Why This Writer Loves Editors

Today we have a wonderful guest post by Heidi Turner. She has put into words my feelings exactly; it bothers me to no end when I buy a book and find errors. Help us all make books as error-free as possible! Enjoy Heidi’s wonderful post and be sure to visit her sites listed at the bottom in her bio. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your opinion with us!

Why This Writer Loves Editors
by Heidi Turner

I’m not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a good writer, but I know mistakes happen. That’s why I think it’s vital to have a good editor look over my work. It’s not an insult and it’s not a sign that I don’t know how to write. It’s a sign that sometimes, even with the best writers, mistakes happen.

One of the worst things for me, as a reader and as a writer, is when errors occur in books. Errors, be they spelling, grammar or continuity errors, confuse the reader. They stop her dead in her tracks, forcing her to reread the sentence (or paragraph) and wonder exactly what the writer meant. They interrupt the flow of the book.

The best-case scenario with an error in a book is that the reader won’t notice. But some readers will, and it will bother them. It makes them wonder about how professional the writer really is. When there are multiple errors in the book, it makes readers wonder if they should continue reading or if they should bother buying more books by the same author.

I’m currently reading a book that was highly promoted in Canada (where I live). I won’t give away the name of the book or the author, but I will say that on one page, the author uses the word “serious” where he meant to use the word “series.” I might be picky, but I’m certain I’m not the only person who noticed the error. And even if it only stopped me for a minute, that’s a minute too long.

A big source of errors, I find, are self-published books. It’s too bad, because a lot of self-published writers have something to say. The problem is that some either refuse to pay for an editor or they have too much confidence in their own editing skills. Either way, the result is a book that I might start to read but I quickly put aside because I can’t handle the errors. Usually when this happens, I make a mental note not to buy more books by the same author.

It bothers me when writers refuse to pay for editors. After all, as a profession we don’t like to hear about non-writers taking jobs from writers. We don’t like to hear people say, “If I can pass high school English, I can be a writer, too.” So why should we assume that just because we can write, we can also edit? Editing is a specialized skill, one that takes dedication, training and an eye for details.

I’m of the firm belief that it’s impossible for even the best writers to edit their own work. We’re often too close to the work to be objective about it. Furthermore, our eyes often see what we think is there, not what is actually there. So we mistake a “me” for “my” or a “serious” for “series.” They’re just close enough that a quick glance might not uncover the error—but once they’re in print, they’re that way forever.

Editors catch the errors that writers miss. They ensure consistency in spelling and tense. They question ideas that don’t make sense. They take a writer’s words and ensure those words are clear, coherent and correct. They are the final step to ensuring that a work is as professional as possible.

For my money, editors are worth their weight in gold. Because as a writer, I want my readers focused on my words and ideas, not on my misplaced apostrophes and dangling participles.

Heidi Turner is a freelance writer. Her website is www.heiditurner.ca. Her blog, full of advice for freelance writers, is thehappyfreelancer.com.

Building Your Platform

So, you have written a book. Or you are writing a book. Or you have a great book idea. It is never too early to start building your platform. I’m not talking about something you need plywood and nails for; you need to build a following. By starting now, you can have readers salivating for your book by the time it is published.

This is important no matter what publishing route you choose. Of course, if you are self-publishing to an ebook or print, you need that audience so you can sell your book. If you plan on going the traditional route of finding an agent to sell your book to a big publisher, having a strong platform can help make your book more attractive.

So, how do you do this?

Social media is a wonderful tool. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and many others exist to help people connect. Look for other writers on these sites. This is a great place to start. Writers are usually very good about helping each other promote their books. Get your friends to talk about it online. Participate in the many Twitter chats for writers. You can learn a lot about getting an agent, working in your genre, self publishing and more. Chats are done on Twitter by including a hashtag in each post. This is an example of a hashtag: #litchat. Hashtags like this enable people who want to follow the discussion run a search for that term and all the posts will appear.

Facebook lets you make a business page for your book. Promote it on Twitter and Facebook to get people to like it. Everyone who likes your page will get the updates you post there. Keep everyone updated on how the writing is going, put up a few sentences periodically, and generally hype your book.

Start a blog. Dedicate it to your book(s). If you write paranormal romance, for instance, really make the most of this genre on your blog. You can host giveaways on your blog. If your book is ready, promote a giveaway of a copy or two to people who comment or follow a simple set of instructions you set up. If your book is not ready, offer writers in that genre that you’ve met on Facebook or Twitter the chance to promote their book by hosting a giveaway for them. Let them write a post or interview them. This will help you generate traffic and interest in your own books.

Join blog tours. If your book is ready, join them as an author and visit many different blogs to talk about your book. Be prepared to give copies away to lucky winners at each blog stop. If your book is not ready, offer other authors to host them on their blog tour. Again, this is all about bringing you traffic who will help you build your platform.

By the time your book is ready, you should have a ready audience who will be eager to snap up your book. Promotion is an author’s best tool to compete in the marketplace. Using these sources, it costs very little; lots of time and a few copies of the book for prizes.

What Editing Does For the Writer

.What Editing Does For the Writer

What Editing Does For the Writer… So, you’re a writer. You slave over your masterpiece. It is a part of you. It is part of your heart and soul. Why would you want to hand it over to some editor to cut to ribbons?

I don’t want to cut your masterpiece to ribbons. I want to hone it to a fine polish to make you look the very best you can look. Think of it as taking you out of your ragged blue jeans with the paint splotches on them and the torn tshirt and putting you into a nice outfit that shows off all of your best attributes. When we’re finished, your hair is done perfectly and you feel like a million bucks. You’re ready to take on the world. That is what I try to do to your manuscript.

I fix all the spelling errors (even spellcheck doesn’t get them all!). I fix the grammar and punctuation (except where it needs to remain awkward to make a point). I suggest ways to make the writing tighter and smoother. As the author, you always retain the right to dismiss any of my suggestions, but I hope you’ll be open enough to consider them.

I’m not a drill sergeant, living for the moment when I can scream orders at you. I have a gentle voice. One filled with nurturing suggestions. First, I read through your manuscript so I get the whole picture from beginning to end. Then, I slowly and carefully begin my work. I don’t want to supplant your voice with my own. I am happy to remain in the background. I may make suggestions on phrasing or different words you could try, but the ultimate rewriting should come from you. The manuscript is your baby, after all.

We can work together to make your book the best it can be. Doesn’t it bug you when you buy a book and it is full of sloppy errors? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read that would have made a much better impression if they had been edited before they were published. No matter how good the story is, it is hard to get past those errors. I want your book to be as perfect as possible, so you don’t have to have readers write to you and point out simple errors. And they will. It is worth the extra effort to fact check anything technical. For example, I recently read a passage about a woman having an amniocentesis and finding out the sex of the baby. Unfortunately, in the book, they scheduled it at 13 weeks gestation, when in reality, amnios are only done between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. How would it have changed the story to move it ahead two weeks so it was accurate? Try as I might, I had a very hard time getting past this wrong timing. Now, perhaps only a few readers would be bothered by that, but I’ve spent years studying childbirth, so it really bothered me. Too bad, too… the story was good and well written.

If it isn’t childbirth, it will be something else. Maybe what kind of flowers bloom in June in Massachusetts, or perhaps when the storms hit on the Firth of Forth. Somewhere, someone will notice your inaccuracy. As an editor, it is my job to help you make your book so good that there are no errors for people to pick up. You want your readers to be so engrossed in your story that they can’t put it down; finding errors will wake them out of their thrall with your book. It can ruin the experience for them. Take the time and work with an editor. It is worth the effort and the cost