Thursday, 30 March 2017

How to Work with Your Editor

I see it all the time. A potential client contacts me. "I've written a book! I'm so excited! How much would you charge to edit it?" After a little investigation I learn that she hasn't written a book; she's written the first draft of a book--or maybe just extensive notes. And now she wants me to turn it into a masterpiece that will make her rich and famous.

Unfortunately, that's not how editing works. And it's not how writing works. For an indie-published novelist, the reality is more like this:

Before you even start the actual writing, you do all the groundwork, which will include:
  • Coming up with the premise
  • Creating and developing characters
  • Working out a plot
And possibly:
  • Doing research
  • Writing backstories
  • Creating an outline
  • Writing notes

Now you're finally ready to start writing. You write the first draft.
You read your first draft and use the benefit of hindsight to create a much better second draft. You repeat this process until you have a story you're proud of, and which you don't think you can improve any more on your own.
Now you can hire an editor if you'd like. The kind you're looking for at this point is a content editor. Your editor will point out plot holes and confusing passages and make suggestions to improve character development, tighten suspense and so forth. When you get your marked-up manuscript back from your editor, it's time for another rewrite!

(If you're tight on money, you may want to consider using beta readers instead. Beta readers are book lovers who will read your fledgling book just for the chance to get in on the ground floor and be part of the process. Show them lots of love. Bake them cookies or something, because they're doing you a huge favor. Then weigh their advice and rewrite accordingly. If you do choose the beta reader option, you'll need to be doubly sure that your plot is well constructed. Watch here for a post on how to plot a novel.)

Once you and your content editor are satisfied that your manuscript is in its final draft, check it over once more for typos, format it the way it will appear as a published book (if you haven't already) and send it off to your line editor. When you get it back, you'll know what to do! Don't forget to make any formatting adjustments that may be necessary after you've entered all the corrections you agree with and dismissed those you don't.

Finally, it's time for the proofreader, who is another kind of editor. The proofreader's job is to make sure the book is error-free, but she won't be able to do that unless you supply her with a clean, professional book that's virtually free of errors to start with. On a messy copy full of mistakes, it's just about impossible to find them all.

Once you've entered the proofreader's corrections, it's time to publish. And if you still want to be rich and famous, try buying a lottery ticket and inviting a royal out on a date.