newbie novice when it comes to writing novels. Not an ounce of shame taints this admission. If I send sub-par work into the world of readers because I don’t see the need for an editor, that’s when I’ll be ashamed.
In the past fifteen months, I have completed five first drafts. This amounts to about 350,000 words. I should be getting the hang of this writing thing after all that, shouldn’t I?
If I compare the first novel with the last, the improvement is easily identifiable. To me, anyway. A professional editor might see things differently. This is the reason you should hire one before you publish your “masterpiece.”
Lucky me, I won a 25,000 word critique from the amazing Jami Gold. As full-time writer who has not sold a single story, I appreciated this windfall more than a winning Lotto ticket. After experiencing Jami’s professional white glove treatment, I can recommend her services.
What I expected
- A thorough critique of the manuscript – written within the document so examples of the flaws were showcased
- Advice about my characters
- Analysis of my story structure: the first turning point at least
- Identification of recurring writing weaknesses
- Discussion of my overall writing voice and its effectiveness
- Confirmation that my story premise worked
- Discussion of the story problem and stakes
What she delivered
- A thorough critique of the manuscript. Besides lengthy notations within the manuscript, Jami provided four pages of explanation about the larger issues – good and bad – in the story
- Advice about my characters. She analyzed the character arc of both protagonists, discussed their shortfalls, remarked about how to improve them. In short, I saw my characters in a different spotlight after reading her comments.
- Analysis of my story structure. Jami identified the story problem but couldn’t pinpoint my character’s driving needs. Because of this, she didn’t see the first turning point the way I had when I wrote the story. Obviously, this is an issue – with my writing, not her editing.
- Identification of recurring writing weaknesses. Do I really need to list these? Suffice it to say that I’m still doing more telling than showing. My descriptions are over the top (quite surprising) and often unrealistically delivered. Too many participles. Not enough strong verbs. Even a grammar issue (when to use ‘the’ rather than ‘a.’)
- Discussion of my overall writing voice and its effectiveness. My third person POV didn’t go deep enough. My characters could be heard loud and clear in only a few sentences. If I want my readers to buy in, I need to delve more deeply into the psyche of these people who tell this story.
- Confirmation that my story premise worked. Right off the bat, Jami raved about how well I nailed this. My thanks to Larry Brooks and Kristen Lamb. I learned the importance of this from them. Looks like it penetrated my thick skull and became a part of my writing arsenal.
- Discussion of the story problem and stakes. Again, I managed to strike it rich. Of course, the lack in my characters rubs off on the overall story problem. Since their motivations are unclear, it holds readers at arm’s length.
My revised opinion
I have seen recommendations from authors who are traditionally published. They tell you not to spend the money on an editor for your manuscript before shopping it with agents and editors. I sighed hugely when I read this advice.
Now I’m going to refute it. Time to face facts: you won’t hook an agent or editor with a manuscript that doesn’t shine. No matter how great of a writer you are or how many degrees you possess, you aren’t the best critic for your written work.
I can slash in red with the best of them (ask my sons who have experienced my unforgiving editing for more than a decade). With a critical eye, I can spot plot holes, weak characterization, telling passages and other major flaws.
No matter how much I squint, I’m too close to my own story to recognize most of these shortcomings. I know what I meant. The characters are my intimate friends so I read between the lines. I see subtext that doesn’t exist. Caricatures are the invisible woman.
If you’ve shopped your story and no one is biting, take the plunge. Spend the money on a developmental edit to ensure your manuscript is sound of structure. Look at it as an investment in your career – like workshops, craft books and conferences.
In the end, your manuscript will shine. You will learn how to write a stronger story. Best of all, your name will appear on the cover of the book you’ve envisioned. And you’ll be proud to have people read your work.
Have I convinced you? Great.
One more thing. Do you have an extra $1000 I can borrow? Really, my friend. Help me get a much-needed developmental edit on my manuscript.
What are your thoughts on critique groups, beta readers and professional edits? Do they all serve the same purpose? Do you believe spending money on an editor is a waste if you’re a newbie seeking traditional publishing?