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Professional Novel Editing – To Do or Not To Do

I have one manuscript with a professional editor.  A second is not far off the same stage, although they are completely different.

  • One is a Women’s Fiction.  Written in the first person.  It’s a fast read of around 84 thousand words and keeps you very close to the narrator.
  • One is a pure old-fashioned no sex Romance.  The type you see in traditional Mills and Boons, but with a more modern setting.  I suspect I will try Mills and Boon with this one as I’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a go.  It’s told in the third person with differing points of view.  Believe me when I say that it has been much easier to write than the first person story.

Why did I pick a Romance to write alongside the Women’s Fiction?  I have no idea.  I found it quite easy to draft.  Perhaps it’s being married to a very unromantic man.  Perhaps I should leave a manuscript or two lying around to give him a hint, but since he’s not a reader, I think I’d be wasting my time.

The difficulty comes when we finish our drafts.  I thought getting to the end of a first draft would be the hardest part.  Now I know that finishing the 80+k words, which happened several months ago for the Women’s Fiction, was just the beginning.

I’ve chosen an experienced editor, recommended by a long-term Twitter friend.  I could have sent her the manuscript I found easy to write, but I wouldn’t learn so much from that.  I’ve chosen to send the one I pulled my hair out over as I love the story, but found the telling quite difficult.  If I do self-publish in the long-term, I want the book to read the best that it can.

This blog has allowed me the fabulous opportunity of using money it has raised to buy professional editing.  I know it won’t make my manuscript good if it’s total rubbish, but if we don’t keep going, what’s the point of any novel-writing at all?  It’s all a process of learning.  Another Twitter friend read a little and gave me two cracking observations that I fully agreed with.  If she can do that, what can an editor do as a guide for me?

The manuscript is with my editor now.  I’m anxiously biting my nails, waiting to find out what the report says.  I’ll make sure I have a massive bar of Dairy Milk on hand when I read it, in case of total devastation.  There are a couple of areas that I have thought of while it’s been with her, ie possibly not enough past life emotional conflict with the male protagonist, or dialogue that might be a bit useless, but hey ho, it’s all about learning the craft.

An editor isn’t a proof-reader (typos) or a copy-editor (sentence structure, formatting etc).

A professional editor gives us their opinion, or what is known as a critique on the actual content of my writing, with the ultimate goal of polishing the manuscript until it shines.

Choosing an experienced novelist as an editor was an easy choice.  The options were to attend a creative writing course, or have a professional critique on my actual work.  Right at this very moment, she will be picking apart my work and all the feedback will be areas for improvement going forward.

I see it as an investment in my future learning and career, as I have no intention of stopping now that I have got going.  Ideas and possibilities are now jumping out of my brain many times a day.  I keep writing notes for potential stories or twists, quickly writing them down so I don’t forget them, then have to go round gathering them up to pin on my cork board.  I also have drafts on pen drives that I can now see a use for, but will require heavy editing to be of any future use.

I’m prepared for total devastation when I read the report.  I also know that if it does come to that, I’ll be a better writer for working through those issues.

In the meantime, I’ll keep biting my nails!!!

5 thoughts on “Professional Novel Editing – To Do or Not To Do

  1. It’s so very exciting, I love reading your updates on your writing and will be coming to you for some tips once I’m there. Good luck hon x

  2. Hello. Long-time lurker here. 🙂

    Congratulations on finishing all that writing. I write too (non-fiction) and that is a huge word count! Wow.

    Could I politely quibble with this paragraph, just for clarity?

    ‘An editor isn’t a proof-reader (typos) or a copy-editor (sentence structure, formatting etc).’

    ‘I think what you mean is that you are employing a literary/development editor, whose role is to analyse the plot and characterisation.A proofreader checks proofs – yes, for typos, but also for whether there are any glitches in the laying out, whether the running heads are correct, page numbers missing or inconsistently placed, whether the index is accurate, whether there are widows or orphans, whether the references are correct, whether a character’s hair or eyes or clothes suddenly change colour… and so much more! This test from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders gives some great examples:

    A copy-editor often makes more substantive changes, for sense, grammar, punctuation, clarity, etc. They also check references and query details. They flag up quoted material if copyright permission is required. They organise text, marking up different levels of headings, different formats of lists, display quotes, etc. They check everything against the publisher’s house style, the dictionary, perhaps another style guide or two… (see the SfEP website for a more detailed description).

    Yes, I do both of these. I’m not a development editor. I like the nuts and bolts of making language clear and organised. It’s not as glamorous as being a literary editor but I love it. It’s much more interesting than just correcting typos and improving grammar (though I like that stuff too). I am very definitely ‘an editor’, and I like to think ‘a professional editor’ too! There are lots of us over at the SfEP if you ever need us… 🙂

    Hope your typescripts are snapped up and published straight away. I’ve not yet met a development editor who was unkind to an author, so don’t worry! They know how nerve-wracking it is!

    1. Thanks Sarah, that’s good to know. Copy editing might be my next step. Most of those things I could do myself in time, but I want to write, not review the nuts and bolts, yet I know it has to be done.

  3. Oh how utterly exciting, I don’t know where you’ve found to write all those words but well done. I did a lot of writing when I was single but after having the kids it took a total back burner, mainly poetry and short stories/plays. I never knew you could pay for such a service which makes total sense as you might just be a short hop, step and a jump from being published! Wishing you well with your future as a writer:-)

    1. Thanks Camilla. It’s taken me a long time to get up the nerve to let someone else take a look. I suspect I’ll not stop now. Even if this manuscript is rubbish, I’ll hope to make the next ones better. x

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