When do you need an editor?

Is the question posed here, at Alan Rinzler’s blog The Book Deal. Now, Rinzler is an editor, and he says there are three stages at which a writer consults him about editing:

a) Before really starting the book.

This, not to put too find a point on it, strikes me as a bit strange. Not that I don’t get why someone might want to think about the issues raised, like first or third person and how to incorporate the backstory and how to end the book. But, honestly, an editor? Why not just try writing scenes in first and third and see what you like? Just incorporate the backstory, there’s no point talking about how to do it, just do it. And, you know, when you get to the ending, stop.

I know I’m making things sound easier or at least more straightforward than they are. But, honestly, I think you learn about this kind of thing by reading and seeing how great writers do it, and then by actually doing it yourself, not by talking about it. Even with a professional.

b) While the book is in process.

While this doesn’t exactly seem nuts, I have to say, you could not pay me enough to let somebody look at a manuscript in progress. (Well, I mean, you could, but it would take a pretty substantial payment.) I’m very uncomfortable having people read bits and pieces while the book is still being written. Plus, it’s going to change and change again and acquire bits and lose bits and . . . no. Just no.

This is one reason I would never join a crit group, especially one where members are expected to submit a chapter at a time for critiques. No way!

c) After the book is finished.

There you go! This is when feedback actually becomes important!

Rinzler says:

“In a full developmental edit, I go through the entire manuscript several times, offering specific page-by-page recommendations, alterations in the plot, concept, character development and visual descriptions, small and large structural shifts, fine tuning the pacing and literary style. I insert tracked changes that indicate deletions within the sentence, or entire paragraphs, sections or chapters. I suggest new language for polish and clarity.”

Whoa. Reading something like this makes me feel great about the comments I get back from my (very much appreciated) first readers! And later from my editors! My agent comments about pacing, my brother about logical problems with the story, everyone about character issues . . . but I am grateful that nobody EVER seems to feel the need to mess with my sentences, paragraphs, or general style. Or descriptive scenes (other than to cut some description). Or overall plot. Or basic characterization.

I’m glad to come across this post right now, while I’m revising. Makes me feel like it’s not such a big job after all!

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1 thought on “When do you need an editor?”

  1. I was surprised, too, to see him discuss writers coming to him at the start of a project. I’ve heard of writers running possible projects by their agents, but not taking issues up with editors before they had something to look at.

    I was thrilled to see what he says he does with books as an editor. I’ve gotten the impression that there is far less editing in modern publishing than there used to be. Read the books that prove it, too.

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