I’ve just finished teaching a course called ‘How to Write a Novel.’ The idea of this was to go from first principles to actually revising and polishing a manuscript until it was suitable to submit to agents and publishers or to self publish. I’ve also just finished copy-editing a huge project for myself. I quite enjoy copy-editing, which is a skill I picked up as an academic, but some of my students found it maddening (at the same time gaining a new respect for the skills of professional copy-editors and proofreaders).
In addition to writing and teaching, one of the things I do for a living is to evaluate manuscripts for their suitability for publication. I read fiction (and non-fiction) across several genres, and write comprehensive reports on the books. I try always to guide the author towards knocking his or her project into a shape that could be credibly presented to literary agents, publishers and general readers. You know how Newman and Mittelmark introduce How Not to Write a Novel by saying, ‘We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy,’ well they’re right; I am one of those editors.