Before I continue, let me say that no book is perfect. There are always a few mistakes or perhaps just grammatical choices with which some people disagree. Without nitpicking, let’s agree that a “perfect” book is probably only 99% correct grammatically, and that this is acceptable.
Moving on from this point, the question arises as to whether the writer is responsible for carrying their creation to the finish line or not. Some believe that the writer is only responsible for what they consider the hard work, the creative work: telling the story. As a writer and as an editor, I completely disagree with this philosophy.
You’ve heard the adage that “everyone has a book in them.” They probably do, but this does not make them a writer. A writer is a professional — a person who exhibits not just talent, but also skills and competence in the art of writing, a person who strives to uphold the values of the profession. This means being willing to invest the energy to do the following:
- refine your words so that they say precisely what you desire
- polish your sentences by inserting the proper punctuation marks, which add clarity to your message
- check the tense of verbs so the reader doesn’t get confused
- make sure you haven’t contradicted yourself at some point in your content
- check to see if you can enrich your descriptions or your characters
- check to see if you have content that serves no real purpose; that is, it does not deepen the reader’s understanding of a character, strengthen the plot, or add to the reader’s experience in any way
The opinion has been voiced by some writers on the internet that they are writers, not editors. I am sorry, but this does not hold water, as they say. Editors are not there to take your writing from inadequate to acceptable. They are there to provide a second line of defense — to catch errors you may have missed, to provide some objective observations about coherency and style, and to make suggestions based on their observations.
Bottom Line: You, as the writer, are responsible for bringing your work up to a professional standard. You should be the first editor of your work. The state of your creation when handed over to a professional editor defines the value you place on it because it directly reflects the level of energy you have been willing to invest in it.
How can you establish skills and competency in writing?
Practice is, of course, a powerful influence on how quickly your skills develop; however, effective communication and research are two important elements which define your competency as a writer. To communicate effectively, you must be able to construct sentences by using grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structures correctly to convey the message you desire. Research is necessary to double-check what you think you know and to acquire new knowledge that can enrich your writing.
What does all this mean? It means that racing through a book and handing it off to an editor doesn’t make you a professional writer even if you have an editor willing to clean up your content and you make money from the process. A professional gains the specialized knowledge necessary to produce the high-quality product or service of their profession, and he/she consistently goes the distance.
Do you do the hard work of writing?