The Value of Friends

Every writer has a resource he or she desperately needs to utilize, friends. An addition set of eyes, especially if those eyes can view your manuscript with the mindset of a fan is beyond price Every dedication page of every book ever written contains a reference to such a resource, some more concise than others. There is a reason for this. In the case of authors who write in a similar genre to mine, the published manuscripts would be little more than a loose-knit collection of slightly related scenes connected by a string of utterly incomprehensible holes in logic.

No one with any sense believes that top-selling fantasy authors such as JK Rowling, Modesitt, Cook and Butcher send their publisher first drafts devoid of typos. Of course not. There is a reason why the mainstream publishing houses have an extensive staff. A good number of those positions are filled in the form of minimum wage “readers”, folks who sit and read new manuscripts and report on any gross holes in the overall plot. After they do their job the editors take over and clean the thing up, send it back to the author who accepts or rejects the “cleaning” and then sends it back.

Those of us who do not have multimillion dollar publishing contracts have to rely on a resource a bit closer to home, our friends. I have one in the persona of Robert Freeman, esq, yes, he is an attorney and that makes him an ideal reader. One, he has the same tastes in literature and entertainment as I do. He is also an unrepentant punster. Two, he has an intellect that also contains an imagination nearly as overactive as mine. The fact that he has all of these gifts and is still interested in acting as a pre-publishing reader is unbelievably valuable. If you need legal help in the Los Angeles area, he’s your guy.

The first two Tony Mandolin Mysteries were rushed through by my publisher, no fault is imposed on any party, is just happened for a variety of reasons. The third book was, thankfully, placed into the hands of a very experienced editor of was, to be frank, flabbergasted at the coarseness of my ham-fisted typing. Let’s just say she was less kind than my friend in her notes.

An aside at this point: If you can get past the comments on your spelling and grammar and put the suggestions to good use you do wind up with a far more readable and therefore salable book.

The other thing she found was a few gaping holes in continuity, what I call holes on logic. If this happened, why? It was the work of a couple of minutes to fix them and time very well spent indeed. This brings me to my friend Robert. He has an eye to the type of story I write that, for one very good reason is paramount in its importance, he enjoys my writing. If he did not the surge of typos and holes in logic would overwhelm him, and with those taken care of my overworked editor has a much more enjoyable and easier job.

As to why those typos and holes appear in the manuscript there are a number of very good, and quite frankly unavoidable reasons they do, and for the most part are as inevitable as the tide. One, as an author you are far too close to the book to see those errors. The story is there in your mind as you check over the work. You read it as it should be, not as it is. (I wish editors would understand this before typing comments) The other and equally valid reason is that life happens. Things get in the way, even if you have a mountain retreat in the Catskills. Sometimes a few days, or even a week or more can pass before a scene is completed, and if that is the case you may have forgotten an allusion you had planned to build upon later and the editor is left wondering, “Why in the hell did he put that there?” And the list goes on, but it all boils down to one thing, you sent in a manuscript that needs cleanup. It even happens when you have the help of friends, but the manuscript doesn’t need as much mucking out if they weren’t there.

So where does that leave the writer? If you have finished the next greatest novel and your host of friends have done their very best to bruise your fragile ego with questions and suggestions, what then? I suggest a healthy swallow of pride and a large dose of listening, note taking and consideration. Your friends are your friends for a reason and I would imagine they have an ever greater desire for you to succeed than you do. Being able to nod appreciatively, even if you don’t mean it at the time and to jot down notes as they offer their help does nothing but improve your value as a friend in their sight. You can have your temper tantrum later, when you are all alone. Once that is done, take the time to look over your precious work and see if they may have a point. There is a greater than 99% chance they do.

I know, I’ve been there.


About robertleebeers

Author, Illustrator, Artist, Musician, and (sorry) politician.
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2 Responses to The Value of Friends

  1. Hi Robert!

    Just wanted to add a note here:)

    Logic holes/continuity issues also happen as you write more books and the later books change things. For editors, sometimes you read these books years apart, and with so many books in between by other authors, you certainly don’t remember previous books well enough to pick up these continuity faults, you only read for what works on that book, not how it fits in with previous books in the series.

    We are redoing another series right now (about 7 currently books published) and going right back to the beginning with the author fixing continuity problems caused by later books.

    I think we might make a rule at our publishing house in future, once 3 or more books in a series is out, if they are done years apart, that the author or an editor (who hasn’t worked on it previously) needs to go through and check continuity. I like updating our books periodically anyway, so this would be a great practice to start up.

    Writers Exchange E-Publishing

    • If anyone knows how I write it is Sandy. She is my publisher and has suffered through my thick-fingered typing for over a decade. Everything she says here is absolutely correct and proper.

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