During the summer after 9th grade, I would bike for 15 minutes to a Starbucks in order to meet up with David Landoni, a recent college graduate who wanted editing experience to see if the job was the right path for him. Coincidentally, I also needed an editor to look at the first draft of my novel, which I knew was unpolished but couldn’t pinpoint why.
It turns out you have to indent paragraphs when writing fiction. Crazy, right? I learned so many things about grammar that summer, and it was the first time I truly felt like writing was a job. After all, I had to actually get up from my computer and talk with an adult about deadlines, expectations, and payment.
The service David provided is called copyediting, which involves correcting grammar and other inconsistencies—like if I used a different spelling for a name I had previously written—but it also includes improving readability and pacing.
For example, David told me that my last chapter wasn’t a satisfying conclusion, so I eventually added another chapter when my second editor at FriesenPress said the same thing. Editors don’t actually write anything for you. They might rearrange phrases or even add a sentence or two when the solution is obvious, but they’ll mostly leave comments to the gist of “consider adding more description here” and “you’re entire Sky arc doesn’t make sense.”
So how do I get an editor, you might ask? They’re definitely useful even to an amateur writer who didn’t realize he had to indent freaking paragraphs because they leave suggestions that you can accept when making changes. For example, did you know that you have to leave out the end quotation mark of the first piece of dialogue if it’s followed by another piece of dialogue spoken by the same person? This rule doesn’t apply if you add another “she said” or anything like that.
Abby said, “Did you know, Austin? The duck is true.
“The duck is you.”
Abby said, “Did you know, Austin? The duck is true.”
She continued, “The duck is you.”
You usually use this rule when a character has a lot to say, but you don’t want to see a gigantic, singular block of dialogue.
Anyway, the point is that editors leave their suggestions for you to accept, so you get to see their process and learn from it. I picked everything up so quickly because I had read a lot, but I needed someone to point out exactly what was being done before I could apply the instincts I had acquired.
I realize I’ve been a bit sidetracked, so let’s get back to how you can find your own editor (assuming you don’t want to get a writing tutor instead): simply hire one online. I found David Landoni because he’s my mom’s coworker’s son, but there are many editing services on the internet. You might wonder why not just go directly to a publisher since they give you an editor, right? However, many publishers require you to contact them with the help of an agent, and neither are likely to be interested unless your work interests them. And in order for your work to interest them, it needs to be good.
So, hire an editor (or a tutor) for their experience if you’re lacking a lot of basic knowledge. You could also go to a self-publishing company like FriesenPress because they give you the whole package—assuming you’re actually ready to publish—but be sure to read contracts carefully. Do some research on their reputation at the very least; some companies can trick you into publishing your next seven books with them before you’re allowed to switch publishers.
On that cheery note, happy writing!
Disclaimer: I know my path is unorthodox, but that’s just what I went through. You should consider what resources you have and what your level of writing is before you jump into the deep end like I did. You could just a hire a tutor or go to summer camps (more on these in a future post) if you don’t have the first draft of your novel already written and ready to edit.