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A few decades ago, promising young writers could look to editors to shape unwieldy, confusing manuscripts into coherent works of art. But Maxwell Perkins is dead and so are most of the truly great editors at publishing houses.

"No one has time to edit any more," says Renni Browne, a former editor for William Morrow and Scribner's. "I dropped out of mainstream publishing in 1978 when I was told that I was paid too much money to spend my time actually editing Elia Kazan."Browne loved editing and books, so she started her own business, The Editorial Department, and became a book doctor. Browne and other book doctors have worked with such heavyweights as Joseph Wambaugh and James Clavell.

"Many writers are worried about the feeling that if you have to have an editor, you can't be very good. Obviously that's not true."

Browne is the author of "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers."