let eager masses tweak the thing for a year–then publish it. You could harness the power of idle ‘net surfers and blur the boundary between reader and writer. Certainly there’s hundreds of rough drafts out there that people have given up on, and tens of thousands that have the ability to mend, if not create outright.
Should I experiment with the idea? Give everyone admin accounts to this blog and see if the content improves? It certainly couldn’t get any worse, could it?