You don't need writing training to be a writer. You just need to
be able to write up something that other people can read.
Nor do you need to pass a licensing exam to be a writer, any more
than you do to call yourself a "goldsmith." This assumes, of course,
that you're a already good writer by virtue of a solid high school
education, a lifelong passion for reading, and/or years of practice.
However, you will still need an editor. No matter how talented a
writer you are, a good editor makes you better. A good editor finds
the holes that you don't see, because YOU know what you meant. An
editor will be able to spot AND fix the places that will make other
people go "Huh????" An editor will know about style and consistency,
and help you apply those concepts to your work. Not to mention fixing
the grammatical errors we all make sometimes. (Computerized
spell-checkers and grammar checkers help, but they won't catch
You don't need a special training course to be an editor, either.
But having experience as an editor makes a huge difference in the
results. I've trained enough new editors to know firsthand what a
difference experience makes. It's just like making jewelry. I can
make jewelry, thanks to a couple beginner classes. I cannot make GOOD
jewelry! (Heck, I can't even make pretty good jewelry. When it
comes to both writing and editing, experience counts, just as it does
at the jewelers' bench.
Proofreading is also something you may want to farm out to a pro.
Proofreading ISN'T the same thing as reading it over, or editing it,
for that matter. The basic human tendency is to see what you expect
to see, and it takes skill and experience to spot those little errors
that everyone else has missed. (BTW, they'll be obvious to everyone
EXCEPT the writer and the editors. I don't know why that is, but it
does seem to work that way, and has led to no end of egg-on-face
corrections!) To give you an idea, one publication I worked for once
asked the editorial department to proof a directory the business
department had put together. After the editorial department went, "in
what, our spare time?" they hired a secretarial/general office temp
from a temp agency to do the job. The temp was given a glossary of
mineral terms and told to proof the list (which was 12 or 13 pages
When the list made it back to editorial in the final proof stage, we
were appalled. The temp had, indeed, checked and corrected all the
mineralological terms. She had also missed dozens of simple
misspellings -- rubys instead of rubies, cabashon instead of
cabochon, etc. She had paid careful attention to the mineralological
names because she wasn't familiar with them, but had simply read
right past words that were familiar, seeing what she expected to see,
and missed the errors.
Even experienced proofreaders miss things -- Ms. Magazine is famous
for once misspelling "feminism" on their cover, and most magazine
editors have similar tales of woe. But having a good proofreader on
your side does cut down on the embarassing moments!
Oh, and just one word of advice with photos -- be aware that what
looks good on your computer screen may look terrible in print.
Computer screens are all low resolution, projecting about 72 ppi.
Print can offer vastly better resolutions, and anything less than 300
ppi will look pixelated and fuzzy. Fuzzy pictures are tough to see
details in, and will compromise the reason for putting the photos
there in the first place. Also, computer monitors are set up to
display pictures in RBG (red blue green), while most printers print
in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). Printing a RBG picture
without converting it to CMYK can result in the colors being not
quite right in the printed copy.
Good luck with your book!
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