Stephen King once wrote, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” This is advice often given to writers. It means you should get rid of your most cherished and self-indulgent passages for the good of your prose. But maybe that’s a bit extreme. Maybe you don’t have to kill your darlings; maybe they just need to be turned into responsible adults.
Once your manuscript is complete, you may find yourself reading and rereading it, constantly making tweaks or rearranging small pieces of the text or rewording your never-quite-right prose. It may seem like it will never be perfect. Guess what. It won’t. But it’ll never be done either unless you let it go.
One of the elements of a book that doesn’t get spoken of much is the index. An index is essentially a roadmap to the book, listing names, places, and things in alphabetical order and giving the page numbers associated with each topic. For nonfiction books, packed with valuable information, a well-made index can help quickly direct the reader to the information they’re trying to find.
Before you begin writing a book, it’s crucial to ask yourself why. Without a clear understanding of the purpose of your book, it’s difficult to make it stand out from the thousands that are published each day. But there are two sides to that question: why you want to write the book and why someone else would want to read it. Understanding both sides of that coin is crucial if you want to both get your message across and ensure that there’s someone on the other end to receive it.
Questions about the editing process are natural—especially if you are a first-time author. You may be wondering about your editor and what will happen to the manuscript you’ve worked so hard on. Who is this person, and what are they going to do to my book?
Your editor’s motivations are much the same as yours: to make your book the best it can be. Don’t worry: She doesn’t want to stifle your voice; she wants to help you be heard.
“I’ve heard horror stories about editors,” an author told me recently at the start of a project. Another said to me, “I was really expecting the worst during editing.” Horror stories? The worst? Really? What is going on in the publishing world that has authors dreading editors and their fiendish red pencils? I know a lot of editors, and I don’t think we’re a horrible lot. Yet editors do offer up similar lamentations about working with authors: “I need to start charging a stupidity fee” or “Why won’t they just accept that I’m right.” If you’re on either side of this editorial war, I recommend you read on for some rules of engagement: