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    « Make the Publisher Your Friend | Main | What's Important in Your Memoir? 20 Questions »
    Wednesday
    Jun022010

    Who Should Edit Your Memoir or Family History?

    “How efficient is the self-editing?” asks the writer of the findtheword blog as part of a summary of discussions among editors and publishers during a recent online seminar sponsored by Writer’s Digest University.

    Their conclusion: “You always need another clean pair of eyes to read and have some critical inputs about your manuscript.”

    But whose eyes? The blogger suggests, “It could be a friend or somebody you pay for.”

    The statement is okay as far as it goes, but it stops short of the critical questions you should consider when deciding who should edit your work.

    There are two important things to reflect on. First, what do you hope to gain from the process of having someone edit your book? If you want someone to look at your work with a critical eye to make recommendations on how to improve your manuscript, that assumes a set of skills and some detachment on the editor’s part and to offer the kind of feedback you need.

    If you chose a friend as an editor detachment can be problematic. Most friends want to be supportive and encourage you. They may hesitate to tell you things about your manuscript because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. I have watched critique groups tap dance around flaws in a member’s works due to the relationships involved. One reason many self-publishing writers seek out professional editors is that the editor can focus on the work and what needs to be done to improve it without interference by personal considerations.

    Second, when writers ask friends to edit their work, they often do so expecting nothing more than a quick copy edit. Their friend has good English skills, reads a lot, maybe even has done some writing.  The friend will pick up spelling errors, catch problems with grammar and usage, correct punctuation and spot typos. Voila! Done. The book is ready to publish.

    Ah, but there’s more to it than that. An editor should help you develop a higher quality book. It takes a very unusual friend to provide developmental assistance and content editing. A developmental editor can make recommendations on improving the manuscript by adding illustrative detail, suggesting parts that should be cut or moved to make the narrative more coherent or increase the narrative flow. Helping an author with decisions that will shape the draft into a book takes both skill and experience.

    So, when you consider who should edit your book weigh carefully whether you have a friend who can do what you need or whether you’d be better served by seeking out a professional editor to guide you through the revision of your manuscript.

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