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Ask the editor 9: Why do I need a report?

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Why do I need a report?

Writing is, in some respects, an isolated and isolating occupation; but it doesn't have to be. Feedback, particularly if it comes from an informed, professional reader, is invaluable. However confident you are in your own abilities, a fresh pair of eyes can only help, spotting characteristics and quirks of your writing that you perhaps haven't noticed before, and pointing out ways in which your work can be even better.

I think a good report is an advantage to every writer, but there are two groups of authors for whom they are especially useful. The first group comprises confident, competent writers; folk who feel they are in control of the process but would benefit from an objective view of their work. The second group consists of writers from the other end of the confidence scale; people who are not sure if they are heading in the right direction and need an outside view to help them along the writing journey.

Why these two groups? The first because, even if you are confident and competent, you will occasionally slip up; and confidence, curiously, can be a barrier to noticing the weaknesses in your work. An external perspective is a way around this internal roadblock and, so long as you are open to advice, may lead to real improvements.

The second because a good report can instil confidence and encourage a writer to persevere when they are feeling stymied by the process. An external view, even if it includes criticism, offers a writer options and alternatives when they feel stuck or confused; they can use these comments to reorient themselves and push on towards completion.

Here at WritersServices, we offer three types of report: the Reader's Report, the Editor's Report, and the Editor's Report Plus. Let's look at each in turn.

Reader's Report

The ReaderNew website launched by magazine for readers which provides readers' reviews, mostly of classics, and reading rooms for online discussions. www.thereader.co.uk's Report is what one might term a professional beta read. This report is relatively short and broad in scope but offers a comprehensive overview. An editor will read the book through and offer comment on: the story line and plot; consistency of style and tone; plausibility and realism, if it's relevant; the quality of dialogue, description and other aspects of the book's style; how accessible the story is for the reader; if the style resembles another (perhaps better known) author; in sum, you will receive a thorough analysis of the reading experience provided by your book.

For some writers, this is exactly what they need. They have the ability and the confidence to respond to the feedback and make improvements where necessary. They can shift the mood, brighten the dialogue, or tighten up the style; and, more importantly, they can choose to accept or reject the report's findings based on their own experience and skills.

For less experienced writers, the Reader's Report can bolster confidence, reassure them that they are going in the right direction, or point them in the right direction if they are a little off track. For these writers, the learning that a good report provides can really push them on to new levels.

Editor's Report

The Editor's Report includes the beta read from the reader's report but it goes further; it drills down into the nuts and bolts of the writing process. This adds a layer of pragmatism to the report, as much of what it covers has less to do with the imaginative, creative aspect of storytelling and everything to do with the practicalities of producing good quality writing.The report will point out problems with grammar, punctuation and sentence structure; it will highlight lapses in continuity and plausibility; it will show up characteristic phrases and expressions that, used too often, become intrusive as well as repetitive; it will, in a pedantic nutshell, flag up all the technical weaknesses and issues in the book so the author knows what needs to be done to bring it to a professional finish.

From this, you can see that an Editor's Report will be useful to different writers in different ways. If you are confident in your abilities, you can use the report as a template to help you fix problems and make improvements. If you are less confident, the report may encourage you to learn more about the trade of writing (as opposed to the art, if you like); it may also persuade you that a professional edit can add a lot of value to your project.

Editor's Report Plus

We recommend the Editor's Report Plus for books that, on assessment, display a range of problems. By that, I don't mean we recommend the process for bad books; rather, it's most useful where a writer clearly has the imagination to create a good story but may lack the practical writing skills to turn it into a professional, engaging product that will garner interest from readers and publishers alike.

The report drills right down to the level of sentence and phrase, pointing out issues and problems, and offering examples of potential improvements both on the wider scale (plot, plausibility, character) and on the detailed level (sentence structure, grammar, format). A thorough report will cover all aspects of the book and its issues, and offer concrete solutions to the problems it highlights.

So if you are a confident writer looking for some practical feedback, a new writer needing some pointers towards improving your work, or you've got a little lost and need help to get back on track, there is a report to suit you. Whether or not you plan to have your work professionally edited (and it's a brave writer who doesn't) the report will give you options to consider. In addition, all of our reports give an indication of how marketable the book is, and what is required to make it more so.

And perhaps most importantly, a report will show you that you are not alone in your endeavour; there are people out there who can help and, with that help, you can produce an even better book.

You can see our wide range of editorial services here

If you have any queries or suggestions for our new series, Ask the Editor, please email us.

When he isn't editing, Noel Rooney writes a regular column for Fortean Times magazine, and wilfully obscure poetry. He lives in South London with his family and rather too many animals.

Ask the Editor 1: What genre is my book?

Ask the Editor 2: the submission letter

Ask the Editor 3: Writing a synopsis

Ask the Editor 4: Why do I need you?

Ask the Editor 5: Non-fiction submissions

Ask the Editor 6: Writing non-fiction

Ask the Editor 7: Researching for a book

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