An honest appraisal, thinking without wishing, led me to the conclusion that I didn't have the time to take a course and a book wouldn't help me with my story. So I set about finding an Editor. This is where we as aspiring writers have a huge advantage over someone trying to write B.I. (Before Internet). I quickly discovered there are quite a few types of Editors. Typo's I can fiksx. The development of plot and characters was more of interest to me and so I settled on a Developmental Editor. Google that and you get 1,980,000 "hits" in .22 seconds. After some more research I found http://www.alanrinzler.com. So I sent him an email, which went like this:
To be honest I didn't expect a reply. I mean this guy has worked with Toni Morrison, Robert Ludlum, Bob Dylan, Jerzy Kozinski and Clive Cussler - to name a few. Yes a few. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened my email the next morning and I had this in my inbox.Dear Alan,
I'd like to get an estimate from you for your services in appraising the concept of my story and also the quality of my writing.
The partially finished novel is attached, it's at 70,000 words now, and whilst I know it needs revision, I am focused on getting the whole story out first before going back to revise, hence getting in touch.
I run the Asian offices for a publically listed Digital Services company, and whilst reasonably well-paid I have no idea what your services cost, as such you might be well out of my league. Having said that I am seeking to get published and change careers, hopefully to becoming a full-time author, as such I have always worked with experts in business, and it is perfectly logical to me to seek the same in my passion. So if I can afford it, and you have the time, and think the effort is worth it, then you'll be getting a customer.
By the way I live in Bangkok so we're about 12 hours apart in time zones.
We had our phone conversation agreed on the terms and discussed the way forward. That began a collaboration that is hard at work up to today.Dear Orthor,
The quick answer to your question is that both the concept of your novel and quality of your writing is very good indeed. Exceptionally good, in fact, compared to most of the material I see, and definitely worthy of realistic expectations for success. Having read everything you've sent I can also agree that it needs revision. Frankly, I'd love to work with you and hope you can afford it.
Assuming that you've sent me about half the book, the approximate cost for a full developmental edit, page by page, to correct and revise what I perceive to be weaknesses in pacing, loss of focus, digression, information dumps, and other obstacles along the way would be about $X to $X,000 USD, depending on ultimate time spent. For this I'd return a fully tracked manuscript with my specific edits and polishes in the literary style, deletions, recommendations for expansion and additions (with suggested language), requests for changes in characterization, visual description, and other details, page by page.
Let me know if this makes sense and you'd like to proceed on this basis. If so, we should have a phone conversation before beginning. My San Francisco office number is 415-xxx-xxxx.
Congratulations in any case for a very good piece of work so far.
When I first received the edited manuscript I was shocked. The manuscript that I sent Alan came back covered in red. Whole paragraphs deleted. Chapters too - my favorite chapter and what I thought was great writing, gone (great writing but what has been achieved? It doesn't move the story along. Recommend you delete). And you know what? He was right. It didn't move the story along. Swallow pride and take it out. I saved it of course for the next novel along with the other three chapters that we removed. Alan's occasionally snarky or cranky comments had me riled, but after a few days I sat down and line by line worked at the edits that he'd recommended. After a month it was done. I read it through from the beginning. It wasn't just better it was much better.
The value of working with a developmental editor is not that it will improve the manuscript you are currently working on. The real value is that it makes you a better writer. If you're writing for friends and family I wouldn't recommend hiring a developmental editor, but if you're looking to get published then I think it is worth every penny.