After an unsuccessful one-on-one with a publisher at a recent literary conference, I decided to engage a professional editor to read my manuscript (a cosy-crime). Although I’ve previously had helpful feedback from mentors about sections of my novel, what I really wanted was to get a professional opinion on the entire manuscript. I found a great editor easily through the Freelance Editor’s Network. I read through each editor’s bio, and chose an editor that worked with books in the same/similar genre to my manuscript.
Editors offer a range of different services including structural and developmental edits, copywriting and proofreading. I chose to receive an editorial assessment comprising of an approximately 10-page report on my entire manuscript. The report took into consideration the plot, genre, structure, narrative and characters, and finished with some miscellaneous thoughts about consistency and plot holes. The feedback in this report has made me see my manuscript in a new light and now that I know how much it can be improved and reworked, I’m glad I decided to engage an editor before submitting to any more agents, publishers or competitions.
The editorial assessment has done two things. Firstly, it has confirmed that certain things I suspected needed work, do in fact need work, such as:
- Those opening chapters! Previous feedback regarding my opening chapters was that they felt too rushed. It starts right in the action, but the reader doesn’t get to know the main character, or their motivations well enough first, and it’s confusing. There needs to be more information for the reader to be able to orientate themselves in the world of the story before getting into too much of the action.
- Characters. I used to think the weakest part of my writing was scene setting, and while this is still an area that could use some work, the main thing I struggle with is demonstrating to the reader the motivations of my main characters.
Secondly, the editorial assessment has drawn my attention to things I didn’t realise needed work, such as:
- More exploration of the psychological elements of the murder mystery plot, including the motive of the murderer. This will also assist in making the story a bit darker, which is something I’ve discussed wanting to do in an earlier blog post.
- A greater sense of time moving to create more tension. Despite mapping out all of the dates and times of each scene, this isn’t clear to the reader.
- Subplots that aren’t pulling their weight. I’ve got lots of subplots and some of them haven’t been explored enough to engage and maintain the reader’s interest.
As an unpublished writer, after my experience engaging a professional editor to read my manuscript, I would absolutely recommend this to any new writers looking to improve their writing skills and learn more about the craft. Yes, it’s an expensive exercise but it’s absolutely worth the money if you can afford it. The feedback I received is another step towards my ultimate goal, which is to make my manuscript the best possible manuscript it can be. I knew it wasn’t there yet and needed more work. The editorial assessment has shown me there is still a lot of work to do before I will feel confident to submit it again to agents and publishers.
Have you ever sought professional advice on your writing? Please let me know in the comments below.