The biggest problem with feedback is following it, especially when it might entail a mountain of work.
Yesterday I received the Magic City Writers’ Group edits for the final chapter in my first novel. There are always problems, and I expected incorporating the group’s suggestions would take a week or two.
But the extended discussion, which I recorded so I can study it more closely, revealed systemic problems that require substantial time and effort to address. If I am lucky and clever the needed changes might delay my plans by only a few weeks, but it could easily turn into a months long slog if I’m not careful.
It is moments like this that builds frustration with the writing process; when you think you are near the end of one leg of the journey only to see the road stretch on farther than you imagined. You can see your destination, but realize getting there will be longer and harder than you fancied a day ago.
What Kind of Editing is Needed
Repeating my habit of leaping then looking, I recently began interviewing professional editors with the idea of hiring one to perform a developmental edit of my first book; an expensive and thorough examination of the novel that wrings out unaddressed problems and strengthens the final product. (Another symptom of my “leap then look” tendency is that I didn’t bother to create a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the manuscript before contacting a slew of editors. Yet an0ther task to heap on a full plate.)
But getting a developmental edit assumes I have already self-edited the novel to the best of my ability. I thought I was close to that point, only to now realize I am not.
I need to continue interviewing professional editors, but have decided to wait on the developmental edit. Instead I will request manuscript assessments from a few editors; professional reviews of the work as a whole; less expensive and less thorough than a developmental edit, but excellent for identifying a manuscripts weakest and strongest areas.
Such professional reviews of the completed work might be useful now, or perhaps it would be better to wait until I address some of the problems raised by the writers’ group. I am on the fence as to whether I should plow ahead with manuscript assessments or perform yet another self-editing pass first.
In either event, once I have worked my way through those professional critiques I will determine which editor to use for a developmental edit and later a copy edit.
The Long Haul
My general plan is to self-publish sometime next year. A reasonable goal, but one requiring considerable work to accomplish. The list of things I must do is long and intimidating: incorporate edits from my writers group, create a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the manuscript, get a few manuscript assessments and address their comments, decide on which editor to use going forward, get a developmental edit and address the problems it reveals, get a copy edit and clean up the grammar and style problems it uncovers, learn about the publishing industry in a deep way, legally create my publishing house and deal with the headaches managing it brings, create a website for my publishing house, hire designers for the interior and exterior of my novel, replace my author web-site with a more professional (i.e. less ugly) one, have the book typeset and galley proofs created, hire a proofreader and fix any last minute problems they spot, make arrangements with print on demand vendors, try to get my novel reviewed prior to publication, make my book available on Amazon and other retail sites, and so on.
And that doesn’t even mention marketing, working on the second book, my day job, or a lot of other unavoidable, and time consuming, issues.
Transitioning from amateur writer to professional author requires turning a hobby into a small business. Producing a quality manuscript takes money, time, and hard work with no guarantee of any reward other than seeing a professional finished book with your name on it. It is worth the cost and effort only if you love the story you are trying to tell, and I do. That love keeps me going through the long nights as I stumble through the convoluted process and scale obstacles in my path.