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Disclaimer: I know that hiring an editor would make my book perfect and solve this problem. The hitch is that I first have to write more books to make enough money to hire an editor. This problem happens in the meantime. Plus, it's slowing me down in writing new stuff, which means I'll take even longer to make enough money to hire an editor.

I edited my first book for almost a year. And I put it down only after forcing myself to stop. I told myself that it was a snapshot, the best I could do at that moment.

Now, the more I learn about writing and editing, all I can see are mistakes. I skimmed through it to try a print layout, and they just leaped out to clobber me in the face. Everywhere. The worst mistake, too. The one that On Writing says only horrible hacks use - using speaking verbs other than "said" (whispered, shouted etc.). Yeah. I didn't even realize it. I'm so ashamed of myself. I want to burn every copy of my book, but you can't burn ebooks.

Before I realized this, I had set up a couple of small promos. I was excited. Now I feel trapped. Should I hurry and fix everything I can before time runs out? Should I leave it? I don't feel right leaving it in the world with flaws. I feel like a charlatan, selling people defective merchandise.

But if I replace it, where does it end? The more I learn, the more mistakes I'll find. Do I just keep fixing and fixing until I earn enough money to hire an editor and make it perfect once and for all? That process is a distraction from working on anything new. And everything else in my life. I want to work on something new; I just can't stop thinking about this.

I could quit and delete the book, but I don't want to. I just want the next one to be better. Maybe it can't be (On Writing also says that talentless hacks can never become competent), but I want to try.

The other option is to write so many newer, superior books that I don't have time to think about them once they're shoved out the door. But that will take time, and in the meantime this will gnaw at me.

If I ignore it and leave it as a snapshot of how terrible I am, and I try to get better next time - how do I stop stressing out about it? I don't know how to stop caring or think about something else.

I have a giant rock on my back labeled "said", and I don't know how to a) set it down or b) become strong enough that it doesn't crush me.

I need advice. Thank you for your time.
 

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Are they actual mistakes or just where you think a different word would sound better? 
I have read some of your work.  You are a good writer.  Now quit worrying so much.
Also hugs and jelly beans.
 

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Hey... take a deep breath!

Using "whispered" and "shouted" isn't a mistake, not by any means.  It's only when authors get completely carried away with words other than "said" -- plopping in any and every peculiar verb they can find -- that it becomes a problem.

I took a quick zip through your first couple of pages and they look fine to me.  And your cover is gorgeous!

Remember:  "If you fool with a thing for too long, you will mess it up."

Let go.  And get started on the next book. 
 

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First: BREATHE. Calm down. This is normal. This happens to everyone. You just gotta to let it go at some point. Fix the worst mistakes (especially if they hinder comprehension), then let it go for now.

I like to think (to calm myself down) that if I was such a hack writer, I wouldn't care about mistakes/grammar/show vs telling/etc. I think that's true for you too. You'll get better. Every book has mistakes here and there, and unless you can have a huge team of proofreaders/beta readers/editors, mistakes will end up in the final book. Make your peace with that.

If you can't, then maybe try finding beta readers or joining critique groups to get more eyeballs reading your text. That's the only way to minimize this problem without spending money.
 

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Dialog tags aren't an error, they are a style choice. Some people even prefer to read them.


You've got some breathtakingly effusive reviews and not one of them has mentioned mistakes or poor editing. Leave it alone and move onward!
 

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Colorwheel said:
Disclaimer: I know that hiring an editor would make my book perfect and solve this problem. The hitch is that I first have to write more books to make enough money to hire an editor. This problem happens in the meantime. Plus, it's slowing me down in writing new stuff, which means I'll take even longer to make enough money to hire an editor.

I edited my first book for almost a year. And I put it down only after forcing myself to stop. I told myself that it was a snapshot, the best I could do at that moment.

Now, the more I learn about writing and editing, all I can see are mistakes. I skimmed through it to try a print layout, and they just leaped out to clobber me in the face. Everywhere. The worst mistake, too. The one that On Writing says only horrible hacks use - using speaking verbs other than "said" (whispered, shouted etc.). Yeah. I didn't even realize it. I'm so ashamed of myself. I want to burn every copy of my book, but you can't burn ebooks.

I need advice. Thank you for your time.
Here's my two cents. Yes, you're not supposed to use a lot of shouted, etc. You're also not supposed to use a lot of LY adverbs because of showing, not telling. You're not supposed to do a lot of things. However, if you followed all those rules all the time you would end up with a completely sterile document that nobody would want to read. You might as well produce a morgue report. I've rebelled against those Nazi-like rules and have been adding LY adverbs, shouts and whispers anytime I feel like it.

Readers don't care about writing rules. They want a story to sweep them away. The storytelling aspect is the bottom line. What do storytellers do? They add color. They add emotion. Tell the story you want to tell, add color, have a few shouts and whispers, and don't worry about it.
 

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MyraScott said:
Dialog tags aren't an error, they are a style choice. Some people even prefer to read them.


You've got some breathtakingly effusive reviews and not one of them has mentioned mistakes or poor editing. Leave it alone and move onward!
Yes, I second this.
 

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Let it go.  The more advice I sought on "correcting" my first book, the more contradictory advice I received from people who each thought they knew the only path to perfection.

In the end you write in your own style because that's who you are - that's what differentiates you from all the other authors who are out there.  So trust your instinct and go with it.
 

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The other thing I will add is that many successful writers that I know write with the process of ignoring all their habitual mistakes and fixing them through the editing stage - its a perfectly legitimate way to write books. Personally, I strive for a clean first draft MS, but that's me. Don't stress that any bad habits reappear and need fixing. It's just the way you create your work and the story flows from your head.
If you couldn't see the mistakes afterwards, then you've got a big problem!
 

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Get yourself a copy of the fourth Harry Potter book. Read it.

Count the adverbs. Google how much it made.

Case closed.

That said, you should never stop learning to write and trying to understand why writing teachers say those things about adverbs and speech tags. (Hint: mostly, it's to avoid monotony of the prose and to stop readers going "huh, what?"). But if you learn these things, apply them to your next book.

Also, I want to say in big fat letters: THEY ARE NOT MISTAKES!

Mistakes are measurable against hard rules of grammar. These are merely style choices. Any style choice, when applied too rigorously, becomes ridiculous.
 

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Most of these "rules" like not using dialogue tags besides 'said' were made up by writing professors, acquisitions editors, and agents in order to justify their salaries or commissions.

Test any writing "rule" you encounter against a book you have read and loved. I bet you find dialogue tags besides 'said'.

As others have said, only worry about grammar rules.
 

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Also: hiring an editor will NOT make your book perfect.

1. Perfect does not exist
2. Perfect varies from person to person and within the same person depending on time of day or consumption of coffee, alcohol, etc.
3. Little mistakes (genuine, grammatical ones) always slip through.
4. "Mistakes" or not also depend on your region.
5. Striving for "perfect" will send you mental, or give you a stomach ulcer.

Do the best you can with the tools you have. I looked at your first few pages. Quit worrying (but never quit learning).
 
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I try to improve my writing with every book, and I think everyone should. However, people read commercial fiction for the storytelling and not the prose. Keep going forward. From the remarks on this thread, you are being way too hard on yourself.
 

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Colorwheel said:
I edited my first book for almost a year. And I put it down only after forcing myself to stop. I told myself that it was a snapshot, the best I could do at that moment.
You need to force yourself to stop. When I'm working with an editor, I limit myself to one pass on my manuscript (technically one and a half, since I edit as I write, but I don't recommend that for most people). If I'm working without an editor, then two passes. Three if the second pass still has me feeling uneasy. But never more than three.

Now, the more I learn about writing and editing, all I can see are mistakes. I skimmed through it to try a print layout, and they just leaped out to clobber me in the face. Everywhere. The worst mistake, too. The one that On Writing says only horrible hacks use - using speaking verbs other than "said" (whispered, shouted etc.). Yeah. I didn't even realize it. I'm so ashamed of myself. I want to burn every copy of my book, but you can't burn ebooks.
I'm personally of the school of thought that speaking verbs other than said or asked should be used sparingly, if at all, and when I see an abundance of them, I feel like the author was trying to show off their thesaurus and it takes me out of the story. But that's just my subjective opinion. There are lots of readers and writers who are on the complete opposite of the spectrum, who feel that my method of only using said or asked with the occasional exception is boring and repetitive. To each their own.

Before I realized this, I had set up a couple of small promos. I was excited. Now I feel trapped. Should I hurry and fix everything I can before time runs out? Should I leave it? I don't feel right leaving it in the world with flaws. I feel like a charlatan, selling people defective merchandise.

But if I replace it, where does it end? The more I learn, the more mistakes I'll find. Do I just keep fixing and fixing until I earn enough money to hire an editor and make it perfect once and for all? That process is a distraction from working on anything new. And everything else in my life. I want to work on something new; I just can't stop thinking about this.
It never ends unless you're the one to end it. At some point, you just have to let go and move on to something else.

I could quit and delete the book, but I don't want to. I just want the next one to be better. Maybe it can't be (On Writing also says that talentless hacks can never become competent), but I want to try.
I'd question the "talentless hacks can never become competent" because it depends on your definition of a talentless hack. Stephen King has a lot of good advice in On Writing, but at the end of the day it's just that--advice. On Writing wasn't carved on stone tablets and handed to King by the god of prose. There's some advice in there that absolutely does not work for everyone, such as his position on plotting.

The other option is to write so many newer, superior books that I don't have time to think about them once they're shoved out the door. But that will take time, and in the meantime this will gnaw at me.

If I ignore it and leave it as a snapshot of how terrible I am, and I try to get better next time - how do I stop stressing out about it? I don't know how to stop caring or think about something else.

I have a giant rock on my back labeled "said", and I don't know how to a) set it down or b) become strong enough that it doesn't crush me.

I need advice. Thank you for your time.
It gets easier the more you do it. Just finish the book and put it out there. If you get numerous complaints about typos, then take another look at it. But unless that happens, you're done. You'll always stress about it when you first hit publish, but you just have to put it out of your mind and move on to something else. The cycle of constant revision has prevented a lot of good writers from ever finishing anything. Don't be one of them.
 
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Kenson said:
Let it go. The more advice I sought on "correcting" my first book, the more contradictory advice I received from people who each thought they knew the only path to perfection.

In the end you write in your own style because that's who you are - that's what differentiates you from all the other authors who are out there. So trust your instinct and go with it.
^So This!!^
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Hey, I have all the faith in the world in editors. I have read novels by big names whose later works fell victim to I Fired Anyone Who Would Tell Me No Bloat. It isn't pretty. They provide an invaluable service, and I would never say they don't do what they're supposed to. I'm not gonna sour-grapes it and say I don't need them. I absolutely do, I just can't afford it yet. In the meantime, I'm doing what I can.

Thank you for the links - I love Chuck Wendig's blog and I think I have that post bookmarked, but I hadn't seen Fiction University yet. I will peruse that once I've cleared my head.

Breathing. Apart from my morning writing, I'll focus on non-writing projects for a couple of days. Change gears.

I think I'm afraid to say "I know what I'm doing". Because... what do I know? I'm just some nobody on the internet and I haven't even sold enough to qualify for prawn status yet. But... I am doing the best I can. That's all I've got. I just worry that it isn't enough. But then, what is "enough" anyway, and who decides?

I agree that it's a good sign that I realize something's wrong! ;D It's like a retroactive horror that I didn't always realize something was wrong. (I went looking for the term for that, which I think is conscious incompetence?, and ran into Impostor Syndrome. Hmm.)


Anyhow, process: I personally can't edit as I go, because I tend to fall down a rabbit hole. The first HALF of the first draft (out of order) took me 5+ years to finish, because I kept reworking the same few scenes over and over. Which sounds super neurotic now that I write it out, wow. The first draft didn't get done until I forced myself not to reread anything (made the text invisible, in fact), and just kept. moving. forward. I do enjoy editing afterward, and find it easier to charge ahead with some clunky sentences in there and decide to fix it later. I found that I can cope with an unholy mess of a draft as long as it's just me working with it. Which is fine.

I probably do put too much faith in "rules". I haven't studied writing formally since high school (though I've been writing regularly since I was 11), and I'm still terrified that I'm Doing It Wrong. Hey, don't you know we covered that in Advanced Being a Real Live Writer 301? Where were you? Uhhh, dissecting sharks and putting strange liquids in a centrifuge. Sorry. :(

Good old inferiority complex.


Thanks for all the advice, everyone. I'll take some deep breaths, reread what you've all said, learn more about editing and try to, like every 4-year-old is probably still singing, let it gooooo.
 

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I wish I'd understood this years ago:

Other people don't really care what you do (except for your mother, maybe). As long as you pay your bills, cut your grass, and wear clothes when you leave the house, most people don't care what you do or how you do it. You might as well do what you want and not worry about what other people think.

Nobody is going to scrutinize your writing for how many saids, shouts and whispers show up. In the end, you call the shots for your own happiness. Life is too short to send yourself over the said cliff. I read somewhere that Zen Buddhists who create pottery make it with a flaw on purpose to represent that imperfection is part of life.
 
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