Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Process of Working with an Editor

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by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

Last week Ms. Erin Niumata of The New York Book Editor returned my edited manuscript. Over the days that followed, a number of people asked questions of the process and my thoughts as to the experience. With that in mind, I thought I'd pen an article on the subject in hopes it will enlighten those of us who still strive to get our novels published.

First, let me say Erin performed a marvelous and skilled edit of my manuscript. Her work is professional, her prices are competitive and she completed her work ahead of schedule. I'd requested a full editorial critique, which covers all aspects of the novel. Best, or worst, of all, Erin pegged the good, the bad and the ugly of my manuscript with unfailing accuracy. With her permission and my full confidence, I recommend you consider her the next time you need the services of an accomplished editor.

Now, with her well-earned commercial out of the way, let's take a look at the process, shall we?

Though I've worked with an editor in the past, I felt a second set of eyes might prove advantageous, so I started to search out other editors. I sought recommendations from friends, acquaintances and my social network. I also did some research over the Internet. Within a week or so, a number of qualified candidates rose to the top.

I then asked for sample edits of my first chapter from the few in whom I had the most interest. After I evaluated there sample edits, Erin's seemed to have the finest grasp of me and my story.

I did my best to keep from bothering her and about a month after I emailed my manuscript, she returned her recommendations in a twelve page summation.

She began with a general overview of my manuscript where she offered her thoughts as to the overall strengths and weaknesses in plot, characterization and dialogue.

She then delved into a thorough evaluation of my plot. She pointed out where it ran off course, what sections failed to enhance the plot and what aspects of it she thought worked well.

Next, she discussed the subplots. Again, she covered the strengths and weakness of each one.

Her next paragraphs focused on characterization with, in my case, the most attention paid to my antagonist, which needs more consideration.

The last nine pages included a line-by-line critique. Many of these notes covered such things as spelling or word choice and individual things she appreciated. She pointed out anything she needed to reread and even where I'd used a word twice in too short a span. She also inserted the occasional note to enhance things she'd discussed in the earlier parts of her evaluation.

She forwarded them with an invitation to call and discuss any questions I might have.

After I perused her notes, I came away with full knowledge of what I needed to do to enhance my chances of writing that well-received novel. You'll never convince me that alone isn't worth the price of admission.

Now, I can't say I'm happy with what I read in her summary. However, it's not because of what she said. It's because she needed to say it. All in all, this entire exercise proved worth every minute and penny spent.

So, my takeaway is this. I’m on the right path. It's just a much longer road than I'd envisioned. I'm also convinced Erin gave me the tools to place myself among her stable of best-selling authors. I've also come to realize I've still got some learning to do, I've still got some writing to do and I've still got a ton of editing to do. *Sigh*

The entire process isn't as oppressive as an aspiring author might think. However, it does take a thick skin and a burning desire to succeed.

My advice to you? Whenever you think you're ready to go out and enthrall the world with your brilliance, hire an editor. Then check your ego at the door and join me back here on ol' terra firma.

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the BACK-from-the-editors novel, "Born to be Brothers"


  1. Really interesting post, Patrick. I've often wondered about this process. I've seen editors for hire in the SCBWI resources and though I've never used one, you make a great case. I am thrilled that her suggestions made sense for you, even if they will lengthen the overall workload. Good luck revising and thanks again for sharing your experience.


  2. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 20, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Thanks, Marissa. This was the first time I've worked with such a high-caliber editor and I learned a great deal from her.