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Editors: 3 questions to help you find the right one

Okay, so you’ve written your masterpiece, your 80K-word novel, your 40K novella, or something in between. It’s all shiny and pretty and you need to find an editor to make it even shinier. We talked a little bit about the different types of edits in the How Much Does it Cost post, so if you need a quick refresher on developmental edits, line edits and proofreading, check out that post. The question now is, how do I find an editor? Do I really need one?

 

Finding an Editor

One of the main reasons people tend to look down on self-published works is the quality of the writing. In the early days of self-publishing on Amazon, anyone could just put up their first draft, slap on a cover and hey, published! Then the entrepreneurial writers came along and made a business out of it, producing works polished enough to compete with trade publishing. However, the bad name still lingers—and you still do see some sloppy first drafts up for sale.

A traditionally published book is often pared down and polished until it shines. Sometimes, honestly, a self-pubbed book is sent out when it’s just merely gleaming. That’s often a big difference to readers—and yet, it’s an easy mistake to avoid. As we said in our very first post:

“Self-publishing isn’t about doing away with the gatekeepers. It’s about making yourself your own gatekeeper. Releasing a book that isn’t quite ready or good enough will harm your career as you’ll put off any potential readers. Before you self-publish, please be sure that your book is the best that it can be, not according to your own standards, but in accordance with worldwide publishing standards.”

Actually, let’s amend that: before you send your work ANYWHERE, make sure your work is the best that it can be. Because if it’s not that great, the agent/publisher isn’t going to take you on either.

So with all the freelance editors out there, how are you going to find the right one for you? Here are three questions to ask that will help you pick the right one.

 

Editors: 3 Questions to help you find the right one

1. What are your weaknesses?

It’s not nice to talk about weaknesses, but sometimes you need to. If you’re great at story plots but not so great at grammar, you’re better off looking for someone who’s more of a line editor. If your language skills are awesome but your plot and story development are meh, you should be looking for an editor whose strengths are in developmental edits.

Ultimately, every writer needs both, but when you’re hiring an editor, you should really concentrate on finding someone who can help shore up your weaknesses.

 

2. Does the editor understand your vision?

Everyone has agendas. Even you. You probably have a specific vision for your story and what you’re trying to achieve with it. And sometimes the vision your editor has for your story is going to be… different.

The most important thing about a good editor is that they understand what you are trying to do as a writer and then work with you to achieve that through your work. So if you’re aiming to write The Great Malaysian Novel using Malaysian English, you’re not going to work very well with an editor who insists on italicising every local term or correcting everything according to the Queen’s English.

 

3. Do you get along with the editor?

This doesn’t really have anything to do with your writing, your writing style, or your work. It’s to do with personality. You could have found a really great editor with really great pointers on how to improve your work, but if everything they say or the way they say it makes you bristle with annoyance, your partnership isn’t going to last very long. Either you’ll get upset, or they’ll get upset, and then one of you will up and leave.

 

So like that how?

What you need to do (and I’m sure the editor you’re scouting will want too) is a test edit. This could be a page or a chapter of your work, something relatively short and not time-consuming. This will give the editor a feel of your work and what you’re trying to achieve. You’ll also get a taste of how the editor works and what kind of comments they give (and how they give it).

From there, both of you can evaluate if your partnership will be mutually beneficial (and you wouldn’t mind paying money for their services) or if you should continue looking for someone else.

Remember that the editing process is a partnership. Not everything your editor says is correct, and not everything you want to do actually works. Finding the right editor is like finding the right dance partner: you need to trust each other to take the lead at different points in the process.

 


 

If you’re looking for an editor, consider Teaspoon Publishing’s Services. We’re nice, we don’t bite, and we specialise in fiction. 🙂

Critique Groups: Workshopping your novel

You’ve finished your novel, and you’re at the stage where you don’t know whether it’s good or bad or… meh. What do you do next? You could send it off to a publisher and see whether they like it or not. Or you could workshop it with a group of fellow writers (whether online or off) in what’s sometimes called a critique group.

Critique

What’s a critique group?

A critique group is a place for writers to get and give feedback on their current work. Some of it can be guided, where the group has a list of things to check off or that needs to be addressed, or non-guided, where everything is quite free-flow. These groups can also be online via email or private groups, or in-person meetings, like the ones they have monthly at MYWriters Penang.

How does a critique work?

Each person submits a piece of their work, usually within a set word count, to the group. Then they read the pieces that other people in the group have submitted and give their opinions on it. Some of these can be very structured, but at the least, they should cover points like:

  • What’s your overall impression of the piece?
  • Was it confusing? If yes, why?
  • Did anything stick out to you (whether good or bad)?
  • What caught your attention?

The main things to remember in giving a critique are:

  • Be honest … but kind and tactful
  • Don’t bash people or genres
  • Don’t pick fights
  • Don’t forget to praise the good stuff
  • Remember, your opinion is just that: your opinion.

The main things to remember about receiving a critique are:

  • Listen, but remember that their opinion is just that: their opinion
  • Consider each suggestion at least briefly
  • Decide what’s best for your work

How does a critique really help me?

The reason critiques help is that they provide you with a fresh set of eyes on your work. The questions your peers ask or points they raise can help you figure out the problem areas in your story, highlight potential areas of confusion, or simply let you know where you did something well. Critiquing someone else’s work also helps you think more critically about the writing process and how your own writing may come across to readers.

Critiques shouldn’t be mean-spirited, but be an open way to share your work and grow together with fellow writers. You’ll find that both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis came out of the same writing group known as the Inklings. Here’s a list of famous writing groups.

If you’re still looking for a writing community, we’ve found most of our writing friends mainly from MYWriters and NaNoWriMo, because there’s nothing like a unified goal to help bring people together.

Remember, you can always quote your MYWriters member ID to get 10% off all services at Teaspoon Publishing. Register today!

I’ve written a novel… now what?

The question most people ask after NaNoWriMo is: Now What? Sometimes that question means ‘what do I do with this 50K novel I’ve written?’ Sometimes it’s ‘I didn’t finish my novel, what do I do now?’

The answer to both is: keep writing.

I've written a novel... now what?

Just because you’ve finished one month of writing doesn’t mean that you just stop there. Because whilst the point of NaNoWriMo is to have written a novel, if you’re serious about writing, you can’t just only write for one month of the year. You’ve got to make it consistent—and that’s the real point.

You can think of it this way:

Isi Tersurat: write 50K in a month… win!

Isi Tersirat: create a writing schedule (daily/weekly/monthly) that works for you so that you’re on track to be a serious full-time novelist… win! Remember what we said in this post?

But practically…

  • If you haven’t finished your novel yet (whether or not you hit 50K), keep going. You’ve already started your novel, you might as well finish it.
  • If you’ve already finished your novel (whether or not it was 50K), now’s the time to take a step back and look at it with a critical editing eye.

The Easy Yes/No Questions:

  1. Does the story have a solid beginning, middle and ending?
  2. Does the plot make sense?
  3. Is this story worth telling/something you really want to share?
  4. Are you satisfied with it as it stands?

If you answered yes to all four, then you can start working on editing and polishing it into something for others to see.

If you answered no to ANY of the above, then it’s time for rewrites!

What’s rewriting?

Rewriting is when you pull your novel to pieces and then put it together again to make it better.

You’re addressing all the questions above, making sure that your story has a good plot that makes sense and is complete in itself. It may also mean you need to restructure the whole thing if you write anything like we do, haphazardly jumping from scene to scene, up and down the timeline.

When you’ve finally come to the point where you’re satisfied with your story, or where you don’t know how else you can make it better, that’s when you workshop it or bring it to a critique group.

And will be the next post.

For now, here’s a short article on rewriting: