Once I’d finished writing my first book, and revised and edited it to death, I was in two minds whether or not to send it to a professional editor. Would it be at all beneficial? On the one hand, I supposed it couldn’t do any harm to have someone else’s opinion. (I must add that at this stage, no one else had read a single page of my sacred book. Not even my family. I’d certainly jabbered on about it – probably bored them to tears with it. But read it? NO! I didn’t want effusive praise simply because they felt obliged to give it. After seeing my devotion to my book, I know they wouldn’t have had the heart to criticise.)
So sending it off to an editor could be a good idea . . .
But, on the other hand, I was absolutely certain that after all my own editing, I had no mistakes. My spelling, punctuation and grammar were perfect, my plot was well paced and my characters did not act inappropriately. In short, I really couldn’t see the point of shelling out good cash for someone to tell me I had no mistakes.
Where had this idea of such perfection come from? Of course, then the inevitable doubt set in.
I knew very well there was more to a ‘good’ book than perfect spelling, punctuation and grammar. I needed someone to tell me whether the storyline was interesting, the characters sufficiently intriguing, the plot well paced and so on. So, after a careful scan online I selected the Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau. This agency offers a variety of services, from actual writing courses to different critique and editing packages. They deal with a variety of genres, including non-fiction, and their prices compare favourably with some better known agencies.
My editor’s name is Doug Watts and he’s an absolute gem – for so many reasons:
Firstly: he made me believe in myself and my writing – something every first-time writer needs so badly. His praise meant the world to me and helped brush away any self-doubt that had set i
Secondly: Doug has a hawk-like ability to spot a spelling, punctuation or grammatical error from at least a hundred paces. I’m even wary when emailing him for fear he’ll send it back corrected.
And I soon learned what he thought about the overuse of exclamation marks and italics. I also make the odd typo (which I fail to notice because my spell check has a nasty habit of cutting out less than half way through my books. Because of all the Anglo Saxon and Danish names, the malicious little programme virtually tells me I can’t spell and abandons me. And since I’ve no idea how to reinstall it, it stays off. I know – I fully admit to being a computer ignoramus.)
Thirdly: Doug not only edits line by line, but appraises and critiques every two or three chapters. I really like this because if there’s anything to amend, it can be done in stages. Of course, I get an overall critique at the end as well. His appraisal of different scenes, and to what degree they work in the plot, is invaluable. He’s also on the lookout for plot holes and other inconsistencies in plot, character or dialogue and is always ready to comment on sections that need a little more detail, as well as those that may need tightening up.
Oddly enough, I found it was sometimes a little more he wanted in some scenes – which I should probably explain. When I edited the book myself, I cut out a lot of what I decided was unnecessary detail. I’d read that agents frown upon books from new authors that are much over 80,000 words and at that time my book was still over 150,000. So I decided that some serious cutting was called for. By the time I sent the manuscript to Doug, I’d got it down to around 85,000 words. Fortunately, I’d kept everything I cut out in a ‘Deleted’ file, and simply put some of these sections back in when called for! Admittedly, I did have a couple of extra bits to add to as well.
Fourthly: I always feel that Doug is there for me. Not only does he give me tremendous support and encouragement, he is happy for me to email and ask for advice at any time. I really can’t praise him enough. One of the things he says to me is, ‘Believe in yourself . . . because I do.’ How heartening is that?