Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How My Editor Became My Home Inspector

I mentioned in the last post that I was going to address the issue of hiring a freelance editor.

Now is that time.

I recently had the pleasure of working with the lovely, and rather brilliant, Cassandra Marshall. I met Cassandra by way of an agent's general recommendation. I now owe them both some sort of mutant fruit basket that encompasses many thank-you's! Working with Cassandra has been one of the most positive and enriching experiences in my writing adventure thus far. So having said that, let's go back to the beginning.

I first considered entreating the help of an editor after an agent requested my full. Said agent pointed out my tendency to overwrite and told me to work on that. While you can't take every person's advice on everything, this was spot on.

A few weeks later, this same agent blogged about Cassandra and her services as a freelance editor. I did my research (I'm very thorough with this stuff), checked out Cassandra and her blog and emailed her my information. (Cassandra does it ALL by the way. Right down to query help!) Her response was prompt and professional. She sent over a sample contract detailing her services, fees--which are VERY reasonable--and a non-disclosure agreement. I looked it over and decided she'd probably do a good job.

She more than exceeded my expectations.

Within ten days, Cassandra had my MS back to me--all slashed in red no less. My first instinct was to ball up in the fetal position and never so much as look a keyboard for the rest of my life. But I got over that and eventually read her notes. (Do this slowly, by the way. Rushing through them to see how it goes, never ends well. At one point, I thought she said, "Do you even know what you're doing?" She totally did not say that! She asked if I realized I was doing it. There's a HUGE difference there. I almost went into the fetal coma again.) But I thought about what she pointed out. I considered why she said what she did about the correction and what impact it had on the story overall.

*Side note-I ramble and repeat in my writing. This is very irritating to a reader, in case you were wondering. Don't say something that is better left unsaid. If it doesn't move the plot forward or contribute to the story, leave it alone.

So in my tendency to overwrite, the version of my MS she received was around 95K. This was for *half* of a story. Yikes, I know! Cassandra cut around 40% of that out. I was floored when she said this. Before I actually read the revised MS, I couldn't see how it was possible. *When I say revised, I mean she nixed a lot of stuff. She didn't rewrite it.

The following weeks have been spent in a harried state of revision. I've questioned every line cut or scene reconstructed. I was stuck at not knowing how to proceed with combining the story or trying the alternate route of splitting. (See previous post) Long story short, if that's possible, I combined them to form one, hideous story consisting of 176K words. Every agent's dream come true! This is sarcasm in case you missed it.

I'm still in the process of revising--in case you were wondering the point of all my seemingly senseless rambling when this is supposed to be a post about Cassandra's awesomeness. I said ALL of that, to say this. Reading through her notes and concentrating on the things she singled out, I learned some important things that I had never thought about before. I don't have an English degree or a master's in creative writing. Until last year, I had never considered writing as a serious life choice. I enjoyed reading but as a reader, you don't think about structure. You look at the outside with your questions. Is it interesting? Did it end well? How hot is the love interest in the story? ;) While those things matter, a fancy house isn't going to stand if it isn't structurally sound. My writing foundation was a bit crumbly. Cassandra swept through with her metaphorical mortar and patched things up for me. But not only did she patch them, she showed me what to look for and how to remedy them myself. What she did for me in one MS edit, she did for all my future writing endeavors.

So, my verdict on a freelance editor? Resounding yes! You can't count on an editor to build you novel but you can count on one to help you learn how to construct. They aren't carpenters--they're home inspectors.

In the best way I can, I want to send a thousand thank you's to Cassandra. You have been such a huge encouragement and inspiration to me during this process. No matter where I go in my writing career, you have made all the difference. You taught me how to build.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TMI for one post

So it's been WAY too long since I last posted anything. There are several reasons for this, the main ones being spotty internet service and lack of time. So now I'm going to attempt a partial catch-up post. This is basically a synopsis of posts to come.

Since April, I have enlisted the help of the wonderfully talented and much appreciated help of free-lance editor Cassandra Marshall. (The how's and why's of going the route of an editor will be another post. That's a really long story.) Cassandra spent a harrowing week and a half looking over my MS and came back with some much needed information. In essence, here are the issues you're going to have with "Plot A" or "Character B" type stuff, work on them. So work I have... A LOT. I have torn apart, reassembled, rearranged and rethought every possible aspect of my story. Why all trouble, you ask?

It is NEVER a good idea to split a story into two!

Again, why is this? Because then you end up with half of a story. Even if you wrap it up nicely, it still isn't finished. There's junk just hanging out there, left unfinished. In my case, there wasn't enough excitement because the big BANG! of the story would've ended up in the beginning pages of Book 2. Not much encouragement for finishing Book 1 there. Really, who wants to experience a day in the life of... ? No one. That's boring. So lesson learned from my POV. I hope, hope, hope none of you try this because it never works and is a huge pain in the rump!

What does all of this mean for me? Back to the drawing board to see what fits the best. Perhaps after cutting out the fluff of Book 1, I can combine them into one story again. More than likely however, I'm going to end up filling in some scenes with enough excitement that the BANG! of Book 2 will be it's own surprise and not related to Book 1 in any way. I guess we'll see :)