I have a new, young client who has hired me to edit her dystopian YA novel. This young woman impressed me from the get-go when she explained that she wrote her first book to help engage her history students more with the material she was introducing to them in the classroom. Her level of commitment and her enthusiasm for learning in general really reeled me in. I wanted to work with her!
She sent me a sample of her book—a few pages from the beginning—to give me a feel for the story and her writing style and abilities. (I always appreciate this.) In turn, I edited the sample and returned it to her so that she could see how I would work with her book. (There are many editors who believe you should never provide a free sample. I am not one of them. If I feel a writer is generally interested in working with me and not out to scam some free services, then I totally understand their desire to see what I would do with their “baby.” They need to feel they can trust me and that I’m not going to butcher the book—unless it needs it!—and that I’m out to help them make their book the best it can be. How are they going to really know that if they don’t get a taste of what I’ll do with it? But I digress ….)
After she reviewed the sample, she let me know she was really happy with what I had done and she had some questions for me based on my edits. Most of her questions where technical—why a comma here and not there, etc. I answered them and encouraged her to send me more when she had them. At this point, she hadn’t technically hired me; we hadn’t signed the contract yet. But she was eager and wanted to learn, and I trusted we would end up working together.
She took my advice and used the feedback I had offered her on the sample and revised the WHOLE manuscript before she actually hired me and sent it to me. She benefitted from that advice, I benefited from that advice (as she fixed problems I hadn’t even seen yet), and the book benefited from that advice. She has asked me to leave as many comments as possible as I perform the first round of editing to let her know what I think is working, what isn’t working, what affected me, what didn’t affect me, etc. Essentially, she wants to peer over my shoulder as I work and see my reaction to her words.
I love working with people who want to learn. It’s the teacher in me. I welcome their questions, and I love to see them grow and succeed.
My point to this blog is this: As a writer, never be afraid to ask questions of your editor or your beta readers. Don’t be afraid to hear negative criticism—in that, this isn’t working, that doesn’t sound true to that character, etc. Isn’t it better to have your editor and your beta readers find those problems and help you fix them than your readers pointing them out after you publish your book?
Give your editor and your beta readers encouragement and license to dissect your book. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask for it to be explained. Be open to learning and hearing different points of view. You will grow from it, and your book will be better.