Help me welcome RU’s newest contributor – freelance author and writer Heather Webb!
When is it Time to Hire an Editor?
Most writers wrestle with novel revisions and at some point find themselves asking—when is it time to work with an editor? Some of your writing buddies have, some haven’t. Are they worth their weight in gold? How do you know if you really need one? Since every writer’s process varies, knowing when it’s time can be tricky. To begin, make sure you’ve…
GONE AS FAR AS YOU CAN
You’ve read craft books, worked with critique partners, layered your manuscript with symbolism, foreshadowing, and subplots. The dang novel has been dissected so many times the words blur and you’re convinced there aren’t any issues. Yet you keep getting…
Beta readers gush about your manuscript, but agents or editors say “it just lacked the magic they were looking for”. Or worse, every reader or agent who reads your work gives conflicting feedback. Who’s right?
Maybe rejections aren’t the issue. Maybe you’re just plain stuck because you’re having…
You’ve hit a wall! The subplots are tangled like gum in a toddler’s hair. You can’t make sense of how to weave them together.
Then there’s the other big issue writers run into—it’s not the manuscript, it’s the way you’re selling it. Somehow you’ve managed to make your medical spy thriller sound like a non-fiction ecology manual. That’s when you realize you’re having…
PITCH & QUERY ISSUES
No one has requested pages after sending out query after query. You need help shaping it into something that catches an agent’s eye.
Then there are always the perfectionist types who want a little…
Your manuscript is in great shape, you think, but you want to be SURE. A little extra polish never hurts, and who knows, maybe the editor will unearth some major issue you (and 47 readers) have missed. It happens!
If you fall into one of those categories, then you want an editor, so now let’s take a look at…
WHAT EDITORS DO
Like anyone else, each editor has their process, but a GOOD editor runs through a checklist of sorts to assess each element. Perhaps the plot is strong, but the dialog is anemic. An editor will diagnose the problem! What most editors look for is:
- Craft Issues: grammar, punctuation, syntax
- Pacing & flow problems
- Lack of voice and mood
- Unnatural dialog
- Plot holes or dangling plot threads
- Melodrama as opposed to realistic situations & emotional reactions
- Cardboard characters
- Inconsistencies with all elements
Finally, it’s possible the manuscript just hasn’t found the right home—it is a subjective business after all—and this is something an editor can assess immediately.
Now you’ve decided to hire an editor, but don’t have the slightest ideas how to find one. There are loads of posers out there, even with so-called credentials so let’s look at…
WHERE TO FIND ONE
- Word of mouth is key to finding any service or product from a good book to a plumber. Unearthing a good editor is no different. Ask around. Check in with your writing groups, forums, or writing blogs. These are great sources for all types of writer services.
- Twitter: The number of professionals on Twitter grows by the day. It’s a convenient place to find editors, not to mention eggroll eaters, belly dancers, and every other random job on the planet.
- Try Elance.com or look into the Editorial Freelance Association, but keep in mind, just because an editor is registered with the association and has five million credentials does not guarantee the editor you choose will be the right person for the job. Which leads us to our next point. It’s essential to…
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
- Examine the editor’s website. Many so-called freelancers have websites riddled with grammar errors, awkward phrasing, or general clutter that make finding their information difficult. While this may not be an accurate depiction of the editor’s skills, consider it a MAJOR red flag.
- Choose an editor based on specialization. Skilled editors can tackle any project, but usually they have genres they prefer. An author may receive more useful feedback if they choose someone who has a lot of experience with their genre.
- Request a sample of their work to get a feel for the editor’s process.
- Talk to their past clients.
- Start with a small sample of your work, rather than the entire manuscript. If you aren’t happy with the insight they have offered, move on to another.
Like writers or any other profession for that matter, some editors are highly skilled, others well, suck eggs. Do your homework. The time you spend working with an editor may not only improve your manuscript, but often improves your craft tremendously. So when you feel as if you’ve taken your manuscript as far as you can, it’s time to look for help.
RU Writers – have you thought of hiring an editor to help you make your story “sparkle”?
Join us tomorrow for weapons expert Adam Firestone
Bio:Heather Webb writes historical fiction, but reads about anything. As a freelance editor, she spends oodles of time helping writers find their voice and hone their skills–something she adores. She may often be found Twittering helpful links, or on her blog sharing writing advice and author interviews for readers. She is thrilled to be a contributor to this excellent community at RomanceUniversity.org!
When not writing, Heather ogles cookbooks and chases her beloved gremlins. You may even catch her gobbling the odd bonbon. She lives in a small town in New England with her family, close enough to city hop, but far enough away to hear the frogs chirp at night. She can be found at her blog, Between the Sheets (http://www.HeatherWebb.net), or Twitter @msheatherwebb (http://twitter.com/msheatherwebb).
Heather’s debut novel, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, will be published by Plume/Penguin in 2014.
- When the Gazillionth Pass Through Your Manuscript Tries to Kill You by Heather Webb
- Manuscript Readiness with Heather Webb
- Connecting with the Right Editor – Leslie Berry
- Beating the Sloggy, Saggy, Soggy Middle with Heather Webb
- Character Motivation Part Two—Discerning Motivation, Actions, Goals with Heather Webb