How to Survive “The Shock”: Your First Round of Editing

When writers have their manuscripts professionally edited for the first time, they often experience “The Shock.”

I’m talking about that moment when you open the document, fully prepared to see a few red lines here and there (because, of course, the reason you hired a professional editor in the first place was to find ways to improve a few sentences, catch a misspelled word or two, and clean up some punctuation).

What you didn’t expect was this:The Shock Your First Round of Editing

Yikes! What happened?

When an editor returns an edited document to you, the first thing you should do before you open it is TAKE A DEEP BREATH.

Believe it or not, as an editor, I’m as nervous about sending that marked-up document as you are about receiving it. I want you to feel that hiring me to edit your manuscript was one of the wisest decisions you’ve made on your path toward publication.

What I don’t want is for you to open the document, take one look at all the red lines, close the document, and give up—on you or on me as your editor.

The shock of seeing an edited manuscript can be especially overwhelming for writers. #writetip #editing #editingtip Click To Tweet

I know the shock of seeing an edited manuscript can be especially overwhelming for writers who have never hired a professional editor before. I try to mitigate the shock in several ways in my cover letter; I explain the nuts and bolts so you understand how I use Microsoft Word’s track changes and comments features; I also explain my method for “talking” to you in the text itself. I point out the strengths I find in your manuscript as well as recurring issues you might not be aware of, like a tendency to overuse a phrase or too many dialogue tags. Above all, I try to be encouraging and convey both my respect for your author’s voice and my goal of helping you create the best manuscript possible.

I also write that my suggestions are just that—suggestions—and the ultimate decision about whether or not to accept them belongs to you, the author.

But I know how it can feel when you open that document and see a sea of red. Somehow, you just weren’t expecting to see that many corrections and suggestions.  As author Rinelle Grey puts it, “Every time I get an edit back, even a sample one, it hurts.”

Here are some points to remember when you look at a professionally edited manuscript:

  • This Is a No-Judgment Zone: When you read through your editor’s comments and look at each change he/she has made, keep in mind that the editor is judging the manuscript, not you. As one author writes, “Editors’ comments are to be taken as constructive feedback, not as an insult. Too many writers get defensive and claim that an editor has it in for them, when that is certainly not the case. . . . A good editor has to be able to justify every change or comment she makes. If an editor puts a comma inside of quotation marks, it may seem like a small, nitpicky change. But there’s a legitimate reason. They’ll gladly explain their reasoning.”
  • We’re All in This Together: When I’m working with an author, I’m wearing my team-member hat. My goal is to make your work shine, so every correction I make, every word choice I query, every comment I add have the same goal: to help you polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

One of the reasons I always offer a no-obligation sample edit to a potential author/client is to take away some of that edited-manuscript shock. In addition to having a way of determining if I’m the right editor for you, a sample edit prepares you just what “editing” means for your manuscript.

Editors who do nothing are great for an author’s ego. But, believe it or not, there are errors in your manuscript—of internal logic, of grammar, and of sense. There always are. Trust me, you don’t want your readers (or reviewers) to point out your mistakes.” (Thanks to Erica Verrillo at Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity for that quote.)

  • You Are Now a Stronger Writer: One of the benefits of having your manuscript professionally edited is that you learn a great deal about writing in general and your own writing in particular. It’s sometimes difficult to accept that someone else’s suggestion for structuring a sentence does make for a stronger sentence, but don’t get hung up on “winning.” A good editor is one who doesn’t just follow a set of rules; a good editor puts his or her own ego aside and works with you to strengthen your voice and style. As Erica Verrillo writes:

Don’t slavishly follow every suggestion. Use your judgment. On the other hand, don’t, don’t, don’t tell them to sod-off—even mentally. They may be right. Take a step back from your manuscript, take a deep breath, and then exercise your skill as a writer. Make your manuscript shine as only you can—with their guidance. If the editor is good, the final product will be well worth it.”

As you review your edited manuscript, don’t be afraid to question anything you don’t understand. Wondering why “affect” was changed to “effect”? Confused by the comment “passive voice”? Unsure about deleting that entire paragraph the editor marked as “redundant”? Ask. Ask lots of questions. Be sure you are comfortable with the suggested changes before you accept them, and be sure you understand what the editor is suggesting or querying and why. Your WIP will be a better read for it, and I’ll bet your next manuscript won’t come back with as much red as the first one did.

I’d love to hear about the first time you opened an edited manuscript: were you concerned by all the red lines? Did you expect as many changes? Did you feel the editor respected your voice? And if you’ve been through the process more than once, what advice would you offer a fellow writer who is ready to hire an editor?

Happy Writing,

Candace

If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

 

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

 

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Manuscript Evaluation

One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is moving forward with a manuscript that isn’t ready for submission or publication. Whether you ID-10098753choose to query agents and publishers or you decide to self-publish your work, remember the old saying:

 “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

How do you know if your book is ready to meet the world? One way is to have a professional manuscript evaluation.

How do you know if your book is ready to meet the world? #amwriting Click To Tweet

You’ve shared your work with family and friends—and they’ve all raved about your storytelling talent. You’ve shared it with your critique group and beta readers, and they’ve offered some useful, constructive criticism. You’ve tweaked this, deleted that, and rewritten entire scenes and characters.

Now is the time for an honest and objective critique of your plot, dialogue, characters and pace, or opinions about structure, coherency, consistency, and organization.

A manuscript evaluation is a big-picture look that tells you what works and what doesn’t. It is not editing: a manuscript critique is an assessment and diagnostic tool that pinpoints specific strengths as well as weaknesses you can fix to improve your manuscript.

As a professional freelance editor, I interact with many writers who struggle when they finish writing and move into the editing phase. Some just throw in the towel and self-publish their books with little or no editing; some work for weeks to self-edit and revise; some search for a freelance editor who will help them “fix” their manuscript.

Don’t struggle alone, hope someone else will fix your problems, or give up. And don’t jump into the publishing pool unprepared. Instead, have your entire manuscript reviewed; if you can’t afford that, at least have your first chapter evaluated.

Whether your readers are literary agents or members of your target audience, you have to catch and keep their attention. As New York Times bestselling author John Gilstrap writes:

Something must happen in the first two hundred words. That’s the length of my interest fuse. Billowing clouds, pouring rain and beautiful flowers are not action. Characters interacting with each other or with their environment is action.”

Be sure you choose an evaluator with experience, someone who understands what literary agents and publishers are looking for, and someone with whom you can communicate so you’ll get the most from your critique.

Don’t be shy about discussing your needs and expectations for the evaluations, as well as your preferences for how you receive feedback. As with any editing service, you should feel very comfortable that the editor you hire is someone who can help you meet your goals. As I wrote here and here, be sure you clearly articulate your expectations and make sure your new editing partner is a good communicator.

I just finished evaluating a 75,000 word fiction manuscript; I sent the author a seven-page written critique filled with specific details and examples of the strengths and weaknesses I found in the manuscript. I’m also in the midst of a memoir critique that is part written evaluation and part Skype conference. As you can see, there are different ways for an author to communicate with his or her editor, and you’ll want to work with someone who can give you the evaluation YOU need to improve your work.

Don’t be the author who papers your room with rejection slips or bad reviews because your manuscript needs work! Contact me today for a professional manuscript evaluation and let me help you bring your work to the next level.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

 Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Related articles:

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Developmental and Substantive Editing

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Copyediting

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Proofreading

Indie Publishing Done Right

The title of this post caught my attention. Then I saw the cover. Then I had to read the post. And now I must share it.

'We talk about self-published and traditionally published, but I think there’s a third category.' #selfpub #indieauthors Click To Tweet
Cari Noga’s novel SPARROW MIGRATIONS – indie publishing done right
Cari Noga’s novel SPARROW MIGRATIONS – indie publishing done right

Reblogged from Starlighting Mama (Heather Shumacker):

The number of books published each year is boggling. Last year 200,000 new books were released. And that’s only counting traditional publishers. 400,000 self-published books were launched, too.

We talk about self-published and traditionally published, but I think there’s a third category:

 Self-published Books Done Right.

There’s really only one fault self-publishing has.  It’s too fast and easy.  Too fast and easy simply because writers are impatient and rush their books out into the world without ensuring quality.

That’s not the case with author Cari Noga.  Cari published Sparrow Migrationsa novel centered about the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane crash.  It features a boy named Robby who has autism and becomes obsessed with the birds involved in the accident.  Cari does self-publishing right.

Here’s why Cari’s book deserves to be recognized in a class of its own, along with other quality, independently published books.

She hired editors  Cari hired two editors to read, revise and copyedit her book.  This is the treatment a traditionally published book receives: professional editing and copyediting that boost a book’s quality. (Read more here)

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