Friday, February 10, 2012

Editing the Indie Novel, Part 3

Tip of the Day: Find your perfect critique partners through SCBWI or RWA.

So now that you know the different types of editing you need to do to your manuscript as an indie (because traditionally published authors have professional editors through their publishers to make sure, hopefully, all the bases are covered), I'm going to help you find your perfect editing partners.

When I decided to start approaching my writing as a business with an eye to getting published, versus just writing for fun, I joined SCBWI - the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. It was through this organization that I found my first online critique group. I was thrilled because two of the members had MFAs in Creative Writing.

That was equally exciting and intimidating. Luckily, the members were more than happy to take me under their wing. I didn't submit my material at first. Instead, I sat back and learned how they critiqued. It was totally mind-blowing and I am grateful to each of them for everything they taught me. After a year of critiquing with them on a bi-weekly basis, I felt like I'd learned a lot ... but I was pretty sure there was more to learn. That's when I discovered Becky Levine.

Becky wrote this incredible book, The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide.

You should buy a copy because this book will enhance any critique group situation you encounter. It will make you a better participant and a better critiquer.

Once you're able to locate some critique groups, you want to gather people around you who have different skill sets. Find people who excel in copy edits, people who can spot a hole in a story a mile away, or who can find your writing tics that no one else can see. I can guarantee you that you will not find one perfect critique partner, nor can you be everything to someone else. Make friends and start sharing your work!

Now we can talk a bit about hiring an editor. *cringes* I hate talking about this. I really, really do. Why? Because when I was querying I sent out feelers to three professional editors, people whose names you'd recognize and who are well-respected editors. I sent each of them a sample to edit, so I could get a feel for their style. I purposely filled the document with errors, some subtle, some obvious.

All of the samples came back with a cursory edit. I was crushed. These were the most well-respected editors and the illusion had been broken. I spent seven years as a journalist. Had I ever turned in an article that poorly edited, I can guarantee you I wouldn't have received new assignments.

If you do decide to go the professional editor route, here's what I want you to do:

1. Figure out what kind of edits you need. Not every editor does all kind of edits.
2. Get referrals from friends. Read some of the work they've edited.
3. Send them a sample edit with known mistakes.
4. If you like the way they edited, make sure their style jives with yours. Make sure they understand your voice.
5. If you go ahead with the edit, don't assume their edit was perfect. Go over your manuscript again and again and again.

I've never claimed my books are perfect. There definitely are advantages to having a traditional publisher and their massive editing machine behind a book (though we've all seen mistakes in trad pubbed books too), but indies can get their books up to par too.

Good luck!!!!

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber


Kate Fall said...

I'd also mention that publishers usually copy edit the book before it goes to press. The substantial edits--like when you have to rewrite parts--can insert mistakes. Sometimes formatting mistakes crop up, too, like quotation marks getting turned around. So try to bribe someone to do a copy edit for you after the heavy editing is done, like that critique partner who always notices your missing commas. Or work out a trade deal with a fellow author. Some independent editors may offer copy edits as a separate service.

Ramona said...

Hi Megg. I am a professional editor and I read this with interest. May I add something from the other side?

Not all editors work for free, which is what you are asking a professional editor to do when you request a sample edit. Some editors are fine with that, others are not.

About your cursory responses, consider this: If I received a manuscript with obvious, glaring errors, my impression might be that this author doesn't care enough to send their best work out. In my opinion, a professional checks and double checks the work before sending it out to anyone. Maybe by planting errors, you shot yourself in the proverbial foot.

Also, I don't like to play games. If a potential client sent me a manuscript and I learned he or she had tested my skills as you describe, I would not work with that person. Sorry. An editor-author relationship is built on mutual trust and respect.

Good luck with your writing.

Megg Jensen said...

Kate - absolutely! That's why I suggested making at least one more pass after the editor is done.

Ramona - Sorry you feel that way. I was told it's common to send a sample edit to an editor before entering into a business deal with them. In fact, all three editors I sent it to encouraged it. I wasn't playing games at all. Sorry you feel that way. Again - this is why I hate approaching the subject. There are too many hurt feelings. Multiple people asked me to discuss it, so I did.

Kristina Springer said...

I didn't read the post as you playing games Megg but asking for a sample before you hired someone. How else do you know if an editor is right for you if you don't see a sample? I'd hate to hear you paid a lot for an edit of a 300 page novel to find out at the end you and the editor's style don't mesh well.

Kate Fall said...

I've seen editors offer sample edits as part of their workflow. Sometimes those sample edits aren't free, sometimes they are. I can understand what you're saying, Ramona. Professional work deserves professional pay. But some authors want an editor to tell them what they're doing wrong. Yes, a professional checks his or her work, but if you're hiring someone to edit your work and they volunteer to provide a sample at a special price (or free), why wouldn't they do a great job on it? If I decided I didn't want to edit a manuscript for whatever reason, I'd say so, not send the author back a skimmed document with insignificant changes. I'd like to think I can tell a planted mistake from real mistake after years of training editors, but maybe not. I still can't see doing anything either than fixing the problem or telling the author I have concerns about doing the work. I wouldn't hand someone a line edit skim unless they requested a line edit skim.