What Does a Book Doctor Do? Author Don McQuinn’s Tips

What Does a Book Doctor Do? Author Don McQuinn's TipsA book doctor heals your words, sentences, chapters, and books – naturally! These writing and editing tips are from Don McQuinn, at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

“As a writer, editing yourself takes cold-blooded analysis,” says McQuinn. He doesn’t show his writing to anyone until it’s completely ready to go. Only his wife sees it before it’s edited and polished.

McQuinn also says “Good books are rewritten.”

If you’re a good writer but bad editor, read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King.

And here are a few tips from this book doctor, ranging from editing yourself to “there’s no such thing as writer’s block” (favorite tip!).

A Book Doctor’s Writing and Editing Tips

Start with words on paper. Your words on paper are your raw material – like a potter who sits down with a great glob of mud. You can create an amazing sculpture, but first you need the mud.

Read the genre you love. Learn from writers who know what they’re doing. Don’t just read — study how those writers transition from one scene to another, one chapter to another. Figure out what seamless writing is all about.

Remember that the writing business is flexible. Once you’re an established writer, it’s a flexible business – but first you have to get your book written, says McQuinn. If you’re struggling with writing motivation, focus on finding the right motivation to achieve your writing goals.

Learn how to edit yourself — self-editing. Voice will come once you get your words down. If you start by worrying how you write so you’re presenting something unique, you’re putting the cart before the horse. “The muse comes when it’s ready,” says McQuinn.

Be objective — let go of your words. When you’re editing your writing, be prepared to cut everything that doesn’t work. Be objective. “You write bad stuff,” says McQuinn. “Everyone does.” He encourages writers to look at the famous published writers, and know that it started out as bad writing.

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Find the telling details. When you rewrite, look for ways to tell the most with the least. In fiction, everything must relate back to your protagonist.

Expect your editor to find “mistakes.” No matter how much you edit your work, an editor will spot an error in the first paragraph, or even sentence. This is part of the writing process, not an indication of your writing ability.

Forget about writer’s block. “If you’re a professional writer, there’s no such thing as writer’s block,” says McQuinn. “There’s starvation and no money to pay the bills. Professional writers can’t afford to have writer’s block.”

Write hard, edit hard, sell hard. “I never met anyone who works as hard as Dean Koontz,” says this book doctor. Koontz has written dozens of novels in 38 languages. But he works hard.

Male writers usually have supportive wives who help them – and who are often fabulous editors – but wives tend to have less supportive, sometimes even destructive husbands,” says McQuinn.

Okay — I know this is NOT true for me – my hubby is the most supportive, encouraging man I know!

If you struggle to write, read How to Make Writing Easy and Increase Your Energy to Write.

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Have you ever hired a book doctor, and was it helpful? Comments welcome below.

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