Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Editor Before the Editor

Book Sculptures by Mike Stilkey

Guest post by Sheri Hunter

That first novel needs to be treated like a patient where the respiratory, pulmonary, and circulatory systems are compromised.

Depending on writing ability, the novel may need resuscitation, a defibrillator with paddles pumping, or something less dramatic and simple like an injection of vitamin A.  With the right editor before you land the deal  you can bring your book back from a death grip.  With my novel, I am working with a professional editor prior to putting it out to the world of agents. The thought is to get assistance to help figure out what the fatal flaws and trouble spots are before an agent reads and kills my dream of publication. This preliminary help is quite fruitful and gives the added insight to make the novel sing. Editors help point out grammatical errors, rambling plot points and any other glaring issues that will automatically eliminate a novel from the pile sitting on an agent’s desk.  Hiring an editor can be a costly pursuit as some charge upwards of three-thousand dollars for a complete manuscript read, line-edit, and overall critique.  

Some argue writing critique groups are the way to go because they are, for the most part, free or lower in cost, provide multiple points of view from contributing writers, and the group consists of fellow writers who are newbies and not nearly as harsh.

The advantage of working with an editor prior to getting the book deal is they know how to resuscitate work on life support. With a true professional preferably one who has written a novel or two, one who critiques for a living, and (this the cherry on the top), one who has a PhD in Literature your novel can get the one-on-one attention that will help you address burgeoning issues, that left unchecked, will be fatal.  In the end, the editor, you work with before you get the deal, needs to be familiar with the various genres of writing, and the key elements of every novel: theme, character, point of view, and plot, as well have an ear for what is in demand by agents and editors in publishing houses.

In some of the weaker writing critique groups, they are anemic on all these points, they don’t know a semicolon from an apostrophe and worse, they have no idea if a  manuscript is salable. When it comes to landing the deal, whom would you want? Someone who has been in the trenches, a professional writer/editor, who has agonized over the hook, plot and actually worked through their angst, and completed a book, or folks like yourself, who are wringing their hands hoping to get it right, but not sure.

Mind you, an editor can only do so much. They cannot take a flagging story, with tired one-dimensional characters and a plot that winds in circles, and develop a Pulitzer Prize contender. Strong writing chops are still a prerequisite. Working with the right editor is the difference between your novel living, with possible inclusion on the NY Times Bestsellers list or dying in the heap with the rest of the lightweights. It takes luck to reach the majors…a tip-top editor, before you get the deal, will help give you the edge.

About the Author

Sheri Hunter is a journalist and writes for a daily newspaper in Michigan. Sheri has worked in TV news as a writer/producer for CBS and NBC affiliates in the Saginaw and Detroit markets. Follow her on Twitter @SheriHunter.

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