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Author Topic: Editors - any advice?  (Read 4057 times)

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Editors - any advice?
« on: October 19, 2016, 07:45:21 PM »
So I've engaged a developmental/content editor with a proven record of helping authors whose work has "made the cut" and been selected for publication by major houses as well as self-published and Indie authors.

Does anyone have any advice or lessons learned to share?
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Lanko

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2016, 08:44:01 PM »
I don't know how you arranged things with him or how much you are paying, but if it was me, I would finish the first draft, let it cool for a few weeks, read and revise it, then search for beta readers, which will most likely catch the easier and most glaring inconsistencies, sparing you a lot of time and probably money.
Then after revising that you would contact this editor with an already much better polished manuscript.

My reasons for that it's because your first draft will most certainly feel rough, specially if you are feeling impatient and just can't wait to finish the thing. Finish it and take a break for a few days/weeks and let your mind rest a little.
And when you are least expecting, you might have the exact answer you may be looking for. The subconscious is that mysterious.

You said you already have 90k, so you're probably finishing it.

I think you are being too hasty already searching an editor before you even finished a first draft!
Slow and steady wins the race.

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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2016, 10:14:53 PM »
Yeah, I considered all that myself.

But here's the thing - everyone has their challenges, and mine is not writing. Or at least, it's not the one holding me back. (Maybe she'll show that I have more problems than I think  :o ) It's deciding WHAT to write and WHERE to put it. And I don't mean "should I show X or summarize it?", I mean questions like "Where in this story should I introduce X plotline" - and "Should it be before or after this other one?"

I've got a tangle of several major plotlines and I need some informed, timely advice on HOW I should wrap this up, and whether I can get to my intended ending with the space I have left. I can either strip out some stuff and make room, or devise a new ending and make the next book begin with a thunderous In Media Res beginning. I might even be able to have my cake and eat it too - if I can devise and efficient path forward that won't seem rushed - a common complaint among new writers' works.

Beta readers are not ideal for this. You would be a likely exception, I admit, but availability and time constraints take the handful of Beta readers I know off the table - and I want to save their time and attention for a completed story - when delivery and execution of the decided-upon content need to be refined

I can write anything in a week. If I didn't have choices to make, I could knock out the last 30-40k in three days, not even remotely a problem. But it takes me longer to decide what to order for dinner than it takes me to eat it, and I need credible, on-point advice. And I like this editor's attitude so far - she's shrewd and on a schedule, like me. She likes my ideas on more than one level, like me. And she's seen writers bloom and shrivel, and their visions fully, partially, or terribly realized.

I've spent a year working on this, and lost so much of that time to indecision that I've decided to take action. Perhaps it's a waste of money - I don't care. I'll get more of that. What I am running out of is time - not even I can sit on a book forever - and 13 months of basically nothing else is getting close to the end of my endurance.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Peat

Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2016, 10:34:12 PM »
I'd go to an editor after the redraft as well but this is sorta besides the point. You've called her in, make the most of it.

I think the biggest piece of advice I'd have, based on my limited exposure and talking to my friends, would be don't be afraid to ask questions. If you're even remotely unsure about what she's getting at, ask her. It saves you all time and it helps you get the most out of it.

Well really the two pieces of advice I'd have is be sure to have the absolute right editor for you (e.g. now matter how good they are, if you want to write foul-mouthed crime dramas and they're prim and proper, ain't gonna work) and be professional. But you sound happy and you know the latter anyway.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2016, 10:38:55 PM »
She won't get to my stuff for a month, so I will push through a tentative ending and who knows, maybe it'll fly. But I think I made some bad choices, or rather, less than the best choices early on, and we'll see.

Also, a recent idea of mine has been to write Book 2 and use this one as flashback material, but there's issues with that idea, and I typically hate flashbacks. Mark Lawrence's worked and I enjoyed them, but more writers use them than really should imho, because they're tricky to do well, and not every story can tolerate them without suffering.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline JMack

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2016, 11:02:49 PM »
Summoning @sennydreadful. Do you have a moment to suggest things for Gem_Cutter?

GC, if you haven't met Sennydreadful (aka Jen Williams), she's a published author of wonderful adventurous fantasy novels whom most on F-F adore for her books and her incredible penmanship, er, friendliness, er, yeah. Personhood.  :-[  ;D
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2016, 11:21:50 PM »
If you fully believe that you can't push or work the story any further on your own no matter what, then go for it. But I really don't believe that, specially for an unfinished, unseen and unpolished first draft.

Since it's a first draft very recently finished, it's very unlikely you will solve all your problems in one pass. Yes, I believe you will learn a lot too, but this can also escalate pretty quickly, even if money is not an issue.

From your last paragraph it seems you are simply very tired.
Since the story will take a month to reach the editor, and probably another good chunk of time to be read and analyzed, it may be the break you need. IMO you shouldn't even rush or attempt to go for an ending, specially if you are so sure there will be major changes in the story anyway. Just rest and wait for the response.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2016, 11:24:12 PM by Lanko »
Slow and steady wins the race.

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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2016, 12:06:42 AM »
Hahahaha "rest" he says  ;D

Bradley's the one who needs rest  :( Poor guy's work sounds like indentured servitude. This is my day job.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline cupiscent

Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2016, 12:55:44 AM »
In general, I absolutely agree with Lanko. My advice is always to finish a first draft (all the way through the ending, no matter how much major surgery you know it's going to need) and then put it away somewhere for at least a month, preferably a month during which you work on something else. You want to cleanse your palate. You want to untangle your brain from that stuff. Then, when you come back and look at it again, it's amazing what a different perspective you have, and how easy it is to see the answers to problems that you were tied up in before.

There's also a technique that Holly Lisle advises in her revision workshops regarding envisioning your perfect book that it sounds like you might benefit from here. The philosophy is that you can't hit a target you can't see, so what you want to do is imagine what your book might be like if it were finished and perfect, exactly what you wanted. You might not have the details, but what's the big picture? How might readers describe it? What sorts of emotions do you want them to feel? What are the big, stand-out features? Once you have an idea of what book you want, it may be easier to go back and make decisions that will lead you toward that ideal.

I'm advising this stuff now because I'm concerned that your developmental editor will say things like, "You could do this, in which case strengthen XYZ, or you could could that, in which case strengthen ABC," and you will be no further advanced. When I was working as an editor, my job was to help the author tell their story to the best of their ability - not to tell the author what story to tell. If you don't know what you want to tell, then if I were your editor, I'm not sure how much I could help you. I could point out where you had strong elements that suggested you do XYZ or ABC, but if you've got both of those things happening and more besides, only you as the author can decide what story you want to tell.

But, as Peat points out, you're in this now. Definitely try to make the most of it and be open to hearing what comes back.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2016, 04:08:53 AM »
Just to put everyone's mind at rest - I am not seeking someone to tell me what to write, or how to write it.

I have written lengthy, complex documents comprised of innovative ideas for a while now. This experience is not 100% applicable, but it is useful, and it shifts my strengths and weaknesses away from the norm. So when I say I need a particular kind of help, I really do have an idea of what I'm talking about.

The situations I am writing toward are well established in my head - what I cannot discern is how to get there in the space I have, or how and where to break up the long chunks of intellectual scenes where my MC is studying sorcery. In many areas there's not enough conflict or tension, but I am unsure which string to pluck. I see a ton of options - but I do not want to just pick some random thing or guess without someone watching my back and confirming the idea is sound at this juncture.

As it stands, the narrative is decent for a draft compared to my objectives for it. But it's too much of the same stuff. What I don't know is how to break it up effectively, and what to build in around it. I've got an ocean of ideas but I need some help evaluating them, comparing them, and framing those decisions. Suggestions on how to implement them: flashbacks? cut-scenes? A new POV character? Again, not making the decisions.

And what you describe Cupiscent, is exactly what I am looking for - an unbiased assessment of my material as it is and feedback on the most viable options of the several I am struggling with. Much of this is wrapping my head around what must be shown and told between now and the end, as well as some of the finer points of the end itself - what it mechanically must do to be sound and whole. And I could use some advice on which plot lines and character issues could be left open for the next book, and which would leave readers pissed off that I didn't deliver enough in the first book. Having answers to half of these issues would likely resolve the rest, and I could finish this draft in a few weeks (barring massive reconstruction).

There's some Gem Cutter psychology at play, too. I am seeking someone with knowledge and experience to help me turn my conflicted, circular thinking into a linear dialogue that can lead to decisions sometime THIS YEAR. And that IS advancement - extremely useful advancement. I've pursued all other options, but other than kidnapping a lit-major from the local college, it's really just me.

Everyone struggles with SOMETHING. As I see them, my biggest writing issues (certainly not my only ones) stem from structure and indecision - and these are not solvable in a timely fashion on my own. So I've brought in some reliable, knowledgeable backup, again, not to make the call, but to run the instant-replay so I can focus on what's important as I make the calls.

In theory, a writing group or a bunch of readers might have been able provide some of this, maybe all if they were awesome, but A) not in a timely fashion, B) not without requiring me to spend time returning the favor, C) not without a lengthy search for just the right people, and D) not with any guarantee of feedback applicable to the issues at hand. So I am trying something else.

Worst case scenario, a couple months working with an experienced editor will expand my knowledge in a lot of different areas, but I have the same problems. At least I will understand them better. Either way, money well spent.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline cupiscent

Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2016, 06:24:09 AM »
I admit, Gem, I'm a little concerned that you're trying to buy writing skill and experience. I very much feel that there really isn't a shortcut to that. You need to put in the hours. You need to learn the lessons yourself. Because if you want the how of putting a novel together, no one else's answer is going to be applicable to you. And all of those options and answers you're outlining are viable, depending on how you want to put your story together.

(I admit, I'm particularly concerned because of the way you dismiss writing groups. In my experience, 80% of the benefit I got out of critique groups was what I learned from working with other people's writing, not what they told me about mine. And that's because working with their writing allowed me to engage with issues in a way I couldn't with my own work - but then when I had the experience, I could turn that stuff onto my own writing. So, in your example, looking at what did and didn't work for other people in making story-structure decisions helped me learn what I did and didn't want to do in structuring my own stories.)

But this is your writing journey, not mine. And if working with the editor makes you feel more positive about the direction you're in, and more willing to put in the hours working in that way, then as you say, money well spent.

And as I wrote this, I was mentally parsing this to the Brandon Sanderson comparison of writing to basketball or playing piano from his first lecture that someone linked. (Which I'm enjoying heaps.) No amount of expert coaching can substitute for hours spent practicing. BUT expert coaching can help you get the most out of your hours practicing, by ensuring you're not practicing with dodgy technique. So I guess I've talked myself into butting out. :D

Offline sennydreadful

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2016, 09:32:51 AM »
Summoning @sennydreadful. Do you have a moment to suggest things for Gem_Cutter?

GC, if you haven't met Sennydreadful (aka Jen Williams), she's a published author of wonderful adventurous fantasy novels whom most on F-F adore for her books and her incredible penmanship, er, friendliness, er, yeah. Personhood.  :-[  ;D

Hello! *waves*

I'm not sure how helpful my experience will be here - my work with editors has always come after the first draft is finished. In truth, my editor only sees the book on the second or even third draft, because I have a huge aversion to anyone seeing my rough work... Before being published by Headline, I had no experience of working with editors at all, relying on my own critical eye and the critical eyeballs of beta readers. And I'm too skint to pay anyone ;)

To be honest, with what you're seeking here, it does sound like you would get the same, or more appropriate, help from a writing group or even a creative writing course. Now, I don't have experience with either of those things either (woe, I am such a solitary writer) but everything I've heard from colleagues suggests that they can be massively helpful, if you're open to it.

As Cupiscent said below, there are no shortcuts with writing, and sometimes it just takes a really bloody long time. You wrestle with a book for years, you have to fight your way through, etc. I suspect at this stage an editor will be giving you a range of potential solutions - and if that's what you want, then that's fine. Just bear in mind you may still end up wrestling with the thing for a while yet.  :D I think, judging from your previous posts, you're pretty certain this is the path you want to take anyway, and in that case: be clear with the editor up front what you want, and how much it might cost you. And good luck!

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2016, 10:00:15 AM »
Cupiscent, your attention and concern and your willingness to share your experience is deeply appreciated.

Trust that I am not attempting to engineer a shortcut to skill and experience - you're right, there are no shortcuts. But there is a talent factor, and I have some of it. Is it enough? We'll see. I hope so!

And before you go trying to scare me, let me say, I have every reason to be confident. I've gone my own way all my life and achieved better results than the mainstream in almost every regard, if you measure success as I do. No one here has seen my writing, just my sketches and initial drafts, grainy proofs of concept, and my crappy poems. Others craft the perfect toenail and work up, or the perfect ear and work down. I shape the whole sculpture before I bother with detail and finish. Now my poetry, that is the full measure of my lack of skill, for sure.

Yours is not the first good advice I have had to ignore for reasons that go beyond ego, pride, and the other usual suspects. I have two sons with issues, one that requires continual support indefinitely. I have aging parents whose mental health is flagging. I don't have time to spend working this out through conventional, traditional means. I spent months trying to get into a writing group - no dice. So I have this one chance to pursue my dream AND fulfill my responsibilities IN the time that I have. So I am doing what I've done my whole life - improvising. I don't always succeed - but I usually do.

What I am doing is engineering a shortcut to a revelation - that either I have the chops to deliver as a professional, that I am close enough that a nudge here or there will shed light, or I don't, in which case I go back to work and write as a hobby until I have acquired enough skill and experience, like many others.

I'll report back in a couple months, and I'll be more than willing to let you know you were right, and getting an editor was the worst decision I've ever made, if that's the case. Maybe it will be.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2016, 11:21:22 AM »
Hi Ms. Dreadful!
I have heard others speak very highly of your work, and appreciate you answering Jmack's summons. I have not yet read your books, but they're on my TBR list, which is still shiny and new after Jmack built it for me in a desperate bid to update me to the modern age. I'm 4 books into it? I forget. I am currently following Locke Lamorra through his lies at the moment.

I share your sensitivity about people seeing your work before it's ready for prime-time, but I draw the line further out. My writing experience has been very social with teams of 3 to 30 all working together, and I draw the line at the customer, which now means publishers and agents.

Your advice is good, and I was very specific with my editor and laid out my objectives. Her response: "That is EXACTLY what I do." Her cost was competitive with similar services elsewhere. She's very qualified and has edited works discussed here on several occasions, and garnered reviews and accolades from  authors she has helped. So I am hopeful and optimistic that she and I will be able to move my novel forward. Also I am playing a long game (I hope) and trying to establish a good editor relationship earlier than I need one. Did you go through multiple editors before you found Mr./Mrs. Right?

I learned some years ago that I am an idea machine, but my ideas range from horrendously bad to distinctively innovative and compelling - and having a partner to help me toss out the bad is more useful for me than I can communicate.

If you have any other advice on working with an editor, I am all ears.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Peat

Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2016, 02:55:10 PM »
This blog post might help you a little - The Dreaded Edit