Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Seeking Help Is Not A Bad Thing

Writers are not always do-all, know-all people. Sometimes we need a little help. More than once, I've heard a writer (including myself) say somethng like Writing is the easy part, marketing my work is tough. But even the writing can be a little difficult when a writer has the basics but not all the fine points of our craft. You might be a great storyteller but lousy in the mechanics of writing.

That's nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it wrong for a writer to ask for some help in polishing a story until it shines. I'm guessing that even highly successful authors needed some assistance in their early endeavors. Some still rely on outside help when writing those bestsellers we all love to read.

Did you ever actually read the foreward, afterword, or page of appreciation in a novel? Time and again, the author tells the reader what help they had from others in the writing of the book. Is it wrong to turn to others for help in turning out the best possible product? Not at all.

Many authors seek editing help. One of the reasons is that we become blind to our own errors after working on a story or book for a long time. I find it far easier to find the places that need work in other people's writing than in my own. When the members of my critique group do a LBL (line by line) critique, they mark lots of things that I never saw. Not even after I'd done my own edit and revision. It happens to all of us, which is exactly the reason why I belong to a critique group. Not the only reason but one of the biggies.

Read any writing themed magazine and you'll see scads of ads offering editorial services. How do you pick one? Close your eyes and point your finger on the page? Not such a good idea. There are lots of legitimate services and there are also ones that you want to steer clear of. I subscribe to a blog titled Writer Beware that has made me aware of the mix of good and bad services offered to writers. In today's post at the blog, a writing service for authors sounds very helpful but it's more about taking the writer's money than it is in helping. Read about it here. Then consider subscribing to the blog so that you, too, will be more aware of the good and the bad in our industry. A reference for a good editor from another writer would be my choice.

Because I'd been discussing editing services with a writer just recently, I googled to see what was offered and what authors should consider paying. What an education it was! Like all things, the more professional the person you hire is, the more you pay. That doesn't mean that someone just starting out in offering editorial help is no good. They might be excellent but they are going to charge you less because they don't have a miles long resume. It also depends if you want an edit for grammar, punctutaion, spelling--the mechanics of writing, or if you're looking for help in plot structure, character development and more. You can get either or both.

I know writers who will say they don't need help from anyone else. It's their story, their words and they'll go with what they have. That's fine. It's a personal choice. We each must do what we're comfortable with. At the very least, though, I'd like to see writers join a critique group. It's amazing how much help another writer who crits your work in a fair and honest way can be. They read what you write with objective eyes. That, to me, is key. Finding a critique group that does more than pat you on the back and say only the things you want to hear is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it's a topic for another post someday. You may have to try more than one to find good help.

Since the onset of self-publishing and its rapid growth, I see a greater need for editorial help. As I said earlier, there is no shame in seeking such help.

Somethng else that I see in the self-published books is that many authors would benefit from doing a little more research on the genre in which they are writing, especially if it's one they've not done before. If you've always written nonfiction and suddenly have a burning desire to write a novel, it would be wise to read all you can on writing novels. If you've always written poetry and suddenly have a terrific idea for a novel for middle grade kids, read all you can about writing for kids.

Seeking help from various sources, whether a human editor or a book on your craft, can only help you grow as a writer. And isn't that what we're all aiming for?

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