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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 you’ve written? Although there’s 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 I’m a writer first and a book doctor second, I have a great deal of respect for each writer’s 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, I’ll 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 you’re lucky enough to be in a well-rounded critique group, you’re 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 they’re 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. It’s 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 you’ll stifle any objectivity before revising.

2. Respiratory Therapy – read your work out loud to pick up on long sentences, point of view problems, or unrealistic dialogue.

3. Speech Therapy – study your work for bland tag lines, bland dialogue, or dialogue that is so long in places it loses it’s authenticity.

4. Pumping Up the Heart Rate – circle those passive verbs and find stronger, more descriptive ones to make your writing stand out above someone else’s 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 writer’s unique approach to their material and suggest changes that will enhance that style, not change it.

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 aren’t willing to provide those items up front, then look elsewhere. Likewise, if a literary agency you’ve 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.

I’ve been enjoying my practice for almost thirteen years, and during that time many of my writer patients have made such wonderful progress that they’ve become cured—published. What a super feeling that is for me! If you have any questions you’d like to ask the book doctor in future issues of this magazine, I’d be happy to address them here for all the writers. Just email me at: bookdoctor@earthlink.net

If you’d 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

Other articles by Robyn Conley :

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