Friday, February 6, 2015

Substantive Editing Service

I wrote a novel. With no experience, no creative writing classes, and no collaboration, I wrote a novel. With an astounding amount of naiveté, I pitched to literary agents and received a resounding round of rejections.

Something was clearly wrong. I looked for help and found it with a substantive editor who read my prized four hundred page manuscript and sent me back several pages of notes outlining the numerous things I needed to do to make my novel “work.” Here are some examples of the feedback.

Too much emotion in the first chapter—you have a whole novel. Spread it out.
Much of it comes across as preachy. Here are examples of what I mean.
People don’t speak in full sentences.
You’re trying to fit too many themes into one novel.
There are scenes in your novel that do not advance the story.
Your characters are too perfect. Real people have flaws, even the best of them.
Substantive editing is the first step in the editing or revising process.

As a substantive editor, I:
• am your collaborator and biggest fan,
• share your desire to succeed in crafting the best possible story,
• help to ensure that your opening chapter hooks the reader and makes them know they “have” to read the book,
• help you to write a novel that will then hold the reader’s attention to the end,
• work with you on plot, tone, character, and setting,
• ensure that your story is well organized and flows,
• coach you on sentence structure and word choice,
• identify passages that the reader would be inclined to skip and therefore should be deleted,
• help to ensure dialogue is “real” and that dialogue tags are used correctly,
• suggest changes to heighten tension,
• help ensure that point of view is consistent in each scene,
• provide you with a free sample edit of the first chapter.

Here's an example from my own work. How many characters are mentioned? How many things discussed?

I screwed up. Big time. I’ll be banished. Or executed.
Why am I telling you this? I need to tell someone. Mentor, the ice-berg, wouldn’t listen. The members of the Grand Council have heard all they want to hear. I answered their questions, for far too short a time, in my opinion. How could they possibly understand with such a cursory interview?
The Guardians? They don’t deign to converse with anyone. Sent cryptic messages to the Council Chair. How many are there? Three. I think. The general belief is that they operate like a tribunal. But who knows?
Never mind that now. It’s me you need to be concerned with, me you need to listen to. I could be dead soon and I have so much to say. You’ll understand of course. The catch in the throat, the tingle in the abdomen, the trembling of the knees, the tightening of the abdomen… But why am I telling you all this? You know emotion. You were born with it, enveloped in it, experienced it all
Your life—the love, hate, fear, the excitement, anticipation, worry—so many
New words to learn for so many new feelings. I learned them all because of her.
Who? you ask. Why, my little soldier of course. It’s a long story. Make yourself

Confused? With seven characters and at least fourteen different topics in a few short paragraphs, you must be. So am I and I wrote it. After working with my substantive editor this whole approach was lost in the dust.

I also dropped whole chapters. Two in particular still haunt me. A main character was being interviewed which resulted in a whole lot of talk. Imagine reading a televised interview instead of watching it; two men talking about the action. Exciting, eh? In the new version, I wrote the fight scenes, the love scenes, etc. Telling became showing—much more interesting for the reader. And, I might add, for the author to write.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on my novels; from the first draft to the final is a test of endurance. My father used to say, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

I say, if something is worth publishing, it’s worth writing well.

I can help you achieve that goal. Please contact me with any questions or for a free sample of my editing.

1 comment:

  1. Using a service like yours can make all the difference to the success of a novel. It's like the difference between publishing a first draft or a version that has been finely tuned.