It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s A Writing Superhero!

Monday, February 27, 2017
So there I was, backed into a corner with a flailing manuscript. Despite feedback from writing partners, critique groups, and all my usual best efforts, it still needed something. But what?

“Help! HELPPPPP!” I hollered. And suddenly, I heard the cry, reverberating through my speakers. (It sounded a lot like Mighty Mouse singing, “Here I come to save the daaayyyyy!”) Look! Through the interwebs! In my Inbox! Swooping in with all kinds of ideas was…

Independent Editor Person!

So how do you know when it’s time to call for help? When might you need an indie editor? Here are a few tips that could point you in that direction:

If you’re sending out your manuscript to agents and getting lots of requests for a full but no offers of representation, it might be beneficial to get an editor. Chances are good, you’ve probably got an interesting premise—yay! You’ve written a compelling query, too—yay! And your writing in the first ten pages—the standard number of pages in a query—must be great. Double yay! But somewhere past those ten pages and query, the writing’s falling apart—boo!

An editorial letter, three to five pages of feedback, might just save the writing day for you, clearing up the plot problems or character snafus that are keeping those agents from committing.

So ask your published writing friends, preferably friends who are published where you want to be published, for editor recommendations. The cost of an indie editor varies widely, depending on the manuscript length, from reasonable ($50) to quite expensive ($4,000) so you’ll want to do your homework before you make a commitment.

If you have an agent who’s sent your manuscript out on round after round after round of submissions and it’s not selling, it might be time to call an editor. When you and your agent have worked on the story and firmly believe it’s ready, when you both love the story, and especially if your feedback is very basic, it can be hard to see what’s stopping the sale. A fresh pair of professional eyes can open your eyes to what needs revision.

An agent may know of editors that clients have used and make that recommendation, but again, it’s often enough to put out the request to friends in your genre. Reliable names come up on a reliable basis.

And finally, if your manuscript is winning multiple contests in professional writing organizations, like RWA or SCBWI, but then going nowhere fast, an editor might be able to get that story over the finish line. It’s possible that the manuscript’s sagging somewhere in the middle and you need feedback on the whole story.

That’s what a superhero editor can do for you: look at the whole story and make suggestions for improvement. And believe me, it’ll feel like he—or she—has saved the writing day!


Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer.
 She'll be attending an SCBWI conference in Decatur, Georgia, on March 10th--12th. She'd love to see you there!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--Sometimes it's not only my plot that seems to be sagging...Parts of ME are sagging too.

Great advice. I have to finish my WIP before I even think of hiring a professional editor.

(And I loved the reminder of "Mighty Mouse." In church yesterday the priest showed a picture of Alfred E. Neuman to the congregation via his phone, and of course, only the old people--like me--knew who he was.)

Carol Coven Grannick said...

I so agree with you, and have benefitted from this kind of consultation immensely several times in priceless ways. Thanks for posting!

KAlan said...

Thanks for a timely post, Cathy. I have come to realize that I am in need of an editor... although, in my case, it is usually those first few pages or chapters that are weak, with my novels picking up steam as they go. The problem is, quite simply, money: your post mentions that some editors charge as little as $50, but I have certainly not encountered any such service. Everyone I have queried has wanted thousands and thousands; what's a poor, first-time author to do?

Cathy C. Hall said...

Alfred E. Neuman--hahahahhaa!Thanks for that memory, Sioux!

And Carol, you're so very welcome! I think the first time is always the hardest and then you find yourself wondering why you didn't do it sooner! :-)

KAlan, I don't know your genre but I can tell you that thousands and thousands is too much for ANY genre/first-time writer! Go to a writer's conference and talk to people! Someone has the info you need (and if you write for children, go to my website where you'll find a "Contact Me" form. I know a couple of editors that might help you, including our own Margo Dill, here at WOW!)

KAlan said...

Thanks, Cathy. I did have one quotation of $1564 for 68,000 words, but all the others are 3K and even 4K.

I will contact you and Margo soon. My location in the world makes it impossible to attend all those conferences you all keep talking about, but it's good to know that there are avenues I can pursue.

Mary Horner said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm still taking mine to my critique group, but have some problems with the overall story line that may require professional help.

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