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Have you been thinking about hiring a developmental editor, but weren’t sure what the right time was? Or was this not even on your mind?
As a writer, you’re constantly learning and perfecting your craft. It’s a necessary process to become a better writer and write better books that continuously satisfy readers.
But here’s the thing: how do you get better?
Sure, one part is to keep writing: practice makes perfect after all. But what if you don’t know what to do next? How to take your story to the next level?
That was something I struggled with a couple of months back. I read my writing and knew it was decent enough. But decent wasn’t good enough: I want to write a book that sells, after all.
And I knew, from the several academic papers I’ve written over the years at my job, that the best way to improve was through feedback from someone who knew more than you.
How I came across my editor
I was already a part of an online community of writers, where you could submit your work and get feedback. But the feedback was often general, or too focused on grammar, or they couldn’t fault what I wrote because they weren’t as far in their writing development yet. I also occasionally got great feedback, but it was too inconsistent.
The community also had an option for paid feedback by a professional, though. So one day, I figured: why the heck not, and requested that option for a short story I submitted there. And presto, two weeks later, I got my feedback.
Was it scary to ask for professional feedback? Yes, it was! Part of me was terrified that this person would tell me I might as well give up writing. That I was far below the accepted level, a level where I could no longer be taught to write well.
But let’s be honest: that would be a pretty shitty editor, right?
And so, I opened the feedback with my heart beating stuck in my throat, and after a glance, let out a sigh of relief. Nowhere did it say I was a horrible writer. Thank God.
What I learned from my editor
From the comments and questions she asked me, I could tell there was much I could learn from her. They weren’t comments like: you should write like this, or the story should have this. Instead, she asked me questions to provoke my thinking and creativity to write differently.
So, after some confusing emails back and forth, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted, we finally decided to have a virtual consultation call. And it clicked. Just like that, she became my developmental editor. In those few months, she’s now been my editor (we started beginning of May, and it’s now only the end of July), I’ve already learned TONS. To sum it up:
- She’s taught me a new way to outline and brainstorm ideas for my story, that both complicate the stakes, create empathy for the character, and are in line with the chosen genre.
- She’s always trying to get me to have a proper balance between my showing and telling. I suppose with the many epic fantasy stories I’ve recently read, my focus has shifted more towards the telling side. Getting a good balance between them is quite essential, though; showing is more active and engaging for the reader.
- She explained to me the best way to use character descriptions.
- The importance of value shifts in a scene.
- To always have the character want something in a scene, the thing that is their essential action, so to say.
- How to use internal reflections: first, there’s an action or a piece of dialogue, which then triggers an internal reflection that is related to it.
And that is only in the roughly three months (we meet every other week), that we’ve worked together. We’re now in the stage where she’s teaching me to edit my own work. I suppose when I can do that, we can move faster through the writing of my novel.
Should you hire an editor?
It’s never too soon to hire a developmental editor. Seriously. You can only grow, learn more, and have someone who will hold you accountable for your writing (for those who need the stick behind the door), and who will motivate you when you’re in one of the inevitable writing slumps.
Actually, don’t just think of it as an editor. Think of it as a writing coach.
If you’re worried about the costs… well, yeah, it does cost money. Most editors, like mine, have different options (e.g., we meet every other week, but there’s also an option to meet every week, for instance). Generally, if you contact them, you should be able to work something out. Consider it an investment in your book, and more importantly, in yourself.
Where can you find a good developmental editor?
By now you might be thinking: well that’s all great and whatever, but where do I actually find such a developmental editor?
I will tell you!
So, my editor is Abigail K. Perry, and, as you’ve read, I’m thrilled with her service. You can check out her website and shoot her an email (not sure if she’s looking for new clients at this time, but it can never hurt to ask).
You can also look here, which are all the certified storygrid editors there are. They’re trained in the storygrid method, which I love, that will help you create a solid story structure. But apart from structure, they will also help you with anything else you need, from brainstorming ideas to better line-by-line writing.
They all have their strengths in terms of preferred genres, and whether they prefer fiction or non-fiction. Take your time to view them all, and then make your pick. Make sure to always schedule a consultation call (which is free) and see if you click with each other. You’re going to take their feedback, so you need to feel like this is someone you can work with, someone you feel safe with.
That said, I hope you will find yourself a great editor that you become an even better writer, and you will write a great book with their help!