Editors & Critique Partners & Beta Readers Oh My! Writers Wednesday

WritersWednesday

Hey Everyone!  So there are many things you need to do for your book once you finish it. Now I know that your first draft is amazing. It’s perfect and doesn’t need to be touched but let’s think for a minute that maybe it does. Let’s think that maybe it could be made stronger, nipped, tucked and polished a bit. 

 

A lot of authors make the mistake of trying to get their work out too quick. They query twenty agents and get standard form rejections. Then they move to publishers and get a dozen rejections and think, oh well, I’ll just self publish it. When what they should be doing is taking a step back to figure out why they are being rejected.

 

So here is a quote from Ernest Hemingway:

The first draft of anything is crap! 

 

Now I don’t necessarily agree with him. Not all of it is crap. Some of it is good. But never is it great. And never is it publishable. It takes time and editing to get it great and make it publishable. So what do you do? How do you know how what to do to make it better?

 

People are often surprised to hear how many times I edit a piece before giving it to an editor. So here is my process.

 

I write a draft. It usually takes about a month to write it. Then I let it sit and marinate. After that I edit it all the way through about two to three times. From there I go through my editing checklist and clean up the book. After that I send it out to get critiqued. 

 

Stage One – Critique Partners

You need one amazing or two awesome critique partners to look over your book and tell you exactly what they think. Not your mom or your best friend or your husband – Unless they are a published author. But people who know what they are doing and will tell you the total truth. They should tell you any character, plot, pacing, grammatical and typo issues. They should tell you what they like and do not like. They should kick your butt and tell you everything that is wrong with your book along with what is right. And you should not take it personally. They are trying to help you. They want you to succeed. 

 

Stage Two – You Edit

After you get those critiques back you edit it again with your partners’ notes. You don’t have to take all of their notes but you do need to at least keep an open mind to them. After you have edited the story again, you are almost done. You may feel at this point you’re done. That it is as good as it is going to get. But hold on.

 

Stage Three A – Editor 

At this point you may decide to hire a freelance editor to look at it. There are different kinds of editors so make sure you get the right one. A developmental editor will look at your overall story and plot and characters and tell you any problems. Copy Editors look for grammatical, plot, typo and other kinds of problems. Smaller than the big story or plot. Proofreaders simply look for typo and grammatical errors, that’s all. I suggest you get recommendations for editors instead of just picking one from the internet. Also most editors will do a free sample so they can see your writing and you can see their style. Always get a free sample. Look at their credentials and any recommendations they may have. There are a lot of people who call themselves editors that shouldn’t be. Be proactive in your search and make sure you find a good fit for you. What might work for your friend may not be what you need.

 

Stage Three B – Beta Readers

If you choose to skip paying an editor then you go to Beta Readers. Beta Readers are different than Critique partners. Your beta readers will give you their overall impressions of the book. Did they like it? Did they not? Where there characters they didn’t like or inconsistencies you missed. They will also grab any last typos for you. I usually have a minimum of 3 beta readers because 3 sets of eyes are better than one at this stage.

 

Stage Four – You Edit

This is it. Your last pass. You go through it and edit all the things your beta readers caught. Then maybe you go through it another time. Or maybe you want to never look at it again and you set it aside. 

 

So now are you done? Nope. Now you write a Logline, Tagline, Blurb and Synopsis. Then you polish the heck out of those. And when that is done, then you have a package ready to go. 

 

Now you notice I didn’t mention critique groups. Those are great but they are no longer in my process because I write too fast and they move to slow. Writer’s groups are a wonderful tool if you get into one with the following criteria. 1) There are published writers in the group. 2) The people are there to do more than just get your approval 3) They know how to critique.

Critique groups can be very helpful but beware because everyone has their own ideas as to what you should do with your story. You may end up with six conflicting ideas as to what you need to work on. But here is a piece of advice I got that I apply to all critiques and why I always use 2-3 people for everything. 

 

“If two or more people say you’re drunk. You’re Drunk! Sit Down!”

 

What that means is, if two or more people are telling you that you have the same problem with your work, you really should look at it because it’s probably a problem. If one person says it, then think about it and see if you agree. If two or more tell you, then it might have merit. If two people tell you your character has no arc, then they probably don’t. If they tell you that you could do away with a scene, you probably can. People will always have different opinions and they won’t always agree with you, it’s up to you to pick and choose what you want to listen to. But if you go with a publisher, in the end, they will probably have the last say.

 

So what about you? What’s your process after you finish a book?

1 Comments

  1. M.J. Schiller, Romance Author

    My process is very similar, but I add a step. After I’ve done the edits from my editor, I send it to a proofreader. MANY mistakes are not in the original version, but are made in the editing process. You change a sentence fragment, but in so doing you’re now repeating a word you used in the previous sentence. And it’s not good enough for me to look over it, because my eyes will see what I think is there. A fresh set of eyes will stumble and find the oversight, or “hear” the repetition. I recently read a book with many errors in it that I could tell were added in the editing process. Like they changed a character’s name to a pronoun, but forgot to take out the character’s name. And my proofreader will often pick up something that neither I, with all my rounds of personal edits, or my editor caught. Even with all this, it is practically impossible to be error-free, but I try to come as close as possible.

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