Vicki and I were sitting in a charming but crowded coffee shop in Santa Monica. Vicki St George of JustWriteBooks has been a writer for the Tony Robbins organization for the decade plus I’ve known her, and she writes for several of my best selling clients, too.
She said respectfully, “Tony’s a perfectionist. He goes over every word of his books maybe 10 or 15 times before he lets it go to press.” Ten or fifteen times!
Fast Forward: Four days later I’m talking to one of my authors. She’s been writing for eight months. She’s just finished her book and now has three days before the deadline to edit it. That’s how I do it, too. I write and then I spend almost no time on the editing — ‘cuz I’m just THAT good. (Most of us think we are).
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning hit me. Long ago, I was having lunch with Majel Roddenberry’s personal assistant. Majel is the widow of the great Gene Roddenberry, the genius who created Star Trek. The assistant told me Majel had the right to sell his original scripts. Would I represent them?
I asked to see a sample script.
The document he showed me was obviously typed on a manual typewriter. I don’t know if Mr Roddenberry typed the Star Trek scripts himself, but the assistant tells me that Mr Roddenberry used a different colored ink for each editing pass. I was holding a script that had once been in the hands of the legendary Gene Roddenberry! And GUESS how many editing passes he had made on it?
(Guess. Really. Take a wild one.)
The script I was holding had eight different colors of ink on it. EIGHT. The guy was a freakin’ genius and even HE edited his work eight times. Eight. Eight edits.
Think about that for a second.
Put that together with what I just told you about Tony Robbins, another legend. I’m sure you’re a genius. I’m sure your work is brilliant. I’m sure you write almost perfect first drafts. And I’m doubly sure that from now on, I’m going to give myself TWICE as long to edit every book I write as it took me to write it. If that’s what it takes to be the best, I’m in. How about you?
(P.S. This column has been edited SIX times. Just imagine what two more could have done!)
This article first appeared in our newsletter “Wendy Keller’s Book Publishing Digest”, February 2011 edition. A newsletter sign-up form is on the home page of this site. (c) Keller Media, Inc.