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3rd Draft: Week 10, Seeking Professional Editing

Rounders quote "Pay that man his money!"

Those who remember my post, 3rd Draft: Week One, Keep it Simple, might be asking, “What about weeks 2-9?” Well, this isn’t a science. It took me a few weeks to get all my notes written on a per chapter basis, then turned into an outline. I also have been working on a short story for Team PYP that is near ready to submit. What I’m excited about sharing for this post is the hope that has invigorated me about my editing process since last week. No, I didn’t pick up gambling. I’ve decided to pay a professional to help me edit my novel. I’m excited because I am very confident “paying that woman her money” will be way more than worth my money to build my novel into an award winner.

The seed was planted when I read C.L. Dyck’s blog post “What It’s Like to Be an Editor.” In it, she humorously explains the logic behind charging for her services, and how people who can’t afford $1600 for a full edit of an 80k novel. She says:

Nonetheless, I’ve plenty of requests over the years to work for free as a favour, or because a person can’t afford it (AKA has not budgeted for it). I have on occasion wanted to tell the pushier types, try asking the guy at the furniture store if you can just take home that big TV because you really want it, but you can’t afford it. Oh, and by the way, he should let you because you, more than anyone, can appreciate his awesomeness.

Go ahead, take whatever you want. You deserve it.

When I read this, I thought. Yeah, that’s right, Cat! You’re so worth that kind of money. I have improved so much in the last eight months through her tutelage that I know she would be worth twice that amount for work on a novel. Then I thought, Why don’t I hire her to edit my novel? She’s not the only freelance editor I know, but that’s a steal, and to have an editor whom you agree with and who knows your strengths from your weaknesses is priceless. Plus, she calls me Wildcat, and I think that’s pretty cool too.

Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier? I have been worried because I don’t know how to edit a novel. I’m learning how to edit short stories (sometimes by total rewrites), and so far my 2nd draft editing attempt resulted in a rewrite, but I don’t want to rewrite the novel again. Who knows, maybe I’ll have to, but I don’t want to because I simply can’t identify what is worth keeping from not, and just needs a tweak here or there.

Prior to this revelation, my plan was to make the story readable, then find some beta-readers. There’s a place for that type of help (namely if you can’t afford an editor), but I’m weary. I’m going to assume that either my most talented friends are too busy, or my less-talented friends will not be able to help me enough to make this novel great. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m one of the less-talented beta-readers. Part of that is because I’m a slow reader and very busy, but my limited experience as a beta-reader was not very helpful to the author.

Pardon me while I go on a little rabbit trail. I read a blog post a month ago about someone who is self-publishing their novel with only the help of beta readers for editing. This person put a chart about the money he spent on editing (over $2k) and how little he made in return, then how he spent nothing on beta-readers and made a few hundred dollars a month. That strategy may be fine for some, but not me.

My goal is not to make a few hundred dollars a month, or even a few thousand. My goal is to write an award-winning book that creates its own type of experience.

I really don’t mean any offense to beta-readers, or my friends, but the best way to achieve my goal is to pay a professional to help show me how to make this book awesome. If I went with beta-readers, it could be months before they got back to me, and I assure you their notes wouldn’t be diddly compared to what I’ll get from C.L.. Nothing is concrete yet as far as her schedule, but I’m prepping my novel to be readible enough for her to give me a manuscript evaluation. This costs about a $1/pg and will give me about five pages of notes summarizing strengths and weaknesses concerning areas like plot, characterization, believability, etc. I have to schedule in advance for someone like C.L., and the next available spot she has for a full substantitive edit isn’t until July. It actually works out well this way to give me time to make changes after her manu. eval. and to put it down for a little bit while I finish another novel.

Prior to coming up with this plan, I was worried because I have this complicated Sci-Fi novel that I am not sure I kept all the technological threads in order. I spent a full time job for months taking notes on this sucker; I don’t expect beta-readers to do the same. I feel the best way to get it straightened out is to hire someone who does this for a living. The types of questions I have about my book couldn’t be adequately explained on a forum or in personal discussion. People have to read it. This option really seems like the most efficient use of my time and money. This conclusion has jumpstarted my editing because all I have to do is make it legible, and let her tell me if the story is worth it before I chop it to pieces in fear that it isn’t.

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a Hugo nominated producer for Adventures in SciFi Publishing, who has been lost, broke and surfed with sharks on the other side of the world. He now dreams of greater adventures from his keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa. This summer he released two novels: his second Sand Divers book, Scavenger: A.I., where two parents use an ancient technology to fight a reproducing A.I. while trying to resurrect their deceased infant; and Godsknife: Revolt, an apocalyptic battle for godhood in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss.

11 comments on “3rd Draft: Week 10, Seeking Professional Editing

  1. Professional editing is worth it. I did that with my debut novel and you know the praise it’s gotten. I have been editing for others now for two years and they have gotten praise as well. We need that extra eye. Badly. Good choice.

  2. “Plus, she calls me Wildcat, and I think that’s pretty cool too.”

    This is an interesting insight into the editorial decision-making process…

    “I assure you their notes wouldn’t be diddly compared to what I’ll get from C.L.”

    That is because you have had the Catbert avalanche drop on your head through Team PYP. Brave soul. 🙂

    “my limited experience as a beta-reader was not very helpful to the author.”

    Beta readers and editors provide two different functions, both extremely valuable. One of my published clients also uses a very close circle of beta readers before sending to his publisher. He hires me for technical stuff but turns to his readers for a sample of what reader reaction will be.

    I’d guess that your self-pub example probably learned a lot from his editor, which in turn built his skillset in interpreting and translating beta reader feedback into terms of writing technique. (I’m assuming he hired a competent professional.)

    The contributions of reader and editor can be a great complement. Readers can tell you how they react to the story, but it’s up to the writer (or your editor) to know how to revise when those reactions are not what you want to achieve.

  3. *Sigh* that’s half what I bought my truck for. Correction, $200 less actually. Why are the best things always so expensive? It’s the way of life. It’s not that I don’t think these editors should get that much, they should probably get more. I just need to start working more. (last year I made 5k approximately, but I still live with my family and have a bit of high school left. ; ) However, a professional editor would definitely be worth it in time. It would prolong the publishing process greatly, but I’d rather my book do what you say than money anyway. Always have. Never decided to start writing for money. 😛 I do want to know the full name and website of this person though. A person who works with scifi is quite valuable. They seem rarer, at least during the month I was looking for them. I’m curious to who Bryan used as well.

  4. I came to that decision awhile ago, too, and the feedback I’ve gotten from my editor has been invaluable. Good choice and good luck!

  5. This is something I’ve considered as well. Writers needs different “eyes” at different level of the journey to publication. I have had beta readers read it and give me their “reader” perspective on the story and I’ve swapped manuscripts with other writers to exchange critiques, but as we get further down the road of tightening, polishing the craft and art of our stories we definitely need the eyes of a professional. But I want to make the book the best it can be before I pay someone to do it, because I don’t want to waste their time nor my time & money. Thanks for this post! I will have to go check out C.L.’s services. I didn’t realize she did that. Thanks!

    • “I want to make the book the best it can be before I pay someone to do it, because I don’t want to waste their time nor my time & money.”

      Jennette, I’m in the same place with one of my WIPs right now, going back over it to prepare it for a freelancer’s eyes. Thanks for checking me out–I’ve also just added the names of three editors I trust, whom I’ve turned to for a variety of assistance, to my editing site’s sidebar links: Jeff Gerke, Meredith Efken, and Andy Meisenheimer.

      There’s a variety of styles among them: Jeff’s intense but so much fun, Meredith’s upbeat and super-competent, Andy’s got this mellow guru vibe. (I write literary and speculative, so that influences my sense of affinity.)

  6. Thanks C.L.! I knew Jeff did editing but hadn’t heard of the others. I will have to check the them out. I like the idea of the manuscript evaluation. Now I just gotta save up the money. 🙂

  7. […] about my note taking and preparation for the next step (3rd Draft: Week One, Keeping it Simple; 3rd Draft: Week Ten, Seeking Professional Editing). The funny part is, after concluding to pay a professional editor for a manuscript evaluation, I […]

  8. […] not just take your money and mark up your margins. When I read something like my student Tim’s blog post, I’m grateful, tremendously grateful. The value of good relationships is not possible to […]

  9. […] toy with the idea of bringing on an editor, like my friend Tim. Maybe I crave company to help me establish clarity and a […]

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