So you’ve taken the plunge! After all your research into editors, you’ve mustered your courage and hired a great one.
Congratulations on this difficult step!
Because yes, I know—it’s scary. Writers come to me filled with countless fears. As I often tell them, that’s normal. We’re not selling bread dough here, but pieces of your very heart and soul.
So, now that you’ve taken this leap of faith, how do you get the most from developmental editing?
Once your edited manuscript and critique come home to you, the real work begins. And these 10 tried-and-true tips will help you glean the very best from not only your editor, but also from you as writer in general, and this manuscript specifically.
- First off, go through everything.
The critique should be long, involved, and specifically correlated to the manuscript’s pages. So, sit down with all of it, read through the critique, then go through the manuscript with that by your side. Page by page by page.
- Listen with your creative ear.
Yes, this is the editing side of the brain you’re working with, but allow your creativity the space to have a say as well. That lets ideas begin to pop.
The slower you go, the more your muse will come to the fore.
- Digest it all.
This can take a while, and will require more than one go through. Make notes and questions so that when you talk with your editor, you’ll get the most from the interaction.
Note: You’ll be digesting for a while. And that’s a good thing!
What? Did I just say that? Yep.
What I pretty much always get back from my writers is a version of: “I agree with 98% of what you said. But on this . . .”
And that’s a great thing! This is a 2-way street. If you disagree, hash it out with your editor. Discuss it in depth. Your editor isn’t God (even me!). Go back and forth and get to the bottom of what’s not working, and why.
What happens with my writers as we go through this process, is that we come up with a third approach—a middle way. Which is always stellar.
- Take advantage of the back and forth at every turn.
Writing well just isn’t learned in a vacuum.
While writing itself is of course done in that quiet room, revisions are a different beast entirely. You need to bounce off of your editor at many, many turns, in order to make sure you understand, and that what’s in your head translates to the page.
More questions will arise. Ask them!
- Send new and revised excerpts back to your editor. As you go.
This way, you make sure you’re on track. Make sure you’re not repeating old and bad habits. Make sure your writing is improving as revisions motor along.
Especially in the beginning of rewriting, this is paramount. It builds your confidence as well, which is always key.
- Do the exercises your editor recommends.
I go through a litany of writing exercises with my clients. Often, I hear the groans from 6 states away! “But I want to focus on my book, on what’s included on the pages!” is often the response.
But you are focusing on your book—on your characters, and your plot. True—what you write through these exercises may not make the final pages. But you’ll have far greater insight and depth to portray on those pages by doing the mundane work. I promise!
- Keep questioning your editor.
By this I don’t mean if he knows what he’s talking about! Lol. Because you ascertained that before hiring him, no?
But question specifics, to make sure you understand. To make sure you’re on the right road.
You’ve hired someone at the top of her game, right? She knows vastly more about writing and publishing than merely what came back about this book.
Your editor isn’t just about what’s on these specific pages, but should be serving as a guide, a coach, a mentor. Avail yourself of that knowledge!
- Read successful authors, and see how they accomplished what your editor speaks of.
You read a lot, right? Not only in your genre, but widely? That’s one of the keys to becoming a great author. Read, read, and read.
Now, however, study with a critical eye. See what an author does that works. And just as importantly—what isn’t working. And now you know why.
On this note, my writers often say I’ve ruined reading for them. They set out on a reading list (often one I’ve given them), and read critically. Which is great! But for a while they have a hard time even perusing books for pleasure.
But I promise—the enjoyment comes back! For now, slice and dice every word you read.
- Once you’ve finished all rewrites, send the revised manuscript back to your editor.
Just kidding! By this point, you should feel confident that your manuscript is in tip-top shape, and ready (or at least close!) to market.
And I just bet that your editor feels the same 😉
Because here’s the essence: I often see great promise in a writer, and a manuscript.
It’s there, but it’s buried. The real story, brilliant characters, true gems gleam from under the muck and mire of words. The authentic story is waiting to be excavated from beneath the ancillary scenes and extra characters and preponderance of words given so much purchase on the page.
After grinding the gears to get started with revisions, then the essence of the story itself, the characters’ interactions, the rise of the story arc, where the emphasis falls and where it wanes, all become evident.
The seeds of those were there all along, but now instead of scattered in the wind, they’ve taken root and begin growing into strong though supple hardwood trees.
And the job of a great editor is to help the writer pull all of that out, and create a fabulous book in the process.
That’s the essence of what a real editor does.
I can tell you this for a fact:
The writers who dive deeply with me as we go through the developmental editing process, go on to become successful authors. And I work with them every day.
And that’s you, right? You aren’t doing all this just for grins.
So, what are you waiting for? Take that bit in your teeth, get the most from your editor, and become that successful author!