Writing a book is largely a solitary endeavor, but getting it ready for publication is not. You can read it yourself, over and over again as many times as you like. But if you’re writing a book for publication, eventually you need to get an outside perspective on your manuscript. And if you're a beginner, you might need some serious book writing help.
If you're just getting started, you may need help with your writing skills or the material itself. And when you get closer to the end of the writing process, you’ll need a second set of eyes or two to determine whether or not your goals for the manuscript were accomplished in the manuscript. After all, the goal of writing a book is to communicate with readers. If no one has read your book, you won’t know how your message will be perceived.
However, finding the right kind of help at the right time is also important. I was recently talking to a woman who had just started writing her book—she hadn’t even completed a first draft. And she was frustrated because she'd given her friend the first three chapters to read and offer feedback, and weeks later her friend still hadn't read them. Sure, that’s frustrating, but so is reading someone’s first drafts. These pages probably weren’t ready for an outside reader’s critique.
And giving pages to non-writer friends and family to critique is not always a good idea, especially not so early in the book writing process. First, it's difficult for people who love us to give us honest feedback. I know that when I give my mom pages to read, no matter how bad they are, she's going to tell me she loves them. And second, reading and offering constructive feedback takes work. Those are developed skills. If the enlisted reader isn't an experienced writer or editor, they probably won't know where to start or what to say.
So what can you do to get constructive feedback on your work? Luckily, lots of different resources are available, and some are free. Consider the following places where you can get book writing help.
When You’re Still Writing
When you’re still writing—which means working on draft one, two, and maybe even three—you might want support and guidance as you write. If you want to get professional, objective suggestions on how to improve your writing, strengthen your manuscript, and get your book done, hiring a developmental editor or writing coach is the best way. First, it requires you to make an investment, which means you’re more likely to stick to it. And second, it means someone expects pages from you—in other words, the deadline looms. This is a great way to get your book written fast.
But, if your budget is tight, you have other options. You could partner with a writer-friend. As long as you're willing to read and critique someone else's work, you can look for a writing buddy to exchange pages with. This will be most beneficial to you, obviously, if your buddy is as experienced or a little more advanced than you. You'll want to make sure the arrangement is mutually beneficial.
Or you can participate in a writing workshop or class. Aside from hiring someone to work one-on-one with you, taking a class is the best thing you can do for your writing, particularly if you're a new writer. Being in a class will help you learn basic writing skills, expose you to other writers, and help you improve your own work. Look for a class that includes feedback from the instructor on your writing.
After You’ve Finished a Draft or Two
When you’ve done everything you can to improve your manuscript on your own, then it’s time to hire a professional editor. At this point, you may need some content editing. An editor can provide feedback on where your material needs trimmed, expanded, or reworked to make your book as cohesive and successful as possible.
Every manuscript needs at least a thorough copyedit. Copyediting means the editor looks at each sentence to eliminate style, grammar, and punctuation inconsistencies and errors. Although hiring an editor to look at your manuscript cost money, the investment will be well worth it in the end.
Ready for a Test Audience
When your book is almost finished, beta readers, or test readers, can read your book and offer their impressions of what you’ve done. Using friends and family members as a test audience is a great way to get book writing help. However, be careful when asking loved ones for book writing help, because they love you they might not be objective enough to really help you. Make sure that your friends and family can be tough on the book if they need to be. And make sure they’re well read. Let them know that you really want their objective opinions, and ask specific questions about aspects of your manuscript that you’re not sure about.
Another resource that you can use to get feedback on your book is your colleagues or fellow authors. If your colleagues know your genre or area of business, they can be a great help when it comes to making sure your manuscript meets expectations. Your colleagues also may have written books themselves, so they can probably give some good advice. They might even be willing to help you get the word out about the book when it’s published.
The Final Touches
After your book has been edited and finalized, just before you call it finished, you need someone to proofread it. This means either hiring someone to proof it, enlisting a few grammar-militant friends, or a combination of the two to look for errors. This is when spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and all the other small details—for both the text and the formatting—are checked. Here your Oxford commas are inserted, and your chapter numbers are verified.
If you are self-publishing, this is an essential step. Make sure everyone who contributes to the proofreading process is using the The Chicago Manual of Style and following the same style sheet, which explains the nuances for the particular manuscript. For example, on first mention, you might italicize a term you want your reader to remember, and then leave it in regular font for the rest of the book. This information would be recorded on a style sheet so everyone knows that’s how it’s supposed to be and errors are easy to spot.
Getting the Book Writing Help You Need
Getting book writing help in the early stages can help improve your writing skills and ensure you get your book written. Editors, brought in at the right time, can help you develop your manuscript to its fullest potential. Although you may think you know what kind of work your manuscript needs, always be open to what the professional has to say. When your book is almost done, objective readers can tell you what's working and what isn't. And don’t forget to proofread your work!
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