Monday, May 20, 2013

Dear Writergirl: Wanted, Constructive Feedback

Hi, Writergirl,

I have been working on a book about a friend that survived the Holocaust.  I am 97% done, in my inexperienced opinion.  I plan to self publish the book via a web page dedicated to her.  I am very close to the story and need an objective review, so that I can tweak what doesn't work.  Are you able to suggest an experienced reviewer who would be willing to provide constructive feedback?

Her story is historically significant, and I want it to be a good representation of her experiences and her life.  Thank you for any advice or suggestions you can share.


"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you think you know that just ain't so." The man who said was Henry Wheeler Shaw, aka Josh Billings. He kicked around at the same time as Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, doing more or less the same thing, being witty and smart.

I can’t say for sure, Claudia, but I think he recognized as you and I do that a good editor can steer you around a whole lot of trouble. That’s what you’re after, love – an editor, not a reviewer. Someone to dish up large helpings of constructive feedback without caring who’s at the table or whether they’re hungry.

Flash yourself a big smile for hitting the 97 percent mark on your draft. That’s no small achievement. On your next pass through, flash another. You’re a good friend and a smart writer for seeking an editor so that your friend’s life will be honored.

There are two kinds of editing. You want both. In industry-speak, the first is developmental editing – macro, some call it. It’s the big picture stuff. How the pieces fit. What’s over and underexposed. The parts that made perfect sense when you wrote them but then somehow got twisted around on the page. On a project like yours, you might also want fact-checking. You want all this big feedback first, to make sure your book has its legs.

Then it’s on to the line edits, aka micro-editing, the nitty-gritty of making sure your words and sentences are pulling their weight without calling undue attention. Proofreaders and copyreaders correct your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Good ones heft around dog-eared copies of The Chicago Manual of Style. Really, really good ones don’t stop at correctness. They help you with style and voice. They show you how with a few adjustments, a sentence can go from Plain Jane to Greta Garbo.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find one person who can do both types of editing, preferably with some time in between for you to respond to suggestions. If you can’t find one person who’s good at both, two will do. We’re talking professional editing here. It will cost you. Figure $35 an hour for straight copyediting, ten pages give or take in an hour; $50 an hour for the all-in-one package of developmental and line edits.

Where to find a good editor? Ask around. Do a Google search. Try the Editorial Freelancers Association. The Independent Editors Group. Check back with this Writergirl post to see if any of our lovely readers have offered up help.

Once you zero on a prospect, don’t be shy, love. Check resumes and references. Before you start paying by the page, talk with your prospective editor, if only by phone, to make sure you two are on the same page.

Small budget? In APE:Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – great resource if you’re self-pubbing – Guy Kawaski recommends crowdsourcing, niche communities, and enlisting people you know to supplement whatever professionals you can afford.

An objective review. A good representation of your friend’s experiences and her life. That’s the right stuff, Claudia. Good for you for going after it. 

Truly yours,

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