So I’m writing this novel…
…and I figured I could use some help.
I completed the first draft of my novel this summer. Two revisions later, and I figure it’s a good time to bring in a freelance editor. Some might argue a freelance editor is unnecessary. Write the best novel you can, then send out your queries. Okay. But I’m struggling with demons of insecurity – so I figure getting the eyes of a pro to take a look is not a bad thing. This pro is an uber-helpful kind of gal. Experienced, patient and just plain nice. She edits by the page, or you can go for the first one hundred pages or the full deal. I opted for the first two chapters for monetary reasons, though a further investment is still on the table. I emailed the chapters, along with my query so she could get an idea of the plot. Quick turnaround on the feedback–slightly over a week. And her edits and feedback were more than helpful. I learned a couple of things about those pesky grammar rules that cover topics such as when to use em dashes and that sort of thing. Minor details, perhaps – but clearly ones I needed to learn.
The overall experience: She provided thoughts on my characters, writing style, voice, dialoge, pacing and tension/foreshadowing. Per her comments, some areas were right on track, while others could use a tweak or two (tension, foreshadowing). Sure, it was nice not to read my work was destined for the shredder, but what really helped were her line edits. Suggestions on cutting out a word here or there, making things tighter and more POW-ish. (Yep, another made up word. You can do that on your own blog, you know. Give it a try, have some fun.)
The details: She used the comments feature to make note of any changes, while she offered thoughts and suggestions within the text (in red). And not just things that needed attention, but things that were good. Funny, powerful, nice, great – words I liked to see. When reviewing her comments, I kept an open mind and tried to look at things from a reader’s perspective. Then, I opened my working draft and went through each edit, making changes along the way.
There were a couple of sentences she either deleted or changed that I kept as is – which I felt was acceptable. Suggestions are just that. I may change my mind down the road – ahem, perhaps if/when an agent and another editor mirror the suggestion. But for now, the lines/words stayed.
One of my problem areas–and I knew it, but didn’t know how to fix it–using to be verbs. Was, is–that sort of thing. She pointed it out, made some changes–and now I am confident I can go through the rest of the manuscript and exorcise those weaklings. Fortunately, passive voice didn’t creep in too much so the changes are do-able.
Survey says: If you can swing it, give a freelance editor a try. Especially if the work in question is your first. You can read all the books on writing you want, work on your craft and send our your chapters to a writing group or to a few friends. But nothing quite compares to getting that set of experienced eyes looking at your work. And after what you’ve put into your manuscript, why not take that extra step before sending it (or part of it) out to an agent?