Editor’s Note: This post is an excerpt from a new book published by Gail Woodard and Dudley Court Press. Titled Write the Book You’re Meant to Write: A Guide for First-Time Authors, it gets to the heart of the issues first-time authors face. I was honored to have been interviewed for this book as well as edit it.
by Gail Woodard
I asked my good friend and editor Barbara McNichol what advice she would give to a first-time author about the process of working with an editor. Here’s some of our exchange:
How can an editor help an author? Smart authors know the value of a good editor to improve the clarity of their ideas and conciseness of the words they use. A good editor makes the author’s prose more readable while preserving the person’s intended voice.
Can you advise authors on how to streamline their writing so the editing process goes more smoothly and costs less money? Sure. Adopting these seven practices will make a huge difference in any manuscript:
- Get rid of extraneous phrases (e.g., the fact of the matter is, there is and there are, is going to, is starting to, is designed to, etc.)
- Find alternatives for wobbly words—vague words that don’t add meaning (e.g., really, much, very, some, that).
- Change long noun phrases into short verbs whenever feasible (e.g., “the examination of” becomes “examine”; “the judgment of” becomes “judge”).
- Limit the length of your sentences to 21 words so readers won’t get bogged down and lose your intended train of thought. (Oh, my. This sentence exceeds 21 words by 2!)
- Pay attention to noun/verb agreements and pronouns, too. You hear people say “me and Michael went to lunch” but “me” is the wrong pronoun in this case. Know what’s right. Apply the right grammar rules; it’s important to your credibility!
- Construct your sentences using active verbs, not passive (e.g., “The stranger created a scene” is active; “A scene was created by a stranger” is passive.) Why is this important? The action you want to convey moves forward more directly when you write in active construction. Look for the word “by,” which clues you in to when passive construction is used.
- For accuracy, know which word to use when. Pay special attention to confusing ones such as “complementary” versus “complimentary.” Hint: the word “gift” and “complimentary” both have an “i” so when you’re being complimentary, think of giving away a gift. I call these “Word Trippers” and offer a word choice guide and subscription program to make it easy to learn the difference. (See www.wordtrippers.com)
Why should someone invest in hiring a professional editor? Editors are trained to be patient and thorough. They go through an author’s manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. That’s rarely the kind of diligence provided by friends or even critique-group members.
In addition to keeping the author’s voice, what else is a primary goal in the editing process? For nonfiction books especially, authors write them to support their business objectives. Their book forms the cornerstone of their company’s message and direction. Keeping that objective in sight during the editing process guides the editor throughout the multiple reviews. Does the book accomplish what it sets out to do for the benefit of the readership and the author, too?
What book editing questions do you have?
- Order Write the Book You’re Meant to Write on Amazon
- Seek advice on writing/publishing your book at www.DudleyCourtPress.com
- Contact Barbara McNichol for your editing needs.