Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Response to Professional Editor Question

This information is very helpful. Does anyone know where someone can go to find professional editors? How does one know if an editor is good or not before hand? We have things like Agentquery.com and the AAR for finding the good agents from the bad. Is there any such thing for editors?

Professional editors come in all forms, so when considering hiring someone to work with, research him or her thoroughly before going any further. You can check the Internet, including sites hosted by various writers’ organizations and professional editor/publishing organization sites—we don’t have a particular site or resource in mind. Word of mouth among writers, sometimes at conferences, is another way to find an editor. This last item is also a good way to find out if the editor is successful at what he/she does, although keep in mind that an editor who works well with someone you know might not be the right choice for you. You will need to pick an editor with whom you can work, and someone might be great at book editing, but not be the right fit for you in particular. Personality comes into play here, just as it does with any learning experience.

Here are some questions you might ask a potential editor: Do you edit what I write? How many books have you edited that went on to be published and who published them? Do you have references? What is your background in publishing? Do you have a list of authors you have worked with?

Please note that much has been written on self-editing; however, this is very difficult because the writer is usually too close to his or her own writing. “Novelist” is a profession, and every profession requires specialized education. It is difficult, for instance, to become a lawyer, a doctor, a tax consultant, or a real estate salesman without extra education in these areas. Working toward becoming a professional novelist also requires extra education. With this as a given, one of the best ways advance the quality of your writing rapidly is to use your own writing as your textbook. Your teacher, in this case, is someone who reads, finds the mistakes you are making, discusses with or marks them for you**, and you revise to correct them. This is what you want a professional editor to do for you—become your novelist instructor. Education is expensive but if viewed as an educational experience rather than a charge to forward you toward publication, which may or may not happen no matter how much you revise, the cost becomes more justifiable.

Hope this helps.
**If you are still in the stage of your writing career where you are looking for someone to catch grammar, punctuation, and mechanics errors, you are really not ready for a professional editor. Critique groups can help you with these items. Professional editors can mark these, but work more on honing writing technique and mastering the craft and elements of your type of fiction or nonfiction. These may include, but are not limited to: structure, plot, characterization, dialogue, narrative, exposition, beginnings, middles and ends, overwriting, voice, style, pacing, and description.


DanStrohschein said...

Thank you so much for taking the time out to answer my question. Your information is invaluable and helps us to grow into the industry before moving forward.

NL Gassert said...

I suggest having a sample edit done. It’s a great way to see how an editor approaches your work and what he/she finds. Too nitpicky? Not nitpicky enough? Do suggestions make sense to you (do you understand what is asked of you)? Do this after you’ve narrowed down your search.

I had an inexpensive critique done to get an idea of the kind of things that needed fixing. It was affordable and provided me with a master-list of strengths and weaknesses. To my delight, my manuscript wasn’t in need of much. The editor pointed out a few places where I watered down my punch, which is easy enough to fix, and caught some stray typos, also something I can fix myself with a thorough line edit – not something I need to hire a professional to do. What was incredibly helpful, though, was his suggestion that I market my novel differently. I was playing up the wrong aspect in the query letter – ugh.

So if you’re in a similar situation – very confident in your work and totally broke – then I suggest a critique or sample edit first. Let someone evaluate what’s wrong – you might be surprised to find out you can revise on your own, without cashing in your IRA.

I agree with the blog, if you think there are serious problems with arc, tense, grammar, plot overall, then a writing workshop or class that lets you work on that project might be the way to go. Wait to query till you’re done.

Anonymous said...

This blog goes above and beyond most of them. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us newbies! It appears that you have answered yet another question of mine.

I am sorry that I have posted two inquiries that were answered years before. I'm working my way through your blog, but often the threads don't appear until you have worked your way through much of the blog. Please forgive my hastiness in asking questions that may have already been answered. In this case, it was answered almost a full year ago. It may take me a full year to get through your blogs, so please be patient if I ask questions that you answered some months ago.

By the way - excellent advice! I will rethink my Feb. 5 editing date!

Thank you!