Forward Writers Collaborate
In the last post I spoke of backward writers vs. forward writers. Backward writers are never happy with their work and have a tendency to rewrite every chapter a dozen times. It occurred to me that there is a very real consequence of backward writing that I had not thought of: they may never get to work with the kind of professionals that could take their project to the next level.
That’s because the backward writer is never happy with his work. He would rather die than show it to a single soul. That’s a shame, but a shame I can readily identify with. I have written countless things that I felt were not ready for prime time. But much of this misses the big picture.
Often the difference between a fair work and a good one has to do with the help one gets along the way. With business books, some authors are proactive enough to share manuscripts (and partial manuscripts) with colleagues or acquaintances in the same field of expertise. These “peer reviews” can be incredibly helpful since these reviewers are often experts in that field and can make important suggestions on content and structure. Any helpful suggestions they offer on the tone or writing style is gravy.
Then there is all the help you can get from your publisher (if you have one). There is of course your book editor, who is chiefly responsible for working with you to produce the best possible manuscript. However, in top tier houses, you may also get feedbackfrom marketing, publicity and sales folks, not to mention the head of the imprint. This can happen at different stages of the process. It may start as early as a year before the book is published, when we are trying to come up with the perfect title for the book. The best books are often the result of a collaboration that involves many people with different perspectives.
But, ultimately, it is your editor who is your collaborator-in-chief. It is up to him or her to help you with the book’s table of contents/structure (the book’s architecture), the writing (sentence structure, sentence meter), the wording of subheads, part titles, etc. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that editors do not do enough editing. However, if you push your editor for help, it is more than likely that you will get it.
But you will never get there unless you are willing to share your work with the people that can offer the most help. So please keep that in mind—especially if you are a writer that fiddles with chapters to death and then hides manuscripts away in some drawer for no one to see.