Ernest Hemingway said that every great writer has to have an excellent shit detector. My best friend, Amazing Ashley, is mine. I met Ashley during our freshman year of college when the fates/student life office decided to put our dorm rooms across from each other. And don't let the best friend title fool you; Ashley is now a fantastic English Literature Professor and she's not afraid to tell people exactly what she thinks.
Ashley was gracious enough to take the time to be one of my beta editors for Eternal Starling. When she finished her massive edit on the manuscript, she sat me down and said something to the effect of: do you want the truth, or something more pleasant? She said I had a good foundation, but unless I made changes, there was no way the book would get published. I've heard that some people get upset when they hear criticism about their manuscripts, I'm not one of those people. In fact, I was thrilled that I had someone who was willing to tell me the truth--and someone who believed in my writing skills enough to know I could fix the problems and make my book worth publishing.
As Ashley went through the editing process with me, she taught me a lot of things about being a better writer. But the most important thing she told me was that I need to know my plot and my mythology as well as I know my characters. It was a light bulb moment for me. When I sit down to write I can easily get in my characters heads. I know exactly what they're doing and their motivations. However, I'd never thought of needing to know the world I've created in the same way. Ashley told me that the majority of the problems with my book could be solved if I just got to know my world better.
I spent the next month asking and answering questions about my plot and revising to try and make my world creation as in-depth as my character building. The result is a completely different book than the draft Ashley edited. Now my plot is stronger, my world makes more sense, and in answering the questions about the world I had built, I was able to make a clear outline for the next two books in the trilogy. Ashley's advice helped me to become a better writer and I can't thank her enough for it.