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Ask the Book Doctor

By Bobbie Christmas

Ask the Book Doctor: Deer Editer, Do I Need a Editer?

Note to readers: the following question is copied exactly as it came in, errors and all, to prove my point.

Q: I am a writer of childrens' stories (books and characters), but have never been published and honeslty have only sent my materials out to one publisher twice in 2005, and was rejected both times. Somehow i knew when I sent them out i would be rejected. Why? Because even I, something was missing or lacked something, I couldnt put my finger on. Was it too wordy? or redundant? Not simple enough? etc etc etc.

Thing is I know my ideas and concepts are wonderful (if i say so my self). My character creations are unique, fun and very creative. But when I put my book together to finally submit, even I sense something is lacking. I would bet you've heard this problem before?

What is your advise for someone like me who really is talened and has creative stories, good ideas, and creative characters and concepts, but just cant put it together to make the impression they should.

A: I'm going to be very honest, which I trust is what you would want.

Ask a barber if you need a haircut, and he will always say yes. Write a book doctor for advice (not "advise"), and she will read the three-paragraph note, spot more than a dozen mistakes, and tell you that you need an editor or book doctor. Because I am a book doctor, though, I don't want to sound that my sole purpose on this earth is to sell my services. I'm also here to help writers in any way I can.

A good editor would catch and repair those errors, but paying a book doctor/editor does not ensure success, unless the book concept is sound, the plot compelling, the characters solid, and that the characters change in some way as a result of the incidents in the book. Because of the many typographical and grammatical errors in your question, I sense you have a long way to go before you will produce a book worthy of publishing, so here are my suggestions to all writers who have not yet sold their work:

Carefully edit your work--even your e-mails--as much as you can. At the very least, run a Spell Check on every file before submitting it.

Find or form a critique circle that focuses strictly on books in your genre, in your case, children's (note the correct punctuation) books. Ask for my free report #101 on forming and maintaining a critique circle.

Take classes in creative writing, or at the very least, read books about writing children's books.

Go to the library and read every children's book that has won an award in the last five years. Learn what wins awards. Ask the librarian what children are reading, and read those books as well.

After you have studied your craft and studied the market, go back to your manuscripts and polish them further. Get feedback from the members of your critique circle, a friend, or a book doctor, and rewrite or edit them again with an eye toward all the elements of fiction (pace, point of view, characterization, etc., and if you don't know all the elements of fiction, you aren't ready to write it).

After rewriting to be sure the elements are strong, go back and edit for grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and be sure the manuscript is in correct format and devoid of typographical errors. When you have the manuscript at the highest level you can make it, that's when you turn to a book doctor to be sure you haven't missed anything.

After you get your manuscript back from the book doctor, revise it according to his or her recommendations and edit it one more time, to catch typographical errors that may have sneaked in while you revised.

When you are ready to submit the manuscript, you may have to find an agent instead of going directly to a publisher, because few publishers take submissions directly from authors anymore.

Whether you submit to agents or publishers, two submissions are like two drops of rain. They won't saturate enough to get results. Many famous books received dozens--sometimes more than 100--rejections before finding a publisher. Once you have polished your manuscripts to a high shine, submit them relentlessly to agents or publishers who handle children's books.

I hope you follow my suggestions, because writing is work; it's not play, but it is the most rewarding work you'll ever do.

—Bobbie Christmas is the author of the triple-award-winning textbook on creative writing, Write In Style, available in bookstores everywhere. Send your questions to Bobbie at



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