Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Build An Editor

If you could build your own editor, what would you create? I’m asking because I’d like to know what you would want done by a freelance editor.

Are you mostly looking for a line edit? Do you want someone who looks at the overall arc of your book? Time continuity? Plot mishaps?

Do you want someone who makes the changes and sends it back to you? Do you look for someone who will edit and leave the decision of whether to accept or reject those edits up to you? Do you want an editor to comment and tell you why s/he recommends something be changed?

Do you look for an editor who catches small things like two spaces between sentences instead of one? Do you want someone who is rigid and says, never do this? Or would you prefer an editor who says, this is not the way it’s done, but you can still do it your way as long as you’re consistent?

Do you want an editor who will edit the book then get out of your way? Do you prefer an editor who’s available from editing to querying?

What are you looking for when you hire an editor? And, if you say, everything - I want everything - then are you willing to pay for it?

Later this week, I’ll tell you what kind of editing I do.
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  1. "Are you mostly looking for a line edit? Do you want someone who looks at the overall arc of your book? Time continuity? Plot mishaps?"

    Yes, please!

    Seriously, both an eye for the bigger plot issues--dangling plot threads, emotional hooks missing, pointless scenes, etc.--and also omission of extra verbiage or grammar lapses. I want...Super Editor!

  2. I hope most writers realize most of us need an editor. There are some exceptions, but, as a rule, we need editors.

    Given that, I want line/copy editing. I want feedback about inconstancies or logic errors. Except for grammar errors, (Please just fix them inserting or deleting as needed.) I like a collaborative approach where a problem is surfaced, a brief explanation provided as to why it’s a problem, and a suggested fixed presented. Or, a question to me asking, “Are you trying to say thus and so here? If you are, it’s not working. Try this instead, or, try to rework differently from the perspective of character X.”

    Payment. Of course, an editor needs to be paid. However, I’ve found that many (not all) writers are either cheap or poor. They like everything free…from their web site hosting company, to their web site build, to their blog page, to their promotional materials. Many try the do it yourself route with disastrous results that they, apparently, don’t see. Some web sites just make me cringe. Better not to have one than a data dump. You know, one long page of everything.

    Some editors are pretty expensive. Their skills and time investment probably justify the cost. But. Here’s the problem, I think. Secretly, writers understand that most agents or publishers will very likely not read the MS they’re peddling. Most realize they’ll never get past the query letter stage. (98% rejection rate) Why then, the reasoning goes, pay for expensive editing services when the perfectly punctuated and fully crafted and critiqued document will more than likely end up in the bottom right hand draw of my desk, never to see the light of day. Again, many will go the do it yourself route…with the same results as above.

    Would I personally be willing to pay? Yes--and for my first book, did have it professionally edited. But how much I’d pay would have to be a value judgment of what I could reasonably afford given the risks indicated above. Hope that’s not to weasel-worded.

    Sorry to be so long-winded. Great topic and questions.

    Best regards, Galen

  3. Galen, you were not at all long-winded. We call that informative.

    Thank you Galen & Writtenwyrdd.

  4. I like to see the changes and make them myself, becasue I learn from them and then I don't make the same mistakes again.
    I've had all of my books edited and have learned a great deal from each episode.

    I would also like comments on things that help get the book read, like making the first chapter or first 5 pages compelling, making sure the book starts in the right place, etc. Help with the Query letter is also important.

    I know lots of people have good books, so getting them read is an important part of the process. Any tips on that are a welcome part of the editing process.

  5. I'd like someone who catches the mechanical errors (spelling and grammar), but more importantly points out problems with the story arc, plot, timeline, and pacing.

  6. I want ALL those attributes. :) Everything from the nit-picky mundane grammar and typo stuff to plot, time line and character consistency to "what the hell is this doing here in the story?" kind of comments - lol.

    The Old Silly

  7. So far, it sounds like we want it all!

  8. The writing process is exactly that, steps from the first inkling of an idea to the final polished draft.

    I'm not sure at which of those steps I need more help. (Maybe right now for that sentence!)

    Sometimes I need a coach. Someone to tell me I'm on the right track, that if I just keep plugging away, chapter by chapter, heck, sentence by sentence, I'll have something in the end.

    Sometimes I need someone to brainstorm with. What direction should I go? Can I pull off a double plot or should I just KISS (keep it simple stupid?) and get it done.

    I like to solve problems myself before I ask for help. I want a piece to be as purely my vision as I can get it, but then, then I need to be told what's working and what isn't.

    After all that, I need someone to tell me about word choice, deeping, clarity, things that can be deleted.

    And then a proofreader.

    So I suppose having a good editor who believes in my writing, who appreciates my vision, and knows how to crack the whip would work for me.

  9. I definitely want it all and am very willing to pay for it. I hired an editor prior to publishing my memoir and then had another two editors read it during the process. I especially want those crucial questions asked, like "Is this what you intended here?" So often we think we write what we intended to say and than a reader doesn't take it that way.
    Karen Walker

  10. "So often we think we write what we intended to say and than a reader doesn't take it that way." This is so true, Karen. I think because, as the writer, we have the picture in our heads as we read the words we've written. The reader comes with a blank slate.

  11. I'd want a medium-level of editing, with emphasis on grammar, my weak point. I'd want them to find the stupid little mistakes - a ' instead of a " for example. I want them to understand the genre and not be so overly critical of dialogue. (The first editor I ever used way back when made every line of dialogue grammar perfect - problem is, most people do not speak proper grammar!)
    And communication during & after is a must!
    Editing is like anything else in life - you get what you pay for.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  12. I hear ya on the dialogue stuff, Diane.

  13. I'm still learning all of this "stuff" that goes along with writing a book, but it seems like editing is a crucial detail.

    I know people willing to read my work, but they get too wrapped up in the personal connection with me to be objective. I have found some success with an online network of folks through writing classes.

    Even then, I get conflicting opinions. Two teachers liked my first chapter. Classmates hated it. By the WLT contest review of my first chapter, the judge agreed with my classmates.

    The folks from my class and from my local writer's group also have a limited amount of time. They have their own writing projects, work, families, etc.

    I think having one editor is a good investment, because it may save you time, money and heartache at the end of the day.

  14. The best editor for me is someone who, through the edits, gives me an understanding of how to write better and edit better, myself. That's a big requirement...

  15. Critiques groups can be very helpful, but if you're getting widely differing comments, they can also be frustrating.

    I agree, Conda, it's good to have someone who can help you write better and grow.

  16. I want it all - along with comments about why something works or doesn't work - and I want to have the final say on whether I want to make those changes or not. I paid for a professional edit and learned so much from it. I plan to do the same with my second book.


  17. I agree, Jane. The author always has the final say.

  18. Easy: I would build an editor who thought I was a genius. Yes, I appreciate the limitations of this, but I would put up with them.

  19. I love that Dave. Make sure he's the acquisitions editor at your favorite publisher!


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