“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector.”—Ernest Hemingway
Q. What is the meaning of life?
A. Still working on that one. And when I find out, I’ll be too dead to tell you.
Q. Do I need a copyright for my manuscript?
A. Not really. You should be suspicious of editing services that offer to copyright your manuscript for a fee. Your manuscript is protected even before it is registered with the Copyright Office. So, don’t be overly concerned about a literary jackal ripping off your work. It is probably easier to steal a large pile of cash than steal a fiction manuscript and make money off it. To protect your work, mail a copy of a second or third draft to yourself, and pay the additional $2.00 for Tracking so you’ll have an extra receipt. Don’t open the package when you get it, and store it in a safe place. If you ever need to sue someone for plagiarism, you’ll have the evidence you need to win. You’ll get the money they’ve made off your story and you’ll get some exposure. To ease your mind on this issue, please visit the FAQ page of the United States Copyright Office.
Q. What can an editor see that I can’t? After all, I’m the one who wrote the story.
A. The long answer is that your character[s] doesn’t actually become perfect until your readers decide she belongs where she is, says what she’s supposed to say, and does what she’s supposed to be doing. Since your editor does not have your emotional attachment, he’ll notice when your character is saying something slightly different from what he should be saying. Your editor will notice when your character should enter the room where the dead body is lying on the floor a little sooner than you have her entering, or not staying there as long as you have her hanging around. Your editor will notice little mistakes that damage a story, such as when you changed her hair color during the third draft and forgot to make those changes throughout your manuscript. With extremely rare exceptions, fiction writers read their unpublished manuscripts and see what they intended to write, not what is actually on the pages.
Q. How can an editor help me make my characters more real?
A. Regardless if she’s a major or a minor character, she’s been living with you 24/7 for months, maybe years. A character can be conniving or manipulative or vicious. She can be generous or understanding or humorous. Your characters’ moral quirks matter only because they are perfect for your story. You need to have all characters belong where they are, say what they are supposed to say, and do what they’re supposed to be doing. [I’ll finish this later this week, maybe.]