In the first part of this article, previously posted here, I mostly addressed why a Christian writer should write well, though I also touched on some ways we can do that. In this article, I will address more ways in which we actually can write well.
In the first article, I mentioned learning. What do we need to learn? Every writer should have a fairly good knowledge of the basics of writing: spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and how to know when to begin and end a paragraph. Every writer should also know how to properly write dialogue. These are the mechanics of writing, and if you find any of these items difficult, you can still be a good writer. How? You will need to hire an editor. I will address editors more in depth later in this article.
What do writers need to know, in addition to the technical or mechanical aspects of writing? Writers need to know how to tell a story: how to choose the best words to write descriptions, action, dialogue, conflict; how to create deep characters that readers can relate to and how to give these characters strengths and weaknesses, as well as showing character growth in the main characters from the beginning of the story to the end of the story; and above all, how to weave the story together in a way that will grip the reader’s attention from the very first sentence until the very last sentence of the novel.
That all sounds like a tall order, and it is. If you are a writer, you, most likely, are also a reader, or, at least, you should be. Reading books is one way to learn how to write a good book. Reading books should also show you what not to do as a writer. I’m sure all readers have read at least one poorly written book in their reading time: a book that had lots of grammatical errors or had parts where the reader became bored or confused, or the book rushed the ending leaving the reader feeling as though some important information or action was missing, or names of characters or places were written differently in sections of the book—either changing the names or the spelling of the names, or a change in the description of a main character. Maybe the ending left the reader hanging and there is no sequel; the book is supposed to be a stand-alone.
There are many things that can pull a reader out of the story or disappoint a reader.
As a writer, do you know that you make a promise to your reader with every book you write, no matter what genre you write?
You promise to engage your reader in a good story, to take them on a journey, to involve them in the lives of your characters, and the promise is different for each genre. Therefore you need to know your genre.
And if you don’t deliver on this promise, you disappoint your reader, and that reader may never pick up another one of your books again. They will most likely tell their friends about their disappointment, which may cause you to lose the chance of gaining readers who haven’t even read your book yet.
I have been told that the best way to sell books, or lose sales, depends upon the word of mouth of the readers even in this world of technology or maybe because it’s even easier to spread the word in this world of technology. Readers share about their favorite and their most disappointing reads on their social media accounts as well as book blogs. They’re much more honest on those sites than they are in any reviews they may write.
So, let’s get back to the subject of the need for editors. As a Christian writer, I believe I owe it to Jesus Christ, as well as to my readers, to write the stories the Lord has laid upon my heart in the very best possible way that I can and that requires making sure my book is as free from errors as possible, as well as making sure I have not broken my promise to my readers.
I actually do this in four steps: 1) I never stop learning about good writing and how to write well; 2) I have a critique partner who is very aware of the type of story I write, the style in which I write, and my writing voice, and she reads each of my chapters looking for errors in any of these things, as well as in the technical/mechanical aspects of the story; 3) I read over my critique partner’s suggestions/corrections and usually correct them all. Although, there may occasionally be something I disagree on and feel if I make the change it will affect my story in a way I do not want. If that is the case, I do not make the change; and 4) I hire an editor, or I find someone whose editing skills I value and trust, who is also a writer who values and trusts my editing skills and we simply edit each other’s work in an even exchange.
Many writers say, “I read over my own work four or five times and make changes. I think that’s enough. Besides, editors are so expensive.”
To the first part of that comment, I say this, “it doesn’t matter how many times you read over your own work, you will not catch all of the mistakes and errors because you know what the story is supposed to say, so when you read over it, you see what you expect it to say, and that is how you miss things.”
To the second part of that comment, I say, “yes, most editors are expensive, but what is your reputation worth to you? Do you want readers saying how wonderful your stories are and how they like them so much they will read them over and over again and tell all their friends to read them? Or do you want readers saying that your writing is so error riddled they were often confused or because of the errors they were pulled out of the story that they eventually put the book down? Or maybe they pushed through to the end because they liked your character, but still tell their friends the story wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as it could’ve been because of all the errors.
Hiring an editor can prevent most errors. Yes, I say “most” because even editors aren’t perfect. However, a skilled editor, who takes their time and carefully reads line by line, will catch and correct most errors, giving you a nearly clean, as close to perfect as possible, book.
Finally, I want to also mention that not all editors are expensive. I’m not sure how many editors still charge reasonable prices, and I strongly caution that you are careful in hiring an editor just because their price seems good to you because often, a low price is a sign that the editor isn’t going to give you quality work.
I have heard that most editors are now charging $800 to thousands of dollars for editing jobs. I have heard many charge by the word or by the page.
I do not want this article to seem like a promotional piece for my editing work, but I do want you to know that I do not charge $800 and up for my editing work because, as a writer, I know most writers cannot afford to pay that kind of money. I also do not charge by the word or by the page.
That being said, I would like to tell you how to find a good quality editor for a reasonable price: be sure the editor you are considering offers you something free first. A good editor will usually offer to edit several pages or the first chapter, up to the first three chapters, for free. That way, they can see how much you have worked to improve your writing on your own, which helps to keep your editing costs down because the less errors the editor has to correct, the less money they will have to charge. Also, when they return those free pages or chapters to you with their corrections, you will see what you think of their work – do they seem to understand your writing and what you are trying to do with your story? Are the corrections they suggest really improving your story while not changing your story or your writing voice? If you answer yes to these questions and you see the value in their work and think their price is fair, then you can proceed in hiring that editor.
You should also receive a contract from the editor, understand what it says, and sign it before agreeing to hire them and sending them your entire manuscript. The contract should protect both you and the editor.
If you have questions about this article or my editing services, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
My next article will address Beta Readers, regular readers, and Book Reviews.