If you’ve been following my posts, you know I’m in the middle of trying to get published for the first time. You also know that I entered the fiction profession by jumping in with both feet and then learning to swim.
I have a finished manuscript, and I’m pitching to publishing companies. The responses have been good. I have the ability to tell a good story in a short enough soundbite to get people interested in seeing more.
So when someone I trust said, “Hire an editor,” I got confused. Here’s what confused me:
1. Can I afford it?
2. How do I find a good one?
3. What are they going to do for me?
4. Isn’t that why I’m looking for a publishing company?
Plus, I’ll admit to just a small amount of ego. My friends like my writing. I’m an excellent speller. I have a writing degree, for Pete’s sake. Okay, maybe not so small of an ego.
Here’s what I learned.
How to find a good editor? Ask writers you know and trust for a recommendation. Then do your research. Find the editor’s website and look for more than prices. Read the site and look at the style of it. Because if they misspell something on their site, chances are . . ..
I asked for a recommendation and got an email address. I emailed and introduced myself and asked the questions that bothered me. What did she charge and what did she need from me? By the way, she is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Can you afford it? It’s not as expensive as you might think, and prices vary depending on the service you select. In full disclosure, I didn’t send the whole manuscript. I paid for a content edit on the first sixty pages.
She was clear about what she charged, and I got a contract outlining all the terms of our agreement. While I was uncomfortable turning loose of my “baby,” I was comfortable hiring her.
Isn’t that why I’m looking for a publishing company? In my (honestly limited) opinion, the editor at the publishing company works to make sure your book meets the standards of the company and the format of the brand. They want to make sure you can capture and hold their readers’ attention. They don’t have time to take you under their wing and say, “You know, you use too many commas.” They want your submission as perfect as you can get it.
The editor you hire wants your best draft.
What do I get for my money? My editor’s site outlined exactly what I would pay for based on the service I requested. I could choose based on what issues concerned me. A content edit included:
- Sentence structure—suggestions made on how to improve
- Shifts in tone, tense, person and number—notation
- Subject-verb agreement—notation
- Modifier placement–notation
- adding, deleting or moving small portions of text,
- making corrections of subject-verb agreement,
- making corrections to shifts in verb tense, point of view, tone, person
- fixing dangling or misplaced modifiers,
- adding sample descriptive words.
She sent me a redlined copy of my pages so I could see her changes and comments. She also answered follow-up questions. She was amazingly thorough and constructive — even encouraging.
Was it worth it? YES.
I could list mechanical issues (unnecessary words and phrases and the dreaded commas), but the biggest lesson was point of view.
When I write, the story almost always plays out in my imagination. It’s like a party in my head, and I record everything at the party.
Have you ever been in a group where everyone is talking at the same time? You’re not sure who to listen to or what’s important. You meet a lot of people, but you don’t get to know any of them. You’re also left to make a lot of assumptions about what is going on behind the scenes, what people are thinking, because everything is quick and superficial.
In short, I “head hop” – and sometimes I do it a lot. In my faithful recording of everyone, I was losing what was important.
Now I’m taking my manuscript apart, scene by scene, limiting it to one person’s thoughts, emotions, and conversations, and recording only those. Changing that one thing has deepened my characters and their relationships with each other. I’m a better writer – I’m a better storyteller – because I hired an editor.
Here’s my advice to you: Find an editor trusted by people you trust, do your research, hire them, and listen to what they say. It was the best money I’ve ever spent.
Now, back to editing! I hope everyone has a wonderful month.