Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Writing Classes and Editors

I signed up for the summer term of a writing class where we're asked to maintain confidentiality, sort of like an AA meeting.  The reason for this is most people in the class don't write fiction.  They write about their feelings, their lives, bad things that happened to them or people they know.  A lot of people in the class write to get through whatever they are going through. 

I often feel like writing a post here after this kind of 'meeting' - but I feel uncomfortable going into the specifics, so I won't.

There was a discussion in class about how to ask for feedback on your writing.  Feedback at this class isn't always on craft; the writer gets to ask for the kind of feedback she wants.  Many writers just want to be heard, they want affirmation, and they want to know if their writing resonated and if they are onto anything that could develop into something more. 

One person in the group was admittedly new to writing.  But she didn't want affirmation about what was good about her writing.  She wanted (almost demanded) critical feedback to expedite the writing process.  She didn't say so, but she wanted an editor, someone to fix her writing for her.   

I think even if you pay an editor, there is no fast track.  It takes time to develop your voice, figure out what writing and editing processes work for you, find people you trust to give you feedback, and write it beginning to end.  No matter how smart or talented or well-educated you are, it takes practice to learn to write dialogue, develop characters, and write a story with an effective beginning, middle, and end. 

Asking other people to fast-track you to publication is the same as asking students in an art class to make you an artist by class 8.  It's not going to happen that quickly.  It can't.  Unless you're a prodigy, in which case you don't need the class or the help, right?  And it's not your classmate's responsibility - it's yours. 

Obviously, critique partners and beta readers are incredibly important.  But they are one part of the process, and they fit in after you write it, not on day one of a writing project.  If you want someone to objectively critique your work that you can hold accountable, you need to hire an editor.  I think that's wasted money until you're at the point where you trust your own voice as a writer, have written the thing, and edited it with the help of CP's and beta readers.

The up side of my mini-rant on this subject is I decided I am at the point that I need to hire an editor very soon - like after the next round of edits on the three manuscripts I've finished. 

I think money invested in an editor will give me more return than money spent on this class.  Thanks to Michael Offutt for nudging me in that direction in a comment on a post a week or two ago.

If you know of any awesome editors or have any idea what this sort of thing costs, please leave a comment or drop me an email.   If you aren't yet published, do you plan on hiring an editor?

21 comments:

  1. I suppose it would depend on the editor. The "editor" assigned for my book took weeks and then offered me a couple of generic suggestions. I'm not sure if she even read the book or not. Obviously I wouldn't want to pay $500 to someone like that. I'd want some reassurance they'll actually do some line editing, not give me generic feedback I could get from a critique group for nothing.

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    1. I don't think a generic suggestion would be worth the money either.

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  2. That first comment is hilarious. "Stay blessings on your work." I hope he/she doesn't advertise as an editor.

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    1. I like that too. I'm not going to delete it.

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    2. I have to delete it. Is it possible that anyone would really click that link?

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  3. I know several bloggers here who offer editing services, like Helen Ginger and Clarissa Draper. Otherwise I rely on my test readers and critique partners before submitting to my publisher. (And they have a really nice editor that I've enjoyed working with.)

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    1. I'll check them out. Thanks, Alex.

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  4. Unless one of your critique partners is a professional editor, I'm of the opinion that this is an expense worth spending just prior to querying or submissions.

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    1. Actually, she taught college English. Yay, me.

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  5. This post is so true! There are growing pains involved that we all need to go through. I'm not even close to considering an editor yet but it will depend on how comfortable I am with the finished product when it is finally finished.

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  6. S.P. Sipal (a blogger) also does editing, you can Google her. I know it can be quite expensive if you want a full developmental edit, somewhere around $3K. There are all kinds of different levels at different costs. Very exciting!

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    1. Thanks. That is a lot of money. Yikes.

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  7. I agree with you Tonja. Editing is my day job and I can safely confirm that any feedback an Editor gives you cannot fast track your craft. That develops over time. An editor is merely a guide and advisor during the publishing process. I recommend that if you do hire an editor, you talk to them first to get a feel of what type of editor they are. Ask questions. Make sure they are a good match for you. Let them know the type of feedback you would like. And make sure they know something about the type of novel you are writing and the market you are writing for (i.e., don't hire an editor who mainly edits Military suspense thrillers if you write romance novels). Hiring an editor is your chance to get thorough and honest advice to help polish your novel.

    As far as prices, they vary greatly from editor to editor. Some charge by the word. There are different services that cost varying amounts. Proofreading services are usually cheaper than editing services. Make sure you ask what each service includes before agreeing to anything. The price that Gwen gave out sounds pretty standard for an entry level in depth edit. I have seen as high as $8000.

    I think as long as you establish good communication up front and both editor and author see eye to eye, the editing process will be productive.

    I myself will be taking on freelance editing projects starting in July. If you would like, I could take a look at a writing sample if it would help you. Or even talk more about the editing process.

    Feel free to email me anytime.

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    1. Thanks for the advice and the offer.

      I don't have an expectation that I'll make $8000 on a novel. Not at first anyway. By 'at first' I mean like ten years. How funny is it that I gave up an incredibly high salary to do this (and be a driver for the kids)?

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  8. "...there is no fast track. It takes time..."
    so, so true. I have some exceptional critique partners, so for now (and because I'm not currently planning on going the indie route) I won't hire a professional editor.

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    1. My critique partner is exceptional too. How lucky are we? I'm looking forward to reading your book.

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  9. So true-- and if you are on a "fast-track" there's no way you will generate the best product you can. It takes time, effort and open-mindedness to get to the level that you -truly- want to be at. Speeding it along will not do any bit of good. Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Randi. I have to admit, it is very difficult to be patient with myself.

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  10. I find it interesting that most of the people taking the writing course are writing about their own lives. That's not what I would've expected.

    As for editors, I can point you in the direction of a couple. One was recommended on a blogger friend's site recently: http://www.writersdolaundrytoo.com/2012/06/wonderful-new-editing-service.html

    And the other is a blogger/writer who has participated in my First Impressions critiques with her own writing more than one time. I know she does freelance editing as well: http://www.nicolezoltack.com/

    Hope this helps! (I won't add: Stay blessings on your work, or you'll be afraid to check out my links ... LOL!)

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    1. Thanks for the links. I follow Nicole and feel comfortable with her. I think I'll try her first. I didn't realize she did editing.

      Stay blessing with your work too. :))

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