Face-Lift, Pt. 2

I’m having a frustration moment.

I’m trying to break into the freelance editor market, and I’m finding it harder than I anticipated. I mean, I knew it would be difficult to coax new writers into giving me money for editing their manuscript. But… it feels like everyone just wants free advice.

I get it. I’ve been in that position where I wanted advice, but I didn’t want to fork over half my paycheck to get it. I’ve been there.

I also remember thinking that I didn’t need “professional” advice because I knew what I was doing. I was a good writer, and so anything that I wrote would automatically be gold.

And, as anyone who’s been paying attention knows, that didn’t go as I’d planned. (Quick notes – It went horribly.)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ll see posts from aspiring writers who are fed up and mad and frustrated with not getting an agent. (I’ve been there, too.) They’re mad, and they’re about to throw in the towel and leave this writing thing behind.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen successful writers say that their first novel was crap. Often, that first novel never saw the light of day.

I find this concept interesting. I’ve quoted O’Connor before for saying that everyone knows how to write a novel until they actually sit down to write one. She was beyond right. It sounds so easy, right? Some drama, some action, throw in some narration and some dialog, and presto – it’s a novel. Well, it’s not that simple.

Writing a novel is a commitment. It’s not a one-and-done ordeal. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with that novel, or you should. I think sometimes these new writers write a novel and then want the instant success. They want the overnight ramification and justification for all that hard work. (I did.)

There’s also this crazy idea of “revising.” Sometimes, if your novel isn’t working, you need to revise. Sometimes it’s more than switching up some words or clarifying – it can sometimes mean eliminating entire chapters, adding entire chapters, or deleting a whole character. Sometimes, you need to give the novel a face-lift. Sometimes, major parts of the novel change. Sometimes, after a revision, the novel doesn’t even seem like itself – it should feel better.

Here’s the kicker – if you can’t do that, if you are too stuck on your novel’s current state, then you might not ever get it off the ground.

Writing a novel isn’t easy, or everyone would be doing it.

Conclusion: if you’re stuck on your novel, find a beta reader or hire an editor. If you’re self-published, hire an editor AND find beta readers. A poorly edited novel will get the wrong attention.

2 thoughts on “Face-Lift, Pt. 2

  1. Hiring an editor is always a good idea. You’re right – price is definitely prohibitive. I don’t know any editors personally. Most quotes I’ve seen advertised are around $300 – 500. That’s a lot of money to pay to a stranger on the internet in hopes that their advice will be worth the cost. Most self-published/independent writers are in a situation where obscurity is as much of a detriment to their sales as product quality. It’s hard to fork over hundreds of dollars when the result will most likely be the same as without one. (Unless you’re an ace at marketing.)

    I’d say that the hesitance also goes a bit deeper. Your novel is this thing that you’ve poured your heart and soul and all of your free time into. It’s an extension of yourself. Most likely, an editor’s going to advise making a lot of change. It’s hard not to take that personally, to not see it as an invalidation of your merits as a writer. It’s also difficult to come to terms with the amount of work to be done once the editor’s comments are delivered. It’s a necessary evil if one truly wants his/her writing to be the best it can be. But an editor can feel like just another large boulder set in our path as we attempt to scale the insurmountable mountain to publication.

    A suggestion for getting your freelance editing business off the ground: You’ve likely already considered this, but what about doing some pro-bono or deeply discounted jobs to build your portfolio? You could cherry pick the submissions that receive this discount and select ones who don’t need an extensive amount of work. Of course, the problem still lies in actually attracting these people who possess the “almost there” manuscripts. Perhaps you could lean on your status as a book reviewer to do this. You may break a few hearts, but there aren’t many among us that would refuse a little low-cost help in carrying out that one last edit we’re still wanting to do.


    1. I have lowered my costs, and after doing some beta reader, I offer my “services” as more of an advanced beta read.

      I also agree that it’s hard to not take advise personally. I remember getting some of that first advise and feeling like those suggests were directed at me, not my manuscript. Being on both sides of the coin really does help one become better at both!


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