It’s Not Only Punctuation

CM Riddle

Something has compelled you to write. You have to tell your story, and you want people to read it. You know how to write, you’ve passed English class, and you are an avid reader. So far, so good. You type up the manuscript and send it off to a publisher or self-publish. Not so fast. Before you put your perfect story out there, run it by your editor.

To hire an editor is costly, but it is the most professional choice you will make to ensure your book delivers a story that readers will want to read. When I wrote my first book, I hired Robbi Sommers Bryant to help me sort out scenes and keep a good flow throughout my story—and yes, to check spelling and punctuation. She did a great job, but even more important, she applied skills I hadn’t yet considered. She suggested I rewrite sentences to add more punch and to remove others because of redundancy. “Trust your reader,” Robbi would say.

When you hire an editor, she becomes the first person privy to your story and your style. She should read your book from beginning to end to make sure the story has a purpose and makes sense. If she doesn’t, then that is a red flag. Your book emerges from conversations with her as you break down the book’s scenes or discard them; your story becomes full of meat, not fat.

Writing your first novel or even a short story may daunt you, more so when it’s time to hire an editor, but swallow your pride and write a check. Every author looks back and sees what they could have done better in their last work. Some of us cringe at word choices or rethink scenes. At the time we wrote the story, we did the best we could.

That’s what happened to me, and I am grateful for Robbi’s expertise. I was thrilled to write a book and have it published. I continue to sharpen my skills as a writer. After each class I take, I recognized the tools my editor used to make my story come alive. With her help, readers could understand my point, and my writing earned their emotional stakes.

A good editor will:

  1. Read your manuscript from beginning to end and give feedback on consistency and direction
  2. Suggest clean sentences and meatier scenes
  3. Offer interesting word choices or point out opportunities for powerful action
  4. Keep abreast of writing trends and current styles
  5. Support you so you can tell the best version of your story and make a memorable experience for your readers

An editor elevates a writer’s work. Now when I write, I apply the lessons learned from my editor. When I take classes, I understand how and why my editor applied these various skills. I am excited to write my next book and utilize my improved writing techniques. Writing is a learning process, and with a good editor at your side, you will write your best story.

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