“The night was dark.”

Yes, that was a real opening line. Almost as original as “It was a dark and stormy night.”

In case you’re wondering, the person who wrote that line also neglected to use paragraphs. It was just a wall of text, all the way down, page after page. As for the story itself, the protagonist was a self-insert, bland and unassertive. The pacing? Molasses. The plot? Angst. It was a fantasy novel, but not even a spark of magic stirred the monotony.

If the author had submitted those first few chapters to any literary agent or acquisitions editor, their precious manuscript would have been dumped in the digital trash bin without a second thought.

But they didn’t submit digitally. They brought it in person. Freshly printed, stapled at the corner like a high school essay. They were eager to learn. Eager to grow. Oblivious.

The editor took the manuscript, but he didn’t reply right away. He pulled out his red pen and made some marks the author didn’t really understand. And then, that editor handed back the manuscript and said, “I liked it.”

I hate lying. I hate false praise. I strive to be honest with my authors, even when it’s hard and they don’t want to hear it. But I also have a firm belief that every author has potential worth unearthing, and any author could be a diamond in the rough. Because the secret to publishing is that talent can only do so much—work ethic and teachability matter so much more.

A bad book can be the beginning of a good author, and it takes a wise editor to see that truth.

That fantasy novel never got close to being published. It was never even finished. But that editor’s words kept ringing in my mind: “You could be a writer, Tim. You could do this.”

So I did.

And now, I hope to help you do the same.

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