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    « Writing Narrative Family History | Main | Do I Need an ISBN or Copyright for My Book? »

    Do You Need an Editor for Your Memoir or Family History?

    I spoke with a woman yesterday who was completing a draft of a family history. She told me that she and her sister would edit the draft to “keep the cost down.” She explained that both she and her sister have master’s degrees. “I know there will be mistakes in it, but it will be okay for our grandkids.”

    That’s certainly a decision that any writer may make. In a today’s publishing environment where digital technology has dramatically reduced the cost anyone can publish a book. A self-publishing author may decide when her book is ready for publication. But that author should seek to make the finished book as professional as possible.

    Good editing is an important part of that professionalism. Pulitzer Price-winning author Wallace Stegner who founded the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University once described an editor’s role as, “to keep an author from appearing in public with his shirt tail out and egg on his tie.”

    When you have spent months or even years developing a rough draft of a book you may not be able to detect weaknesses, errors or areas which need to be clarified that have become a part of the draft. Editing is more than a good proof reading to check the grammar and spelling. It is a review of the effectiveness with which the author communicates her ideas. Are they organized well, clearly presented and do they flow coherently? Having a set of professional eyes which have not been involved in creating the draft edit can only improve it.

    When you build your dream home the final step is to gain the approval of the building inspector to assure that construction is up to code. A professional editor does the same thing for a writer. An author – particularly a novice – is well advised to consider the assurance of a quality manuscript that a professional editor can provide before going ahead without one.

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