Let’s talk about revisions. That is, revisions once you’ve finished your drafts and you think you have it as good as you can get it (or are so sick you won’t read your own work again without crying) and want to send it out.
Alpha & Beta Readers
I stopped using alph and beta readers a few years ago. It was not worth the level of feedback I was getting. There are ways around that to improve, and if you work with and allow for multiple people to do it and enough time and provide a ton of guided documentation, they can be a little help.
It’s just too much work for me.
I realised that it’s easier and better to pay for a proper editor who has experience to give me the feedback I want.
I only hire a Dev editor once a year or so, have them look over my work for things that could be fixed in the future books and then work on that. I don’t use developmental editing myself on stuff I will release, because I trust myself to write something good enough that I don’t want to run away and hide.
But yeah, it can take a bit to get there for some people. I’m also, stupidly good at compartmentalising my insecurity on writing.
Dev editing though just isn’t necessarily the best option for many new writers. Partly it’s because I believe you can only work on so many portions of your craft at the time – and many authors just need to work on their basic sentence / writing side and not dev level things like plot / scenes / theme and mood.
That Being Said
Editors and editing and the amount you need REALLY depend on where you are in the writing process.
My early work desperately needed a ton of copy and line editing. I learnt a ton from the copy & line editors then, and that was what I focused on cleaning up.
Once I hit over a million words written (give or take a few hundred thousand), I started looking at structure and pacing and depth, and realising what else I was missing. Then dev editors and classes and the like helped.
Make sure you get samples. From a few people. Test to see which ones work best with what you need to fix, and work with them for the full work. As mentioned before, short stories are a great way to get started with a new editor since they have the whole story to edit based off.
Be careful about anyone who talks exclusively about style guides and grammar rules but doesn’t mention author voice. It’s worth noting that much of ‘good’ writing as taught in schools and/or is used for writing reports (non-fiction, business reports, etc.) is actually BAD fiction writing.
Breaking up sentences. Using fragments. But and And starting… none of that is necessarily good if used too much; but it also is part of what makes an author’s style.
Editors who change your work without leaving major commentary on why probably won’t help that much, especially beginner authors.
Editors who insist theirs is the only way and others are worse and/or try to justify their higher prices by saying others are worse and/or not acknowledging that different manuscripts will have different needs (i.e. some manuscripts are worse than others) are likely going to be just as insistent that you write the way they think you should and NOT respect your author voice.
Lastly, realise that in indie world, copy & line editing is basically thrown together instead of being done seperately. So plan and budget for that.
I’ve been in discussion with a number of people about proofreading recently. Here’s the problem. No one can agree what proofreading is, not anymore.
Historically, proofreading in publishing was comparing the printed proof against the edited copy, looking at things like headers, page numbers, formatting, etc to make sure nothing was introduced during the proof.
These days, it’s changed.
Here’s a few definitions I pulled.
From the Editorial Freelancers Association:
Proofreaders perform a final check for any remaining errors, including typographical errors. They also check for problems with typesetting elements, such as style for chapter titles and running heads; page makeup; and ebook page flow.
A final review of the proof was performed by a proofreader who’s responsible for catching any grammatical, spelling, and formatting errors or inconsistencies.
Carefully checking for any remaining errors, such as misspelled words, misplaced punctuation, and stylistic inconsistencies.
In print publishing, proofreaders are also responsible for checking the formatting (e.g. page numbers and line spacing).
And from a couple of different editors:
I will help you eliminate grammatical, typographical and spelling errors. I will also look for inconsistencies and plot holes in your story.
I proofread for all typos and errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, consistency, subject-verb agreement, and word usage. I also keep an eye out for overused phrases and words, as well as formatting issues.
… so yeah. Proofreading covers a ton of services, and sometimes, when all you want people to look for a final QA check like they did traditionally, you get instead a minor line edit. Be very careful of what you pay for and get with proofreading, and set your expectations as necessary.
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