Your Life Story in a Beautiful Book – Personal Biography

Writing and Editing: Don’t Look Back

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 9.16.38 AMWhat should you do with old versions of your manuscript? I’ve written more than 20 books and my method is to drag them into a folder called “Past Versions of X (name of book)” –and never look back.

The only reason I would ever go into one of those files is if the current version of the ms (short for manuscript) is somehow missing an entire chapter or a similar problem. Otherwise, trust that what you are writing NOW is better than what you were writing then. UNLESS you have completely changed your style in the current ms.

Which brings me to the dangerous jungle of editing and re-editing and getting different opinions on your manuscript. I once had a fairly good book ms written in first person, which is my favorite voice for the type of in-the-moment memoir writing I enjoy. What I lacked most was confidence. Someone (whose writing success I deeply admired) suggested I put it into third person, so I spent weeks going about that task.

But afterwords, both I and the editor I trusted most agreed that the thing was better in first person. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaaaaaa.

Fifteen years later, I know how and when to use both of those voices, each of those points of view. But it took a long time to figure that out.

My advice is to not waste time shopping your ms out again and again to editors, whether you pay them or not. For one thing, how do you know that your search for an editor isn’t REALLY a desperate and hidden bid for approval and worth? As if someone else loving your ms now makes it better. Simply not true, my friend.

Be bold. Make every word count. Go forth with courage in your heart, and when you fall just pick yourself up again. But forget about those old versions of the book. Let what must die die.