Whether you’re nearing completion of your memoir, or are still in the throes of actually writing it, consider searching for a copyeditor with whom you truly resonate. The importance of having your manuscript polished by a professional copyeditor (line editor, content editor) cannot be overestimated.
Working closely with a copyeditor who is right for you can make all the difference in the quality of your final manuscript. You could end up with a so-so memoir that has room for improvement because there are obvious missing pieces, or there is too much written about a particular topic, or there are misspellings, grammatical errors, inaccuracies, or questionable logic in the narrative. Or you could end up with a compelling piece of writing that will keep your readers enthralled from beginning to end.
When you finally discover a copyeditor with whom you resonate — in personality, values, outlook, and (most important) sense of humor — a happy day has arrived! A good copyeditor will help make your writing succinct, lively, and interesting by pointing out where synonyms might be substituted for overused words, where the text might be expanded, or tightened, where there are inconsistencies in verb tense, tone, or mood.
An empathic copyeditor will understand what you’re driving at, but will still ask you tough questions to get at the heart of your meaning. A great copyeditor will honor your vision, respect your passion, and keep your authentic voice intact.
One of the most helpful things a copyeditor can do for a memoir writer is to teach her how to ask the right questions as she writes. It’s so important to single out the most important things to include in your memoir, from the vast array of possibilities.
Which memories are most important — to you, and ultimately, to your readers? Which scenes and conversations do you really want to include? Which topics should be touched on, and which should be developed at length? Are there definite themes that run throughout your life? What are they, and how could they be traced? Is it important to separate the memoir into decades, to zero in on certain years (or months, or days), to divide the text into periods — when you lived in a particular city or country, or worked at a certain company, or were either single or married?
An experienced content editor has the knowledge to look at the big picture and help a memoir writer decide, figuratively, what colors will contribute to her creating a most beautiful painting of her life.
How do you find a copyeditor who’s in sync with your ideas? One way is through organizations such as BAIPA www.baipa.org – Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, which has monthly meetings and a website directory listing members’ specialties. There is also BAEF www.editorsforum.org — Bay Area Editors’ Forum, which categorizes editors by their genres and specialties. If you read others’ published memoirs, see if there is a copyeditor listed in the Acknowledgments. Ask around for referrals of excellent copyeditors.
As a book manuscript copyeditor, one of the most meaningful testimonials I’ve received is from first-time author Stacy Ebert. Last year I copyedited Stacy’s book It’s You — The Poignant Story of Two Cousins Reunited after a Shocking Diagnosis. She said that I “worked alongside her to keep her original vision, and committed the time and heart I was looking for in an editor.”
A good memoir writer/copyeditor relationship fairly sings, when it’s right!
To learn more about editing your memoir, join us at the NAMW April Member Teleseminar!
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Linda Jay Geldens is a true publishing professional. Decades ago, she started her career as an advertising copywriter in the Trade Book Department of Little, Brown Publishers in Boston, then worked at Houghton Mifflin Publishers. Nowadays, she is still a promotional copywriter — creating back cover copy for books, press releases, website text, blog posts, magazine profiles and features stories. But primarily she is a book manuscript copyeditor, specializing in the genres of memoirs, novels, spirituality, fantasy, business, and academic topics. Linda, who works with authors all over the U.S. and in other countries, is comfortable editing manuscripts written by authors whose second language is English. Her tagline represents her philosophy: Helping clients communicate their message with style. LindaJay@aol.com — www.LindaJayGeldens.com .
Dead on! I lucked out at the very begining, having sent my first draft memoir to Sheila Bender, of Writing it Real. She could have laughed out loud. She could have thrown up. She could have tossed it. She could have been, at best, perfunctory. What she did was encourage me to clean it up and showed me how. What she did was take it seriously. What she did was recommend to me how to organize it, enjoy the merits of re-wite, re-write, re-write, and hone it to a fine read. What she did was show me the value of my story, tell me who would be the likely audience, and how to work it to second edit. What she did was lead me while teaching me. I was such a newbie. I tackled my life story with no training, but with passion and insight. She was and is an incredible mentor, instructor, writer and now friend. She reads my heart and helps me write it. She is invaluable and has become an integral part of my writing life. I could not do this without her. I could trust her with the academic parts, with the emotionally hard parts, the funny parts, the killer parts. She is many more things than a copy editor. Her own writing is heart healing. Sheila Bender never lets me down. How did I ever find her? Only heaven knows.