ONE of the hardest things about being a ‘writer’ is actually showing your work to a third party. For so long it’s been you and your computer struggling along together. You think you’ve done a good job, it seems to read exactly the way you want it… you’ve rewritten, read, proofed, read again, rewritten again, axed stuff, added stuff, come up with a title you’re happy with, thought about your cover design, your blurb, your synopsis. All basis are covered. But it’s been well over a year now and after that soul-destroying critique I found myself reluctant to part with my creation again.
Fortunately being in the newspaper business, I know people who are pretty good with the written word. Mrs Rippers, for instance, is a bit of a grammar whiz having made a career sub-editing on regional newspapers.
Of course, she gets to read my work, but I need someone a bit more detached from it… ie, not a family member. Having worked for some time on the Sunday Mirror and made some good friends I consider my options. One guy, Phil, was the chief sports sub-editor on the paper for many years. He knows his stuff and we have kept in touch, though he has semi-retired to the country now and prefers blasting out R n B on his harmonica to plodding through the clichéd prose of the nation’s sports writers.
Still, I get in touch and he offers to help. We discuss money and he graciously waves the fee. With staggering optimism I say he can share in the profits once the book hits the top of the best-sellers charts.
Phil isn’t as brutal as Richard Blandford – he is a mate, after all – but he makes some very handy observations when I get the script back. As well as sorting out my grammatical idiosyncrasies and making sure the novel is “in style” – ie OK is used every time rather than a mixture of OK and Okay – I am delighted with the report he sends me. There are some astute observations. The key is finding a way to incorporate them into the novel. I guess Phil, as well as editing, is what they call a Beta reader. The same can be said of Mrs Rippers.