Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by indy5live, May 16, 2012.
It obvious, but it bears repeating: they can only work with what they have, if your story is no good, it's not gonna come back as a masterpiece.
Most editors will fix grammar and punctuation errors, format it in the proper manner for submission. They may remove sections, or reduce sections which are unnecessary or don't work, they might re-arrange sections to enable better flow.
What I very much doubt they'll do (without wanting authorship) is to create new sections to fill in gaps you've left.
Personally, I'd go with the Beta reader first, and give them a detailed questionnaire to fill out asking things like: "Were you able to identify with the protag? Did the development of the main plot appear logical? Which of the supporting characters did you enjoy the most? Was the dialogue believable? In dialogue, did each voice match its character? What was your favourite part of the story? What was you least favourite part of the story? Did you ever feel bored, if so, when? Did you feel that the world and actions of the novel were well described?" Etcetera.
Then you can go through and fix the problems before the polishing... which is basically what an editor is for... polishing. You repair the house before you give it a new coat of paint.
A mistake a lot of people make when revising is to think that they need to add more backstory, make descriptions longer and explain their character's motivations more overtly. I would say the opposite is the better course. Backstory is unnecessary unless it gives the protag. the explicit knowledge or skill needed to resolve an obstacle in the plot. If your MC is a bit of a dick with women and finds it hard to commit, we do not need to know about how his mother used to put live ferrets in his Christmas stockings before dancing around in lingerie. We'll just take your word for it that he has flaws.
Don't waste your money on an editor. There is no guarantee an editor will make it publishable, and an editor is quite expensive.
If you are going to be a writer, you have to be a competent editor in your own right.
I am very thankful that I am my own target reader and so are my friends, so I just get them to read my material and critque it. I make sure that they tell me at least five things to change.
It's true that there's no guarantee that an editor could make your work publishable. But I say it's worth the investment. The truth is, I'm not surrounded by writer friends or even people who like to read, and those who enjoy reading don't necessarily like fantasy, the genre I'm writing, and of those who do, they don't have time. Basically, I struggled so hard to find any kind of feedback (beyond the usual "it was very good!" or "it was interesting!") that I decided I'd rather spend the money. I needed feedback, I needed to learn, and hiring an editor is almost like attending a creative writing class - what's the real difference in the end? (not attended a creative writing class before, would love to though - but either way, it's about working on your creative writing in the end)
And my editor will push my MS out to his agent friends, using his own reputation to do so. So my hope is that this editor actually believes my writing is publishable already, and that the recommendation could be my ticket in. None of his editing work compares to the value of him asking his agent friends to read it and take it on. I'd go from sinking to the bottom of a sky-high pile to potentially having an agent at least glance at the first few pages (to do my editor a friendly favour). I don't care why they'd look at my MS - I care only that I now have a higher chance that they might.
I agree. I think if you can afford to do it, get an editor before you send out queries. Editors generally cost between 5 and 7 dollars a page, at least from what I've found.
Spend your money on a writing tutor instead. It;'s a much better investment. Having someone make the changes for you will teach you very little, especially if you don't understand why a change was made.
Also, an editor's changes are often personal preference. Just because the editor prefers it one way does not mean it is an improvement. Not all editors are any better than you as a writer; the fact that they will take your money to edit your manuscript does not constitute credentials.
Don't throw away your money.
I could be wrong but don't publication houses want to see a 'letter from the editor' or that the author at least had someone professional go over their work before they sent it to them?
cog is right on all points...
i edit work for paying clients and i tutor mentees for free... and am willing to do both for clients, if they can afford the higher fee...
editing alone isn't cheap, even at the heavily discounted rates i can charge, since i don't have to do it for a living... throw in tutoring, which means i have to take time to explain a lot of the editing changes/corrections, and it's beyond most beginning writers' budgets...
and, sad to say, with even the best technical editing job possible [which i provide], most of what i fix up for folks is still not marketable quality... to get it there, i'd have to do complete rewrites, which would still not guarantee the works would ever be published/produced, since the final requisite to reach that goal is sheer, blind luck!... as in getting the ms/script to just the right person at just the right time...
Nope, not that I've ever heard. The writer should be "someone professional", and if their writing is substandard, the first pages of the manuscript will speak for themselves.
My editor is acting like a tutor actually - as I'm still on my first draft, he's not actively making changes right now. He's just asking me all the questions that need to be asked, pointing out problems with flow and pace and logic (say, where there's a scene when the reader doesn't quite know where the character is when they should - it's not a "my character is disorientated scene", when he feels something should've developed more by such and such a point), pointing out things he liked, etc. He's not doing the writing for me - he's asking me questions, and I'm doing the writing. He's also not someone I found from an agency who simply looks over random MS for a fee - he's a professional who's actually edited and pushed out published books. Fingers crossed anyway!
In fact, I never expected an editor to be making active changes - surely they should be telling the writer what they think is best, and then it's up to the writer to decide whether to take it on, and if yes, then how best to execute it? Otherwise the editor is just rewriting it for you? (or restructuring at least) I'm still at the beginning stages of my MS so not got this far to know the exact process yet.
I do agree though, that just because they're editors don't make them better writers.
But if nothing else, hearing praise from an editor and also, having one to answer to, helps you keep going. Several times I wanted to stop and take a very long break (in other words, probably not touch my MS again til 10 years later) and I didn't because I'd paid good money for this guy to look at my work.
I think there're certain advantages. But don't expect miracles - you should get an editor for the story-building aspects, not for the writing aspects IMO. Writing needs time to mature, like cheese, and an editor could help it along a bit but not by much. You gotta be pretty much there before you go for one, otherwise it'd be a waste of money as Cog says.
if you're ready to be published, you won't need to pay an editor to 'fix up' your work so it'll be marketable... and if you need one to do that, then you what you really need to do is improve your writing skills, till you don't...
no agent or publisher will want to sign an author who needed to have someone improve their writing, unless s/he's a famous person who couldn't write well enough and had to use a ghostwriter or editor to turn out a marketable memoir, or whatever... they only want writers who can turn out polished mss on their own...
In my opinion, creativity and editing are two separate brain activities, left and right. I am definitely a creative person and can write never ending plots and develop them into interesting stories...but the technical part isn't a strong suit of mine and the more I try to focus on the technical the more I forget how to be creative. So, in my case, if I can mesh with an editor that sleeps writing techniques and grammar/spelling and all that other goodness they offer, then we would make a pretty deadly couple. 1.5 cents a word adds up quick but if it translates to $35,000 on the first run of my published novel then it was well worth it, not to mention I can focus more time on writing and less on getting the words 100% write.
Proofreading is an activity you will perform a great deal. It requires you to shift into editor mode. The best way to learn it is to practice it at every turn.
Don't get into the habit of expecting someone else to do that for you.
I thought getting the words, and the details, 100% 'right' is what it meant to be a writer.
Mamma - that's why I said, only if you're "almost" there - didn't say when you're already there because if you were, like you said, you wouldn't need an editor.
But I don't agree - for me, an editor gives me the pointers on what to focus on, direction, what needs polishing. To me, an editor simply trains me. I do not agree that no publisher would be interested in writers that needed help - aren't every last member on this forum also looking for help, for feedback, for critique? And all these things help us improve. So because we needed a training period, for people to give us advice and help us, does that make us bad writers? No. People need time. Do students not need teachers? And were teachers not, once upon a time, also students themselves? It is not right to say, "Because you needed a teacher, therefore clearly you have no right to ever become one yourself!"
Of course you could still argue if you're talented enough, you'll eventually spot all the things an editor could offer you anyway. Sure, I agree, but sometimes having an editor beside you help you get there faster. Why not learn from someone else's wisdom instead of making the mistakes yourself, if it is possible to learn that way? Isn't the point of you mentoring people the same - helping them? Should we say now all your mentees will never get published because once they had help from you? So you do it for free - and that is noble - but that does not discredit those who charge for the service if they provide the same service, nor the writers who pay these people, just as it does not disqualify your mentees for coming to you.
Although let me clarify one thing - I do not believe in paying an editor to REWRITE for you. No no no. If you're paying an editor to rewrite it for you, then I agree with Mamma entirely! An editor is like an advisor - but you should always do the work yourself, and it is certainly not the editor's fault if your own writing simply isn't good enough. But no one should be doing rewrites for you, which is the author's sole responsibility.
Don't bother. Submit, revise, submit, until you either get accepted, or until you receive the detailed rejection that tells you the few things you still need to work on to reach minimum publishable quality. And keep learning from there.
Because with or without an editor, you will still have to pass that point the hard way. Because the easy way just doesn't work.
If you want an editor in order to get that tutoring, skip the editor and go straight to a writing tutor. You'll pay less for a service that is giving you what you really need.
And don't kid yourself. EVERY writer is self taught. A good tutor can guide you along a shorter path, but it will always be you who puts in all the real work.
I worked with the husband of a mystery author. She used an editor after she was a successful writer with a multi-book contract. The role of the editor was to apply the final touches of a novel to get it in under deadline, while shge began work on the next one.
And she severed the relationship after a few years, because the editor didn't quite mesh with her established style. She took a couple more years to look into other editors until she found one who only made the changes she would have; someone who understood her style and respected it, and who only made the necessary changes.
Hiring an editor is not for a new writer still developing his or her style. It's for the career writer for whom it is a worthwhile business expense.
i've been dealing with writers who frequent writing sites like this one all day, every single day of the year, for years... and the sad, but true fact is, that with only the rarest few exceptions, their work needs not mere editing, but full-blown rewrites, to have any chance of being read past the first page [or paragraph!], by agents/editors/publishers...
Well, some interesting points here.
I had an editor look at one of my works a few years ago. Perhaps I was lucky, but I learned a lot of things from her and her advice. So it happens. She gave me confidence, guidance and food for thought. What I did thereafter was up to me.
I knuckled down and worked hard to get better. Simple as that.
I hit a wall. I couldn't think of a single thing to change in my novel. I needed the assistants of a seasoned professional that is not only a recommended editor but a writer as well. So I hired an editor! Once I get back the edited version of my story I'll come back and post if it is worth my hard earned cash. I know it is probably against the rules to promote an editor, so I'll keep his name confidential, but for other people that may be hesitant to hire an editor because you're not completely sure what you'll be getting in return and if it'll be worth your money, I'll post an educational update here.
Edit: We'll also have to wait and see if I actually can get publish!
having the best editor in the world still is no guarantee your work will be published... and if it never gets there, it won't necessarily be the fault of your editor, who after all, can only work with the material you provided and that may still not be marketable, even if well-written... going further, even if it's the most marketable book possible, it still may never make it due to that totally uncontrollable but requisite factor, 'luck'!
I'll say the best way to polish your work, of if you are not confident in having your work submitted for publication, is to have a writing partner who can give you honest feedback with your work. I done this and it was a big help. He tells me where I am on my level of writing. I don't often write with partners, but it will make a good impact on you and the partner to have fresh ideas with four pair of eyes instead of two.
I think editors are a must for a not-so-young non-native English speaker like me. I am 36 and have a very busy work schedule, it is hard for me to perfect my grammar and word usages now
Then how can you expect to become a writer? Sorry, but the ability to write in the language you wish to publish in is a prerequisite to being a writer.
Good point. May be I should have phrased it better (I should have used an editor before posting ).
Don't get me wrong, I have the ability to write in English proven by the fact that I have published two short stories in the US already, but when I take up a larger project like a novel I would definitely need a second opinion and my first choice will be a professional editor.
Separate names with a comma.