Working With a Structural/Developmental Editor

So the last few months, or more, I have been silent on here. Not just because I have no idea how to use WordPress without getting a headache, but because I have been busy with classes and rewrites.

I participated in a Twitter pitch contest. My tagline got the attention of a few agents. “This is it.” I thought. Finally, I’m going to get an agent.

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This obviously did not happen. What did happen was a very nice agent sent me a well thought out response. She told me she liked the concept, but the story needed work. She recommended I work with a writing group or hire a structural/developmental editor if I could.

Where I live, there are no writing groups, and I really want this book to do well. It has been a labor of love for me the last four years. I made a mistake and fell in love with the idea, the characters, and am protective of it.

My search for an editor began. Now, having taking some courses on editing, I knew prices would be high. Finding a structural/developmental editor is not as easy as finding a traditional editor. The prices were higher, but when I read what they do I understood why. At least for some people.

I was quoted prices of 3,000 by one person who had no resume to speak of, only did one pass, and no talking on phone or Skype. Another person responded to me three months after my inquiry and was upset I had gone with someone else before waiting for their response. A different one told me it would take a week or so and would cost around 4,000. Knowing what I knew, that was not going to be a very good edit and far too much money.

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Well, there went that. The issue for me was not the money; it was that I felt none of them were very professional. That’s when I went searching around on the HWA website and found Nancy Holder (she has an intimidating resume, wrote the novelization of Crimson Peak, and knows her stuff). I contacted her, not sure what to expect.

She responded within a few days, was up front, funny, kind, and most of all professional. Her rates were reasonable considering her resume – made me really wonder what some of the other editors were thinking, and made me feel bad for anyone who hired them.

So, I did not hesitate and jumped at the opportunity to work with Nancy. She offered an initial read through of the first part with a note on her impressions. If there was something I did not like, the contract could be terminated, and she would keep a small portion of the payment. Needless to say after I read through her notes, and ideas on how to improve the story, I did not terminate anything.

She also offered two Skype sessions to talk about the story, for me to ask any questions, to get clarification on anything I might be confused on, and get a better feel for the story.

This made all the difference in the world. She was funny, reassuring, and kind. When I received the full edit, and notes – I admit to wanting to cry. It was so much work. So much work. But I knew from our initial conversation, and the changes I had made on the first part, the book was already greatly improved. She had managed to pull out the story I wanted to tell.

What I had done over the years was have several friends read it, each one having different ideas and input. The end result being a mash-up of genres and writing styles. When I explained to her the story I wanted to tell. The world I wanted to build. She got it, and weeded out all the parts that were not me.

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As soon as I realized my story, the one I had been wanting to tell for so long was visible, I was ecstatic. All the work was still there, but I was happy to do it. I handled it in bite size pieces, not wanting to overwhelm myself.

When I finished a feeling of accomplishment took over.  Now I await the final read through and notes  – then do some more work, and will have a professionally edited kick ass manuscript too submit to that agent who started me down this path all those months ago. I hope she likes this version, but if not I now have faith in the book. I know it is far better than what I was pitching a year ago, and am crossing all my fingers and toes in hopes it will do well.

So, why write this post?

Two reasons –

1 – If you ever decided to hire a developmental/structural editor – make sure you are getting your money’s worth. Ask for referrals, ask for a sample, ask how long they have been doing it, ask everything!

2 – When you do get an editor, be prepared for a lot of feedback, good and bad. Remember, these people are trying to get your book in the best possible shape for it to succeed in the big leagues. Be prepared for a lot of work.  Remember, you will learn from them and your next book will be written using what you have learned. In the end, it is worth it.

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