Writer's Life, Writing News

Nancy LaFever: An editor’s tips for first-time writers

Question: What do you wish you could tell all first-time novelists about editing before they start writing?

Answer: I edit at all levels, but my work is mostly developmental editing. Structure, story/character development, and continuity are the focus. First-time authors often feel overwhelmed juggling these components while writing. My job is to help them navigate the process. Here are some tips:

Do Your Research – If you’re just thinking about writing a novel, spend time researching. Determine your genre’s specs and “formulas.” For example, most experts say 80,000 to 90,000 words is standard for many fiction genres. Keeping these parameters in mind will translate to less revising/editing later.

Learn to self-edit – Writing pros will tell you to just lay it all out in your first draft. That’s cool, but do try to catch yourself using repetitive phrasing, run-on sentences, and overly florid prose. You’ll become really skilled at self-editing with practice.

Create a team – Alpha and beta readers are critical to authors’ work process. Find a trustworthy group of folks who will do an initial/secondary read of your WIP. However, resist adding family members and/or your neighbour who used to teach English to your “team.” Trust me on this. 😉

Learn what editors do/what it costs – When it’s time to hire a professional editor, carefully review their websites. Look for transparency in process, fees, and work style. Most freelance editors will do a free sample edit of a few pages of your book. Ask questions!

Collaboration – I view my role as a partner in the process. My job is NOT to tell you what to write, but to make your work product the best it can be.

Freelance editor Nancy LaFever has been editing fiction and nonfiction in most genres for almost five years. A writer herself, she respects the process and appreciates the struggle. Check out her website at www.editorchick.com

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