I will look down at my arms, or catch my image in a reflective surface, and am occasionally surprised to see there is ink on my body. While out in public, a stranger’s curiosity can point out that what I am accustomed to can be somehow outstanding to others.
I know I’m covered in tattoos; obviously, I sat through the hours of each one. But they’ve become such a natural part of me that my eyes don’t see anything unusual. It isn’t until I am caught off guard, or singled out, that I remember there is something different about my skin.
Living with your manuscript can be like living in your own skin; you may not notice what other people notice.
You’ll be aware of the glaring zit of a differently formatted paragraph. But misspellings, echoes, and lazy punctuation become like hundreds of freckles your eyes overlook as familiar. A bridging part of your MS, revamped a hundred times, can seem to you like a simple scene break, but stand out to your reader as pivotal to the overall story.
In the final editing stages, there are few revelations left for the author. Your characters have grown and shown you the paths they need to take. Your mind knows the world in which your characters live; twists and turns are no longer hold surprises. You may be ignoring strengths in your story while wasting hours agonizing over one sentence because you are looking for that thrill again. In fact, your story is finished. That is the thrill on which you deserve to focus!
Allow a fresh pair of eyes to read your work.
An editor will help you see what you’ve grown accustomed to not seeing, and will optimistically show you richness you’ve been taking for granted. Editor’s are not your writing group peers, or beta-readers. We have no agendas or bias. We’ve studied the rules and have the skills specifically needed for this stage of your process. We are retained and trusted to preserve your story, your voice, in as close to perfect a way as possible. A pristine manuscript, like unblemished skin or a flawlessly executed tattoo, will be noticed and admired. In the book world, this means represented, published, and read. Then you get to move on to your next story, and the thrills begin again!
I waited until my skin was over three decades old before I got my first tattoo. Within five years I had the majority of my stories told through ink and art, on my limbs and torso. Then I stepped away from modifying, looked at myself in a mirror and through the eyes of others, to discover what needed tweaking and what was just right. I could have planted myself in a tattoo artist’s chair until my whole body was covered. But I’ve seen people almost half my age with no space left to modify and I wonder if they were able to tell their complete stories so young, or if they were simply in a rush to blurt something out. I have many more stories to find, experience, and tell again. So there are many blank spots waiting to be tattooed.