Do you know how many books about editing there are on the market? TONS. So. Very. Many. Editing. Books. There’s never been as much a need for editing books as now, so the proliferation makes sense. Self-published authors want to learn how to edit their own work, especially in the early stages of their career, when shelling out $$$ for professional editors seems like a risk. And while I’m a professional editor who wants to help writing clients with my knowledge and experience, I get it. I understand the sense of risk.
So I’ve read through some of the top editing books on Amazon and will spend the next several weeks reviewing them. (You can read the first review here!) My goal? To help writers figure out which editing books work for them without having to do the research themselves! Sweet, huh?
This week’s book on editing is the thorough, often entertaining, and super informative Fix Your Damn Book James Osiris Baldwin gets how hesitant new writers are to shell out $$$ for professional editing when there’s no guarantee of pay back on that investment. I love this. Yes, I am an editor asking $$ for services rendered, but I’m also a human being living on planet earth who has to buy groceries, clothes for my kid, doctor bills, etc ad nauseam. Whether or not to hire an editor when you’re just starting out is a tough call to make. If you can do a lot of the work yourself, why not give it a go? Baldwin does make two caveats to the “do it your damn self” philosophy:
- Don’t do it yourself if you can afford to pay a professional editor
- Do it yourself at first, but invest any money made from book 1 into hiring a professional editor for book 2.
#1: Switch off the Writer and Switch On the EditorOne of the first things I introduce college writing students to is the difference between a writer-centered draft and a reader-centered draft. A writer-centered draft is just what it sounds like—a draft written for and understood solely by the writer. There’s usually gaps, vague sentences, and a myriad of other problems with the draft that the writer CAN’T SEE because they are simply too close to it. This why you have to enter into a new headspace when editing your own work. How to transform yourself from writer to reader is the topic of the first set of lessons in Baldwin’s book. He clearly identifies the problems writers have with this transformation and how they can better achieve it. This is a step EVERY writer planning to edit their own work needs to follow because it’s a problem EVERY writer will have. I’ve seen it with every student who’s entered my classroom or a writing center for the last 14 years. It’s why they sought me out as a tutor; it’s what I had to teach them as a teacher, and it’s what editors offer their clients—objective distance. You must achieve this perspective to edit your own work, and Baldwin’s book will help you do it.
#2: Making the Editing Process EasyOne of the key take-aways from my writing classes is that writing is a process. My students probably get tired of hearing it, but it’s one of the best ways I can empower them as writers who won’t need me to do good work after they leave my class. If they understand the writing process, they can apply it themselves in any situation. Baldwin not only adheres to the writing as a process mantra, he illuminates the place editing occupies within the process, breaking the editing stage down into clear steps writers can take to improve their manuscripts. If you feel overwhelmed by the process of editing, Fix Your Damn Book is the frank but sympathetic, thorough but never confusing, book for you.
What writing or editing books would you like to see me review in the coming weeks? Are there any titles that have been in your Amazon cart for weeks because you just can’t commit? Drop me the title and I’ll check it out and write a review, helping you make the decision!
Looking for a little empowerment yourself? Try my editing checklist for creative writers.
4 thoughts on “Books on Editing: Edit Your Damn Book by James Osiris Baldwin”
I think what you tell your students about writer’s hat vs. editor’s hat it gold. I will definitely keep that in mind.
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It’s SUCH an important part of writing, that change of hats. Glad it helps!
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