The Trouble With Advice

Books about writing won’t instantly help your craft.Andy Scheer May 26 2015 CU 72 dpi - adj

by Andy Scheer

The author insisted I critique her novel’s first chapter. I put nearly five hours into it: reading the pages, evaluating and commenting on aspects of her craft, then editing the entire chapter.

Because of the author’s insistence—and payment beyond my standard fee—I went into considerable detail.

Then I sent my assessment, satisfied I’d equipped her to progress in her craft in many specific ways.

So I never expected her response: What books on writing would I recommend to help her with the shortcomings I’d noted? Then came the kicker. She named multiple writing books she’d already read, titles by some of the most respected names in the business.

She named multiple writing books she’d already read,
titles by some of the most respected names in the business.

Those books are all fine, I said, but they were all written to a broad audience—to “writers.” If you want targeted help for your shortcomings, I said, I’ve just sent you twenty pages of tracked-changes editing, comments, recommendations, and examples directed specifically to your writing.

I encouraged her to study and understand my changes and comments.

Books about writing can be great, but only if you actually learn from them—and apply that to your writing.

About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.
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