Okay, I’ve got at least a few of you hooked up now, wondering what will next flow onto this blog-page. It’s time for a little pitch — no, not a heavy one,  just the subtle type. Today, I want to address the purpose of finding an editor, if you’re thinking about trying to write something for publication.

Generally speaking, there are at least four ways an editor can help:

(a) During the early developmental stages, when someone has a pretty good idea of what (s)he wants to say, but needs structural help and direction, an editor can provide suggestions on where to expand on the outline of an idea, or where to step back from the narration and go get some source-material and weblinks that will flesh out the theme better (In one case, I’ve looked over about a five-page synopsis, and recommended where the writer could build on it, pretty much by taking every sentence and making it a paragraph, and then each initial paragraph building into its own chapter.).

(b) After a few chapters or sections have been written and the writer wants some feedback on whether they’re too short and choppy, are long and rambling, need another focus, or have other directions not being explored, an editor can provide feedback, as well as suggestions for how best to build or compress for stronger impact.  (At this stage, a writer gets a better idea whether this is a book or a novelette; an e-book or a series of Web articles first; Book One of a trilogy; … or an idea that’s just been done that way too often, and in need of a new hook.)

(c) After the full first draft has been written, a thorough reading can provoke comments about clarity, focus, emphasis, depth or lack of it, etc. — along with as much copy-editing as is possible at this stage.

(d) A final going-over, aimed at excellent and clear copy, and dealing with the author’s response to comments and suggestions along the way, can bring the product up to its top level.This includes fixing what the author has done with the suggested changes or considerations, so that the hard work of editing the previous version is not just overwhelmed by the same errors in the rewrite!).

There’s more to it; in some cases it can go all the way up to the writer asking the editor to essentially “ghostwrite” whole sections of the manuscript. (I try to avoid that; when it happens, I try to charge exorbitant rates for the service, so it doesn’t happen too often. It is, after all, the author’s book, not mine!)

Al in all,  though, I’d say that a writer who does not consider all of these possible aids to making a better book is like the proverbial lawyer who defends himself in court!