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Can Book Doctors Help My Writing Sell?
by Robyn Conley
Book Doctors are freelance editors who diagnose
and help heal any unhealthy places in your writing. Can they help you sell what
youve written? Although theres no guarantee of your novel or article selling
after going through a book doctor, they can help your chances of making your
work more marketable. They do this by helping you polish and perfect your
content and sentence structure.
Because Im a writer first and a book doctor
second, I have a great deal of respect for each writers style and voice. When
they submit work to me, I look for ways to help tighten flabby sentences,
without disfiguring their style. If their work suffers from some speech
impediment, Ill prescribe dialogue suggestions and exercises that will breathe
more life into their writing. Sometimes an anemic point of view dulls the
narrative and we have to fortify those areas with more emotional iron.
Does everyone need a book doctor? Certainly not.
If youre lucky enough to be in a well-rounded critique group, youre probably
already receiving objective feedback regarding your writing. Sometimes having
even one buddy read your work and offer that objectivity, gives you all the
assurance you need to submit your stories or articles. Most of my clients are
folks who work such long hours that they barely have time to put their
creativity on paper, let alone go over it the number of times it takes for a
solid revision to emerge. And revising is crucial. The objective eye is crucial.
We love our beautified, poofed-up words too much to nip and tuck them right
away, but to be successful writers we must learn to groom and exercise our
babies so theyre as lean as inviting as possible.
How do you do that? I use a checklist in my
client work and in workshops that shows writers what to look for in their own
writing. Its the same list that serves as the anchor of my book, BE YOUR OWN
BOOK DOCTOR, where I have the liberty of going into more detail, but I can
sneak in a few of the categories below:
1. Give Anesthesia Its Due give yourself
permission to NOT edit right away or youll stifle any objectivity before
2. Respiratory Therapy read your work out
loud to pick up on long sentences, point of view problems, or unrealistic
3. Speech Therapy study your work for bland
tag lines, bland dialogue, or dialogue that is so long in places it loses its
4. Pumping Up the Heart Rate circle those
passive verbs and find stronger, more descriptive ones to make your writing
stand out above someone elses in the slush pile.
There are other elements I look for, of course,
regarding plot and structure, and all the necessities of each genre or
non-fiction category. But always, I respect the writers unique approach to
their material and suggest changes that will enhance that style, not change
Writers who are considering using a book doctor
often ask me how they can make a good choice; after all, there are different
styles of editing, just as there are of writing. First and foremost, make sure
that the doctor/editor has been in the field for a while and can prove it with
either a list of client or publisher references. If they arent willing to
provide those items up front, then look elsewhere. Likewise, if a literary
agency youve submitted to offers to represent your work, "
after you send it
through this editorial service
" look elsewhere. Most likely that agency is
tightly connected with the editing service and makes a nice kickback income,
rather than an agency income off its writers. There are legitimate agencies that
refer book doctors, but those agents will give you at least two or three people
they trust for you to query.
Ive been enjoying my practice for almost
thirteen years, and during that time many of my writer patients have made such
wonderful progress that theyve become curedpublished. What a super feeling
that is for me! If you have any questions youd like to ask the book doctor in
future issues of this magazine, Id be happy to address them here for all the
writers. Just email me at:
If youd like to visit my website to learn more
about me and my services, please go to www.robynconley.com
Happy writing and revising!
© Copyright 2003, Robyn Conley
Robyn's web site is www.robynconley.com
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