Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don't be touchy

As I've mentioned, I'm a book doctor. Writers who want to publish hire me to work on their manuscripts. Some just want to make sure all the commas are in the right places. Others want me to critique the entire manuscript to one degree or another. Some want me to go line by line and rewrite, correct, fact check, point out inconsistencies, and really vet their work. Other just want me to read the whole book to see if I think it's publishable in its current form.

If you're thinking of hiring a book doctor like me, please check your ego at the door. Book doctors (at least the reputable ones) are professionals who tell you the truth. They can't ethically take your money otherwise. I mentioned a few posts back that you can't ask your mother or your best friend for an honest assessment of your work because they don't want to hurt your feelings--and they may also truly believe that you've written the Great American Novel.

The book doctor will assess plot, pacing, characterization, dialogue. He or she will highlight point of view shifts, name changes, anachronisms, and other things you might not see because you're too close to the book. In nonfiction, the book doctor looks for holes in your arguments, inaccurate conclusions, misquotations, and other factual errors. In both cases, he or she will make suggestions regarding mechanics and style.

If you're working with a good, honest book doctor who calls these things to your attention, here's what to do:

  • Fix them.

Here's what not to do:

  • Pout and/or cry.
  • Say, "You just don't understand my work."
  • Get angry.
  • Become defensive and argue every minuscule point.
  • Withhold payment.

The person you've hired has done what you hired him or her to do. Would you cry if your plumber said you needed a new part for your sink? (Well, maybe if it's a really expensive part.) But you understand what I'm saying. This is a professional encounter for which you are paying. Would you want your professional partner just to blow sunshine up your skirt? And then let you be embarrassed when an agent or editor says what you've turned in is substandard? If you can't take honest criticism that will greatly improve your project, don't ask for it.

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