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Get Your Own Bob
by Tanya J. Tyler
My friend Bob is my writing lucky charm.
I regularly ask Bob to edit articles or stories I plan to submit
to various venues. And every article or story he has edited for
me has been accepted — every single one. So far that includes
two Chicken Soup stories, a story for an anthology called
"My Teacher is My Hero," and an op-ed piece that ran in
my denomination’s national magazine.
Bob and I worked together in the promotions department of our local
newspaper. He is a very good writer in his own right and has also
been published, so I know he knows the ins and outs of the business.
I rely on Bob to bring a fresh pair of eyes to the things I’ve
written. And that’s why every writer needs a Bob of their
own. Fresh eyes on a story are essential. From his detached perspective,
Bob points out errors I may have overlooked. You know how it is:
Your mind is hard wired to skip over mistakes in a manuscript you’ve
been working on for a while — you literally don’t see
them. Someone else reading your work for the first time will often
find misspellings and awkward phrasings blinking at them like a
ferocious stoplight. You’ll be glad they’ve been caught.
Bob catches them for me.
Often writers get totally enamored of their story or article and
might dig in their heels and insist on keeping in something that’s
holding the piece back. An impartial but firm and fair editor like
Bob is important to give your story some sparkle it might lack and
to do some fine-tuning or tweaking. Because he’s not as wedded
to my story as I am, Bob can pick up on things that don’t
add to it and offer alternatives that will improve it. I value Bob’s
insights and generally follow his suggestions about what to leave
in and what to take out.
It’s also good to have someone who focuses on another writing
genre or whose style contrasts yours edit or critique your work.
Bob and I are very different writer-wise. I’m usually straightforward
and journalistic: get in the facts, tell a relevant and appealing
story, maybe add something offbeat now and then. Bob can’t
resist tossing in a quirky, humorous sentence of some sort in everything
he writes, even his serious work. He is most talented at coming
up with punchy endings, which is my weakest writing point. Sometimes
I don’t start writing something until I know how I’m
going to end it. Bob has a knack for crafting a finish that ties
everything together neatly.
So what’s in it for Bob? Whenever something he’s looked
over for me sells and I get my check, I treat Bob to lunch. Granted,
he will not survive on just the lunches I pay for because at this
point the checks are few and far between. But our lunch meetings
are times for us to regroup and talk about our writing and inspire
and encourage one another. That’s another reason it’s
good to have a Bob of your own — to keep you plugging away
in spite of rejection, dejection, and writer’s block.
Of course, there’s no guarantee the person you choose will
be as lucky for you as Bob is for me. But anyone who tightens and
strengthens and helps you improve your writing is worth a salad
now and again.
I am about to take the plunge with Bob. It’s time to move
past the articles and onto bigger and better things. I have a novel
manuscript I want him to read. I don’t dare send it off without
letting him read it first. Telling him about his upcoming assignment
at our latest lunch, I said, “It’s my kid’s story,
Bob — not my cheap trashy romance novel. I can’t let
you read my romance novel. We’d both be embarrassed.”
But Bob just smiled over his salad as I rationalized. He knows,
and I know, too: If I want that romance novel published, he had
better read it. After all, that’s why Bob is on the job.
(Now see how lame that ending is? Bob would have come up with something
much, much better. But I wanted to surprise him with this article
about how valuable his help is to me. I couldn’t have him
edit an article about himself, could I? Will it sell? Well, if you’re
reading this, I guess it did.)
© Copyright 2008, Tanya J. Tyler
Tanya J. Tyler is a writer and editor in the Advertising Creative Services department of the Herald-Leader newspaper in Lexington, KY (www.kentucky.com). She has written articles
for a number of national magazines and has essays in Chicken Soup for the Single Parent's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul.