Updated: Jan 30, 2022
By Bob Deakin
“There are no mistakes in life, only lessons,” is a quote from motivational speaker, Robin Sharma.
That's deep, and not so sure he's the only one who ever said that, but finding an editor or proofreader to cleanse my manuscript of all the lessons I made while writing has proven to be a challenge.
For years as a reporter and business writer, I’ve always had editors, or at least someone checking my work before it hit their airwaves. Working for myself hasn’t been much different as I am my own worst critic regarding spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Times have changed though, and readers aren’t as demanding of proper form as they used to be.
I get it, and I’ve gotten used to ignoring bad form, whether it’s a high schooler trying to impress their friends or the president of the United States. For a book, however, it’s got to be right, even if your targeted audience can't read a license plate.
Unless you, as an author, know a qualified editor or proofreader, you’ve got to find one, and that means searching online with a reputable network of authors such as Reedsy or Goodreads. It’s much like finding a date online except they let you know they’re a creep before you meet them in person.
Most of the people I corresponded with seem qualified and follow a well-organized plan to make sure they’re a good fit for the writer without wasting each other’s time. My problem is humor, which many editors stay away from, and short stories, which also scare them off. Many of my stories run 500 to 1,000 words, which can be categorized as “flash fiction” among other terms. It doesn’t leave an editor with much room to work.
“I can’t edit this,” one of them wrote to me. “I’m not sure I get the humor in the right places and I’m afraid I’ll throw off the flow.”
I understood and appreciated her honesty. I received similar comments from others but most, I think, just didn’t respond to my posted requests. I tried other venues to find proofreaders, such as Facebook groups, but quickly realized it was a waste of time. Two potential readers - after reading sample chapters - responded that they didn’t recognize any of the cultural references I mentioned in the stories. They were speaking of Alfred Hitchcock, The Doobie Brothers and 9/11.
It was time to look elsewhere.
I never did find the editor or proofreader I wanted but with a combination of writer friends, technology and endless self-edits, I finished the manuscript.
And still found errors.
I’m working on the next book so I’m still looking, even if I have to settle for a psycho. Maybe I’ll make the stories longer and categorize it as a thriller. On second thought, Robin Sharma’s a best-selling author, maybe I’ll call him?