Wednesday, 17 May 2017

11 Things I Learned in Malta about Writing-a Warning ‘It’ll Do’ isn’t Good Enough

On a 2014 holiday in Malta I saw many things that could help me with my writing. I have been sharing one each week. This is the last one, and it’s a warning:

‘It’ll do’ isn’t good enough

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When something needs fixing, the Maltese seem to have a very casual attitude to standards. The overhead electric cables strung from house to house gave an electrician friend a fit when he saw the mess, and we saw blocks of stone wedged into buildings as repairs.

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We even saw a dodgem ride on Bugibba seafront propped up on random piles of bricks – it didn’t look safe at all.

It’s not safe to ask people to read your story if it’s not the very best you can make it. If you become known for shoddy work, people will stay away.

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‘It’ll do’ isn’t good enough.

Writers worry that their work is not good enough when they write the first draft. First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect. It’s just you getting your ideas down while they’re fresh. Then the hard work starts. I was amazed to learn that many first time authors are turning their first drafts into ebooks, which gives ebooks a bad name.

You need to put your manuscript away for a few weeks and come back to it fresh. Then you will be able to see the errors in it. There will be errors, believe me. Some will be typing errors, but some will amaze and embarrass you. It is worth paying a professional editor, but not until you’ve done all you can.

Errors fall into two main categories: copy editing and developmental.

Copy editing looks for spelling and grammar. Fix anything you find, but don’t do a detailed check until the end, after you finish the other changes.

Developmental editing looks for inconsistencies, errors and holes in the plot, and other mistakes. They may be simple, like changing a character’s hair or eye colour, or a major problem with the plot. I read one early draft which the author had ended on a cliff-hanger, designed to get readers to buy the sequel. Instead, readers felt cheated by a book with no ending.

You should also get some other people to read it, beta readers – serious readers who will give you a proper critique. They will give you the true reader’s perspective.

Don’t think you can leave all that to a publisher after they offer you a contract. Make your book the best you can so the publishers are more likely to read it. You want to impress them with the quality of your writing.

It’ll do isn’t good enough.

Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at

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