I’m asked this question almost daily.
With the inception of inexpensive self-publishing, new writers flocked to put their books out into the readersphere. Ran, flew, rushed to do so.
And it showed. Almost as soon as this vast sea started surging to an e-retailer near you, readers began squawking. Because, to be blunt, the vast majority of these books were simply awful. Elementary. First efforts (and most of them read like first drafts of first books).
Readers of course had been used to professionally finished books—both by the author, the editor, and the publishing house putting out the final product.
And this new ocean was anything but . . .
But writers heard these readers and reviewers.
While speaking at conferences (even those dedicated solely to self-publishing), I began hearing presenters pound on writers about editing. The voices grew stronger. More numerous.
Again, writers heard this advice. And are now heeding it in huge numbers.
I worried there for a bit about the heralded dumbing down of America.
So now, knowing they truly need their manuscripts edited, no matter which venue they plan to pursue, writers at all stages of the game contact me with that question:
When do I need a developmental edit?
I help writers at every step of this process. From first drafts to those already under contract to a major publishing house. Last year, Randy Denmon’s first novel was published by Kensington. The editor at Kensington was so impressed with the final manuscript after Randy and I worked together, he put in the second contract that Randy must work with me again.
Randy was well down the writing road when he initially contacted me.
But I’ve worked with tons of brand-spanking new writers, with first books that were truly diamonds in the rough. And they’ve gone on to sell those first novels to publishers, which have done very well. Mary B. Morrison’s Soul Mates Dissipate launched her career onto the NY Times Bestseller list.
So I’ve worked with writers on both ends of the spectrum, and everywhere in between.
Writers learn enormous amounts from a great developmental editor—no matter at what stage of the game they find themselves to begin.
There is really only one milestone to reach before doing so: Complete the first draft.
It’s not that an editor can’t help in the planning stages. I can, and do. But that’s usually more discussion, rather than words on the page.
And it’s not that you can’t benefit from an edit with only a few chapters or part of a manuscript finished. Again, when working with an experienced book editor, benefit always occurs.
But I caution writers not to do that. For one simple reason.
When you’re in the creation stage, the last thing we want to do is flip to the other side of the brain (editing), and staunch that creative flow.
Writers learn to write, first and foremost, by writing. By getting those words and paragraphs and scenes and chapters down on paper.
I’ve never actually seen it work well for someone to study the art of writing before putting said words on paper.
Because, again, writing is a creative endeavor. It comes from the deep recesses of the numinous mind. And, most importantly, if it’s to be very good, from the heart.
We want to massage that muse until she’s singing arias to the ethers and her voice becomes ever more shining and clear.
It takes a while to find that voice. To hone in on it. To dig away the dirt and bring the clear tenor to the surface.
Which of course circles back to letting characters and storylines and plots run where they will.
In short, to just write.
Then it’s time to study the craft of writing. To put on that analytical hat and see where you are. To begin dissecting down to the bones, figuring out the issues, learning how to fix them. Basically, learning the craft of writing.
Now it’s time to work with that great editor, teacher, mentor, coach. Now is the time to plunge into the science of the art of the craft.
And then your words on the page can be turned into a bang-up book.