While working on my novel, I’ve been fortunate enough to have met a number of people who offered to read and provide feedback on it over the last few years. I could try and list them, but I’d probably forget some – such has been the collective effort – but every contribution has allowed it to evolve.

That’s in addition to my own learning and growth, and these are lessons and comments I’ve taken to heart in every draft and project since. There comes a point, though, where something else is needed.

There have been questions and comments, but they’ve been of a similar vein. This is incredibly helpful, as it tells me I’m on the right path and I can address some of the gaps and problems. The number decreased with each draft, and it left me feeling quite confident.

While submitting to agents hasn’t been the success I’d hoped for, that’s not surprising. Maybe it’s the genre, or the niche within the genre? Maybe my cover letter hasn’t gripped them, or perhaps it’s just not good enough to be published?

Except, I don’t believe that last one. I can’t.

Why did I hire an editor?

So, while making moves towards self-publishing, I wanted to make sure that this is as good as can be. For that, I needed something else; a fresh pair of eyes trained to spot the things I still didn’t see. There are different services to choose from, and I spent some time speaking to different people and professionals to find the right path for me.

And then I found the right one.

It turned out, after all those conversations, the right one for me was someone I knew! Rachel has been a friend for a fair few years now, and it turned out that some of her clients had provided her with the kind of experience I wanted and needed.

After discussing my situation and needs, a course of action was set. The cost fit into my expectations and the excitement soared as everything was agreed, signed and started.

The hardest part of it all was waiting for the assessment to come back to me, or so I thought.

Dealing with a new kind of feedback

I’m used to friends reading my work. I’m used to relative strangers reading my work. I’m used to classmates reading my work.

I want the honest feedback. I’ll fight my corner but, ultimately, if something doesn’t become clear when I intended it to for a reader without the knowledge I have, that’s got to be addressed. Some of it is genre or style, and different readers pick up on different things, so having a wide net to cast is really useful.

An editor’s comments are something else.

There is literally no reason to be shy or protect my feelings. I’ve paid for a service, so I expect professional results. I got those, but it still hit me more than I expected. That’s another lesson to learn.

There weren’t any negative comments, though. Everything was constructive and questioning. A lot of it was designed to make me ask the questions and find the answers myself, and that takes time. I have some consultation time included but rather than rush in, I’m thinking on the points raised, looking over my manuscript and making notes that I can formulate later into questions.

Again, I’ve paid for this and I’ve got to be professional, too – that’ll help me get the most out of this whole experience. Anything I can learn now will only help me in the future. I’ll take my medicine and do my best to do better in the future.

The results

First of all, it’s made me rethink more than a few things about the story. It proved to be a bit of a wakeup call, and that’s a good way to beat the complacency that can set in. While the test readers had responded positively, there’s always a niggling doubt that they’re trying to protect your feelings somewhat, even the ones who are casual friends or passing acquaintances.

Some of the comments I received, now that I processed them, are on the mark, and the next draft will take big steps to address them. Some need subtle changes and others bigger, more sweeping edits throughout various parts of the manuscript.

Ultimately, the decision of what to change falls to me. This isn’t a traditional publishing deal where I have to make certain changes (if that’s how it works), and I need to keep in mind that the editor has studied this story in relation to itself, while I have two sequels in first draft. Some of the points raised I can relate directly to how I’ve structured the trilogy as a whole rather than just a standalone book. This is something I’ll discuss with her further.

Once done, I can move on to the more technical editing – and that takes me another step closer to the publishing stage.

It’s starting to feel a little more real.

2 Comments

    1. The cost is a big part of why I waited so long, definitely. I’ve been saving for a while, ever since it became clear that self-publishing was going to be my best option. That said, while it will be different for every project, the lessons you learn from the feedback can help you improve future projects – just make sure to find one that works well with you!

      Like

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