A South African writer friend posted the quote above on her facebook page. It seemed to be a perfect fit with yesterday's post on being willing to edit your work when an editor asks. Richard North Patterson, novelist, gives writers a reason to do a lot of editing before ever submitting to an editor/agent/publisher.
We may feel a great deal of satisfaction when a first draft is completed. We read it from start to finish and sigh in relief that it's finished and we like what we've read. But wait! How many times have you heard me say to put that first draft on the back burner and let it simmer for several days, or even longer? (The answer to that question is "Lots!")
When you read that initial draft a week later, it most likely will not be nearly as wonderful as you'd felt at first. Suddenly, the mechanical errors begin to wave red flags at you. Certain things in the story are not clear to the reader. Why didn't I see that before? you ask yourself. Maybe the pacing is off. Maybe there is a better way to finish the story than the one that satisfied you so much at first reading.
Editing is not always glamorous, nor is it fun, but it's a necessary tool for every writer. I take that back--the part about it not being fun. I know more than one writer who truly enjoys editing, although it is often other peoples' work that they are editing. But most writers don't classify editing as one the things in life they enjoy most.
If you do a good job of editing before you submit, you are less likely to have an editor ask you for changes or to be rejected because there are too many questions, too many mechanical problems in your story. Consider self-editing step one in the submission process. Work at it until you get it right--until you feel completely satisfied with the end result. If you're not, then it's time for another edit.