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The Book Builder's Blog

On The Book Builder’s Blog, C. D. Tavenor discusses the art of crafting novels, from the very beginning concepts that form stories to the editorial processes involved prior to publishing. The blog goes beyond just storysmithing; it considers all the pieces necessary to construct a complete book!

To Edit, or Not to Edit?


Let’s take a moment to reflect on a topic near and dear to my heart.

When is your manuscript ready to sit in front of the eyes of an editor?

I know what you’re thinking. C. D. Tavenor. You get emotional when asking that question? Of course! Don’t you?

All right, maybe it’s not obvious. Let me explain.

When I was in my first year of law school, I finished the second draft of my manuscript. It had no name at that point, but because I was just a tad arrogant, I thought it was ready to sit in front of the eyes of an editor, and after that, I could send it off to agents or publishers. I spent nearly $1000 on an editor, and she tore my manuscript to shreds. Literally. When she was finished, I scrapped the entire story, and began writing what ended up becoming “The First of Their Kind,” the novel I’m releasing in a few months.

Sounds like a horror story right? $1000 down the drain?

Not at all! That editor taught me more about writing than I ever could have learned from any of my undergraduate creative writing teachers. She explained the concept of “immediate fiction” and introduced me to proper techniques for establishing scenes. In the end, I view it as a necessary educational experience. But it’s not an experience that everyone should go through, or frankly, has the finances to fund.

As an aside, I’ve lost contact with that editor over the years. Her email address bounces back. Amanda, if you happen to read this, I never properly thanked you for how you changed my writing. I hope you’re doing well!

So here’s the Golden Rule: Authors, you should never send your manuscript to an editor until you’re absolutely certain you can do nothing more to improve it without outside professional help.

So now I know you’re asking a second question. Why is Tavenor trying to scare away clients? Doesn’t he want us to pay him?

Sure! I love editing. I’m having more fun editing than reading already published books. But I don’t want people to make the mistake I did with my first manuscript. So here’s a list of questions to ask yourself before you decide to contact an editor.

(1) What is your budget for this novel?
You must know how much money you’re willing to invest in your story! Because if your novel isn’t ready for final copy-edits, then you might be setting yourself up for two or three rounds of editing, which will cost money each time you send your manuscript to an editor.

(2) How many drafts have you written?
If you’ve only written one or two drafts of your story, do not send your manuscript to an editor unless you’re absolutely certain you nailed your story perfectly. I made that mistake! I didn’t realize how much more I could have done before sending my manuscript to Amanda.

(3) Do you need content edits, copy-edits, or line-edits?
First, make sure you know the nuances regarding the different types of editing (I’ll probably write a post on that topic later). As the authors I work with know, my copy-edits essentially blend with line-edits. And content edits are another animal entirely. When you ask this question, you must take the time to assess your manuscript, which most likely means reading it through another time.

If you think your story lacks something, and can’t figure out a solution, you might need a content editor. Or you just might need a beta reader to inspire a fix. If you read your manuscript and are certain it’s flawless, then it’s time for copy-edits or line-edits. BUT STOP.

(4) Have you utilized beta readers yet?
Authors become painfully attached to their work. We get convinced our story is perfect, like I believed with my first manuscript. Before you send a story to an editor for those final copy-edits/line-edits that prepare your work for a literary agent or for self-publishing, put it in front of at least two or three beta readers. They might notice a fatal flaw in your story that you, the author, ignored because it’s your darling.

(5) Once again, what is your budget?
I’m returning to this question, and it especially pertains to those who self-publish. You must know your budget for editing. Editing is expensive. I know, I offer rates on the lower end and there are other affordable editors like me, but the Editorial Freelancer’s Association suggests that editors charge $30 an hour. That’s why the edits for my scrapped manuscript cost nearly $1000 for 80,000 words.

We all love writing. Do not let budgetary mistakes destroy your life so that you can no longer write.

So where do you go from here? Always consider these question very carefully before you decide to sign a contract with an editor. If an editor offers free sample edits, take advantage of them as an opportunity to see what they do with your manuscript. Those who work with me will attest that my 5,000 word free sample provides an “assessment” of their writing. If I think a story isn’t ready for an editor, I will say so.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop them below! And Amanda, if you’re out there somewhere, I hope you know you’ve inspired my editorial style. I hope I can provide the same experience you gave me to everyone I work with. Though hopefully, I rarely convince people to throw away their entire story.

Until next time, everyone!

C. D. TavenorComment