What Every Author Needs

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What Every Author Needs

By Holly Bargo

Writing resembles medicine in that writers, like doctors, practice their craft or profession. There’s always room for improvement, always something new-to-me to learn. Telling stories over a lifetime exceeding 50 years, I like to think I’ve developed some expertise at it. New writers often ask me the same question: What’s my one key piece of advice?

Answer: Get an editor.

Every author needs—yes, needs—a professional editor. (I write and edit, and I put my money where my mouth is: I hire an editor before publishing my books.)

An editor is not your unpaid beta reader(s), a family member, or your friends. They are biased. An editor offers an unbiased, critical, professional opinion that, yes, can sting. Suck it up, buttercup. Better for an editor to point out every glaring mistake and glitch than the reading public who leave scathing reviews proclaiming sloppy grammar and substandard writing.

Too few writers understand their rough draft isn’t ready for an editor, much less public consumption. Before sending your manuscript to an editor, review and revise it until it’s as good as you can possibly manage. Only then will it be ready for an editor’s attention.

A professional editor brings a critical and objective eye to the content. The editor identifies the flaws for remediation. The editor may correct errors, suggest specific changes, and otherwise recommend improvements; however, it’s the writer’s responsibility to review every single edit and then decide whether to accept, reject, or act in some other manner.

The editor does not return a manuscript ready to publish, but a manuscript filled with corrections, comments, and suggestions to help the writer improve the content and make it as good as it can be.

Many writers do not realize that not all editing addresses the same facets of a document. A structural or developmental editor takes the bird’s eye view of a manuscript and assists with the structure and organization of the story to ensure a logical flow of ideas and/or scenes. A content editor focuses on how the story is written, analyzing every word on every line of the manuscript: Should it be there? Is that the best way to express the idea? A copy editor focuses on the mechanics of language: spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax, sentence structure. Many editors like myself offer substantive editing which combines content and copy editing. Many substantive or line editors have difficulty separate content and copy editing tasks.

While many writers acknowledge they need an editor; many also skip that crucial step, because they believe they cannot afford the service. Or perhaps they misunderstand the skilled labor and time needed to do a proper editing job. Sources such as the Editorial Freelancers Association and the Writers Market offer guidelines to the compensation for various writing and editing activities. Keep in mind that professional writers and editors command fees commensurate with their skill and experience.

It gets expensive. Discuss payment and service options for service you can afford.

Using a competent professional to edit your work helps you deliver professional quality content to your audience. Your readers expect that and deserve no less.

About the Author

Holly Bargo is a pseudonym and really did exist as a temperamental Appaloosa mare fondly remembered for protecting the author’s toddler children and crushing her husband’s pager. Yep, there’s a story behind that. Horses remain a large part of the author’s life. The author and her husband live in southwest Ohio and have two adult children. Contact Holly through her website at https://www.henhousepublishing.com.

Holly has published over 20 titles since 2014. Her writing generally covers various sub-genres of romance. Her latest releases—all published in 2019—include: Triple Burn (science fiction romance), Bear of the Midnight Sun (paranormal romance), and Six Shots Each Gun: 12 Tales of the Old West (anthology of western stories) co-written with Russ Towne. She is working on the next book to follow Bear of the Midnight Sun; The Eagle at Dawn is scheduled for release in summer 2019.

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