Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What kind of an editor do you need? What can an editor do for you?

At the conference in Blue Ridge Georgia this weekend, I had a conversation with C. Hope Clark, Ellen Schofield, her husband Paul, author of the Trophy Saga, and Ronda Birtha.

We discussed the enormous numbers of errors we find in published books today. Like me, Hope is often asked to read manuscripts or books and write a review. We talked about the biggest mistake most authors make. They don't get a professional editor for their work before they self-publish or they publish with a small press that doesn't edit their work.

We heard from speakers today that some well known writers refuse to let an editor change more than one word or two of their books. Now that is the height of arrogance to me. Perhaps that is why many readers in the audience piped up with how many errors they find in the books by these authors. More and more I find that, reading like a writer as I now do, I am stopped by the mistakes I find in books, even those by NY publishers. 

In an article by David Kudler, he says that J.K. Rowling's first book was too long, had long passages that repeated itself, and needed work, but it was published. He says her future books showed more concern for the way the book was written and had the evidence of a good editor at work. Suffice it to say, Rowling was a good writer before she published a book, but I see far too many writers who are not that gifted who think they can let their sister or some other person who has a college degree,  read over their book and that is enough.

I suggest to all my students who want to publish a book, find a good professional editor. And don't be so stubborn you won't listen to what you are told. 

Clark said she is continually asked to review mysteries since she published Lowcountry Bribe which is a very good read. She is dismayed at the manuscripts she receives that are so poorly written. I don't mean incorrect punctuation or sagging dialogue. Some books start off with a bang and after two chapters the whole story slumps and when that happens the reader wants to put it aside and never finish it. His sister won't tell the author about this, likely, but she will say what she is expected to say. "You did a great job, Brother." Perhaps sister doesn't know what needs to be fixed anyway. So she can't be helpful.

But a good editor cares not for your feelings so much as she cares for your book. She wants to help make your book the best it can be. That is why she is in the business. 

I could never be a good editor. I hate to edit my own work. But I will do the best I can with my writing before I send it on to someone else. And I want that someone else to tell me the truth. I can sit down with my students' stories and point out the grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and how to rearrange paragraphs to move the story along, but I would not attempt a book of 200 plus pages.

I made a big mistake when I published my family history book fifteen years ago. I did not hire an editor. Now I am ashamed for people to see how poorly it was written. I had not taken enough writing classes to know what I was doing. 

Please read this article by David Kudler if you are writing a book, fiction or non-fiction, and if you want to know just what an editor can do for you.

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Common Grammar


Ellen said...

Thank you, Glenda for posting about the importance of finding a good editor. As David Kudler wrote, there are several types of editors. My husband Paul ( fortunate enough to have one of the best developmental editors, Monica Harris, a friend of Ronda Birtha's, on his first book. Her help was invaluable. Sadly, Monica passed away last fall, and is greatly missed by her family and the writing community. I do hope that your readers will hire the best editor that they can, since doing so can only help any writer.

Ellen said...

Thank you so much for writing about this important subject, Glenda. My husband Paul ( had a great developmental editor, suggested by Ronda Birtha, for his first book, and the help she gave him was invaluable. I hope that your readers will take this post to heart and get the best editor that they can.

Glenda Beall said...

Thank you, Ellen, for your comments. I am so sorry about Monica Harris' passing. I know she was a dear friend of Ronda.
Paul was smart to hire a developmental editor for his first book. I hope our readers will check out Paul's exciting trilogy.