Do Whatever It Takes

Lately, I’ve gotten a few raised eyebrows when I tell people that I’m having my book edited before I turn it in to my publisher. “Why in the world are you getting outside edits, when you have such talented in-house editors who will read your book and give you their excellent feedback?”

Eyebrows inch higher when I inform people I’ve paid my freelance editor to critique my book.

You might wonder, “Why bother? Why go to all the trouble and expense? After all, your book is contracted. It’s a sure thing. It’s not like they’re going to reject it if they think it needs work.”

True. My Bethany House editors won’t reject it. In fact, they’ve already approved my story, read the synopsis for it, and given some initial input. They said they’re looking forward to reading the completed book. So, if they already like it and trust my writing ability, why didn’t I turn it in after I finished my self-editing?

Here’s what it boils down to for me: I’m not satisfied with the status quo. I want to do whatever it takes to make my next book better. I’m not writing it to please my publisher (although I hope it will). I’m not just trying to get by. And I’m not resting secure in my 3-book contract.

Instead, I hope I can create a book that satisfies my readers to the very core of their beings. I want to reach for new heights in my writing and story. And I want to stay on the cutting edge—because I know nothing in this market or industry is stable.

In order to push myself, I need critical feedback from a variety of qualified sources. I can’t read my own book objectively enough to find the issues that need fixing. (I talked about that in this post: Why Every Writer Needs Feedback.) What’s more, if I really hope to improve with each book, then I need to surround myself with team members who each offer a unique perspective but balance one another.

My freelance editor, Tiffany Colter, has been part of my team for a while. She hones in on the bigger scene and story issues that need work. My newest team member, Keli Gwyn, was a former assistant editor, and her strength is in finding the smaller problems.

Tiffany and Keli bring distinct aspects to the critique process. They’re both talented editors, but each looked at my manuscript with very different eyes. And each of their critiques challenged me to take my writing skill and story to the next level.

When I send my book to my Bethany House editors in a couple weeks, they’ll read it and challenge me even more, in different ways. They’ll give their expertise advice on the market, on what readers will like, and what I’ll need to change to make my story as saleable as possible.

In other words, I’ve got a balanced editing team, each bringing critical but differing perspectives to the editing process. In putting my book through a rigorous and intense workout, it's costing me time, money, and effort. But I'm willing to do everything possible to improve.

We all need to do whatever it takes to push ourselves to new heights in our writing and stories. Even if we have what we think is a “sure thing” or “a done deal,” why wouldn’t we want to keep challenging ourselves to be better?

Here are my parting thoughts:

*We’ll never be good enough to stop getting feedback.

*We need to seek out qualified, constructive criticism from those at our level or better.

*We should never be content with status quo, but should be constantly stretching ourselves to reach higher.

How have you challenged yourself lately to do more or to work harder at improving? Are you doing whatever it takes to push yourself higher? Or have you been settling for the status quo?

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