“I found a problem,” the author called to tell me, his editor.
“Oh, crap,” I reply. This is not the discussion I want to have with any author.
Here’s the evolution of an editing error. I had worked closely with Mark Langan on his book More Busting Bad Guys — the second in a series of true crime stories of his life on the street as a police officer. We had organized the stories into chapters, and I had done two major editing passes. This after he and his wife, Annette, had read and reread the chapters many times.
You’re ready to write your book, but you need to pull in some expertise — or even a ghostwriter. Collaborating on the writing of a book can take many forms. I’ll discuss the most common:
When two or more people collaborate to write a book, they are each considered a coauthor. The authorship relationship should be spelled out in writing in a legal document because inevitably something will go sideways.
Decide who is the first author (Pat Smith and Chris Brown) and not necessarily in alphabetical order. The editorial challenge here is that with two authors, no one can…
Pick up the phone and talk to someone you are going to entrust your precious manuscript to. Editing is an intimate process. You want to feel comfortable with the editor. Consider it like a speed date.
My colleague Lisa Pelto of Concierge Publishing Services said, “When we edit, it’s like going through your underwear drawer.” It’s as intimate as that.
Ask these questions and expect the types of answers I suggest. How would I know? Because I’m a book editor.
Look for someone who has edited books like yours. But where?
A Cute Story about Why Word Choice Makes a Difference in Your Writing
Well, that dinosaur thing is the logic of a new first-grader, my granddaughter, Mila. Here’s how we got to that conclusion.
Her eight-year-old brother, Max (now in third grade), and I were discussing why their new puppy, April, knew how to swim when she “accidentally” jumped in our lake last Saturday. The cutest-dog-ever launched herself into the lake from the boat and paddled around until we plucked her soggy, skinny Border-Doodle body out of the freezing water.
“Why do you think April knew how to swim?” I…
I had been dozing in a chair next to the couch where my sister was dying, at home, surrounded by her dogs. Five tiny Chihuahuas were curled up with her, around her legs and on her shoulder. She hadn’t spoken for several hours now. It was day four.
She was actively dying from tracheal cancer at age sixty-four. As the big sister by two years, always the practical one, I had received her text five days earlier from Arizona. She said she couldn’t breathe and was sitting on the kitchen floor awaiting death or the ambulance. …
Forget red pencils and handwritten marginal notes. We editors are not your high school English teacher. We’re the unsung heroes who save you from making embarrassing mistakes in print.
For the past two decades, I have been the sole proprietor of my own editorial services company called Write On, Inc. Editing is a solitary process as we editors become immersed in the words and worlds of others, hunched over a computer keyboard for hours with a Word document on the screen and browsers open to the Chicago Manual of Style, Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary, and my trusty best friend, Mr. …
Your kid’s artwork on the refrigerator. Your daughter’s ballet recital. Your grandson’s trombone solo. Amazing, right?
And you are objective how?
The same principles apply to your book manuscript. Of course, your spouse or partner will love the work. Your mother-in-law might be a little more critical. And the coworkers you asked to read early drafts have only positive comments (especially if you are their manager).
These early reviewers are not generally your target audience, and they are clearly not objective. …
How often have you heard a speaker in a large venue (okay, not during the plague year, I get that) and then stood in line to buy the speaker’s best-selling book in the back of the room? More often than your credit card wants to remember, right?
But what was it about the speaker that made you want to fork over a twenty for more wisdom? …
“I just want to know if my writing is any good,” my authors often say. I am a nonfiction book editor.
Aha. The fear factor.
Author Anne Lamott and others give you permission to write a shitty (her word) first draft. So do it. You don’t have to show it to anyone. Just bang it out. Even my idol Stephen King roughs out his work with the door closed. It’s the second draft that gets shown to selected critical readers.
With your writing, you’ve got to climb the ladder to reach the high diving board and just jump. Show smaller…
They’re called epigraphs. Remember that term in case you get to buzz in on “Grammatical Stuff” for $1,000 on Jeopardy! You see them in books as a design element at the beginning of chapters.
Consider this one that’s commonly overused:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Attributed to Lao Tzu or a Chinese proverb
And then wise words of this man are often printed in motivational and self-help books:
“A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”
Of course our favorite TV and movie star is quoted in…