When are you ready for an editor? It’s a big and important question. Engage an editor too soon and not only will you pay more money, but it’s also likely that more of your personal flow/style may disappear as the editor tries to work out the kinks. Engage too late and you may have overthought your work to the point of slashing it to pieces. So how do you know? Here are three signs that it’s time to email your favorite editor.
There Are No More Darlings to Kill
I always recommend that authors think carefully about what must stay and what can go once they have a solid draft. Based on the advice of many talented writers, as well as personal experience, often the content you want to hold onto the most is likely holding the piece back.
Those chunks of text that we fall in love with, wrestle with, consider our most genius work―those are the ones to be wary of. So when your draft is ready, go through and be honest with yourself about what is essential and what’s fluff. It’s always best to give readers the meat of it and take away distractions.
Now, if you’ve gone through this process and already made some significant sacrifices, chances are it’s time to hand your work over to someone else. You’ve done your part, and you don’t want to become too ruthless. Let an editor look at it with fresh eyes and tell you if there are any other places where a reader might get hung up, bored, or confused.
Reading Your Work Makes You Want to Get a Day Job
One of the cruelest tricks played on writers is the creeping in of unimaginable self-doubt as soon as you’ve done the very amazing thing you set out to do―finish a piece of writing. Once you begin self-editing, it’s also time for the self-loathing to set in. The more you look at your work, the more you may be inclined to dump it in the bin next to your desk.
Remember―this happens to most writers and is simply and unfortunately part of the process. You’re all jazzed up as you go along; you overcome serious blockades; and you keep at it until you’re done. But then the feat seems smaller and smaller until you’re not sure the product was worth it at all.
If you’re at that stage, it’s time for a second opinion. Don’t let the crazy writer voices inside your head tell you to run away into the mountains or tear your manuscript to shreds. Dial in an expert and get a real take on the state of your work.
You’re Not Sure You Want to Publish
Writers often come to me with a difficult question: Is this something I should publish? Determining what you want to share with the masses and what was a good exercise in your craft can be bewildering, especially for high-volume writers. This is where developing a good, collaborative relationship with your editor over time pays off.
Your editor has a feel for your distinct style, your approach, and your goals. So if you’re looking for a genuine opinion about whether to include a piece in your published body of work, your editor is an excellent resource to call upon.
Now don’t expect a straight up yes or no. What you’ll probably get is valuable feedback about how the piece fits into your work so far, what it shows in term of skill, and what it says about you from a reader perspective. You may also be encouraged to sit with it a while and try to step it up a notch before considering publication.
No matter the outcome, getting an objective, outside perspective is an excellent way to test the waters and sort out some of your own feelings about your latest piece of work.
If you're looking to develop a relationship with an editor, contact Owl & Pen to see how we can help.