Do the Work

 All too often, when I meet new people and they find out I’m an editor, they tell me, “I’ve got the perfect idea for a book.” They then proceed to give me a bare-bones skeleton of an idea, which usually goes something along the lines of: “My husband divorced me and all men suck.”

Rarely is the concept more developed than that, yet these “brilliant idea generators” actually have the nerve to tell me: “So, you can just write it up and we can split the profits.”

Um, thanks, but I don’t think so.

I’m not sure if people have always been so lazy (and insane) or if the massive expansion of self-publishing has changed things, but everyone now seems to believe that all it takes is a few clicks of a mouse or taps on a touchscreen to get a book published.

And technically, yes, they’re right: You CAN publish any old document and declare it a “published book” these days.

But a select few of us writers still prefer to uphold some standards. We work hard to create a near-perfect draft, we have the manuscript professionally edited, we hire skilled and experienced designers for the interior layout and cover design, and we go through the lengthy, painstaking process of putting a “real” book together.

In other words, we do the work.

And if you want to be a writer, you need to do the same.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t self-publish. Not at all. The way you decide to release your work into the market is an intensely personal choice, and there are plenty of reasons to choose either self-publishing OR traditional publishing.

My point is that real writers don’t just come up with basic ideas and expect other people—namely, editors—to make something out of them, as if through magic.

Editors (some of us, anyway 😊) are trained and talented people, but if all you give us is a vague idea, we can’t (and shouldn’t) turn it into literature. That’s the writer’s job.

Before you send your “book” to an editor, it should be as close to perfect as you can possibly get it on your own. That means it’s been through multiple drafts, has been read by every single one of your willing friends, and (maybe) has even gone through a paid professional proofread (not just the spellcheck on Word).

I beg all of you to remember this the next time I meet you at a cookout or cocktail party: An idea on its own is NOT a book.

Ideas are like acorns: There are so many of them floating around out there, they’re basically just worthless litter. Only a rare few will ever actually reach the point where they become an oak tree.

Don’t expect to make an oak if you’re not willing to plant and water your acorn.

Do the work.

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