Helen Bryant, Director of Cornerstones and co-author of Write a Blockbuster and Get it Published is an expert when it comes to helping authors develop fledgling ideas into fully polished manuscripts. Here she gives her top tips on where to start with editing and how to get the most out of the process.
You’ve written a book and finished your first draft and it’s now time for feedback. Does it read well? Are there areas that require self-editing to make it even better? And once that’s been done, could it attract an agent or publisher? This is an exciting moment; an often nerve-wracking rite-of-passage. But getting an outside opinion – one that you can trust – and learning how to self-edit is a process that is as much a part of being a writer as writing the book in the first place.
The first things to consider are:
Are you ready for feedback?
Receiving feedback before you’re ready can have a negative impact on your writing confidence, so ask yourself if you are ready to hear what’s working and what’s not. If you feel excited by the prospect then you’re at self-editing stage.
Finding the right solution
Sometimes a problem area is correctly identified but it’s up to you to find the right solution. For instance, if an agent told you that a minor character wasn’t working and one agent said to cut him out and the other said to build him up, which advice would you go with? The answer is they’re essentially saying the same thing – the character is weak – and you need to decide what feels right.
Get in touch with your inner-editor
You can’t assume that the publisher/editor/agent will have the time to take you through these self-editing stages so it’s up to you to teach yourself. Once you’re familiar with these your future editor will not only love your book but will love working with you.
If an editor says: ‘the mid-section falls flat and the structure is unbalanced’, would you know what that means and how to fix it? Self-editing is about understanding techniques, and having the confidence to apply them to your own work.
Whose opinion can you trust?
Usually not your friends or family if you want to remain on speaking terms.
Look for a professional who knows how to deliver constructive feedback, has industry experience – be it an editor, agent or writer – and who is aware of market trends.
We are here to help. We always take an obligation-free look at the first ten pages and synopsis so we can advise you on what we think is the best way forward. We also like to chat things through and hear your aspirations and vision for your writing. Below is a good, general guide of what we can offer authors at this stage:
• The In-Depth Report provides a comprehensive assessment of the manuscript, with specific line references. Professional writing terms and concepts are clearly explained, and authors are shown how these concepts apply to their own work.
• The Consultancy Report provides the same report as above but also includes a 1.5hr brainstorm session with the editor. This is ideal if you are looking for a hands-on approach. Authors tell us how helpful they find these one to one sessions.
• Industry edit
This is a line-by-line structural mark up of a manuscript with an overview letter (2-3 pages). It is ideal if the author’s near submission level, short on time and looking to do a final industry polish, pre copy-edit/proofread. The editor will identify every instance of structural issues so that the author can self-edit quickly and with confidence. This package includes a Masterclass worksheet to explain technical terms.
The mentorship package allows the author to book one-on-one time with an editor to use however they want, whether that’s reading the full MS or just a few scenes; working through show not tell; brainstorming your plot; or preparing a submission package. With the mentorship scheme the author pays for 15 hours minimum, dealing directly with their editor, and they will help the author to devise a firm way forward for their writing.
The leading UK literary consultancy
Cornerstones, established in 1998, is a founding LC and the UK’s leading literary consultancy. They’re passionate about writing, editing and launching new authors. They use their working knowledge of the UK market to show you what is and isn’t working in your manuscript and how to fix it, with an eye on what agents and publishers are looking for.
How to get started
If you’d like a helping hand with this process, call us for a gratis consultation +1308 897374, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on their full range of services visit: www.cornerstones.co.uk