At the Writing East Midlands conference, Cressida Downing, a.k.a. The Book Analyst, gave an excellent workshop on the topic of Working with an Editor. Here are our picks from her tips.
Working With an Editor
Don’t edit as you go along. Focus on getting to the end of your book first.
There’s nothing wrong with asking friends and family to look at your work, but you risk them either telling you it’s great or picking it apart in minute detail. Take their comments with a pinch of salt.
If you ask your fellow writers to look at your work, remember that their main priority is their own work, so they will want you to return the favour at some point. Also, send them a chapter, not the whole thing – people have busy lives.
Bear in mind that editors charge by length, so it’s worth getting your work into the best possible shape before you go to a professional. If you know stuff needs cutting, cut it!
Know the difference between different types of editing. Lots of people think they need proofreading or copy-editing when they actually need a deep structural edit, or they think that a proofreader will ‘edit’ their work. Make sure you’re approaching the right type of editor.
Don’t get your work copy-edited or proofread too early. The intervention of a structural editor at a later stage will undo lots of the work that’s already been done.
Make sure your editor works in your genre or at least has some familiarity with it.
Beware of editors who over-edit because they want you to feel as though you’re getting your money’s worth.
Occasionally you might find that an editor doesn’t give you enough creative direction; for example, advising you whether to rework something or scrap it completely.
There is no set number of times that you should edit your work. Whatever gets the job done. ‘The point of editing,’ says Cressida, ‘is to get you a beautiful book.’
Cressida also had some advice about writing a synopsis:
It should be no longer than one page.
It shouldn’t contain cliffhangers. It’s not the same as a blurb. It should contain all major plot twists and turns, including the ending.
Write synopses of other people’s books that have already been published.
Cressida Downing in action at the Writing East Midlands conference