Of working with a famous Editor and killing your darlings

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Orthor
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Of working with a famous Editor and killing your darlings

Post by Orthor » January 14th, 2010, 10:22 pm

By the time I was just over half way through writing my story I knew I needed help. I've never taken a writing course so how I write is something that has just developed over time. Like a self-taught golf swing it did the job, but didn't do it consistently. I thought about how to get help. Should I take a writing course? Should I buy a book? Should I hire an editor?

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:
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.

Best regards,
Anorthor
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 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.

Sincerely,
Alan
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.

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.

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marilyn peake
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Re: Of working with a famous Editor and killing your darlings

Post by marilyn peake » January 14th, 2010, 10:40 pm

I'm so happy to read your post! I'm working with Alan Rinzler now. He sounds enthusiastic about my novel. He's sending me edits by the end of the month and then we'll start consulting by phone. I've enjoyed corresponding with him. It was fun to read your post!

You shouldn't feel badly about the edits. On Alan's website, he talks about his work for Robert Ludlum http://www.alanrinzler.com/author_robert_ludlum.html and Clive Cussler http://www.alanrinzler.com/author_clive_cussler.html. It sounds like he did quite a bit of editing on their books.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

lkblackburne
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Re: Of working with a famous Editor and killing your darlings

Post by lkblackburne » January 15th, 2010, 10:55 am

I was thinking of working with Alan Rinzler too, except I'm not sure I can afford him on a grad student stipend :-)
A Brain Scientist's Take on Creative Writing
http://blog.liviablackburne.com

Orthor
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Re: Of working with a famous Editor and killing your darlings

Post by Orthor » January 15th, 2010, 7:07 pm

lkblackburne wrote:I was thinking of working with Alan Rinzler too, except I'm not sure I can afford him on a grad student stipend :-)
Hi Livia,

Good to see you here. I've read your blog and I think you've got a unique perspective on "lighting up readers minds". Alan is very responsive and a nice guy. If you're thinking about it - I'd simply ask. I wasn't sure I could afford it either as my first email to Alan indicated, however as the old saying goes if you don't ask you'll never know.

Best regards,
Orthor

JustWriteCat
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Re: Of working with a famous Editor and killing your darlings

Post by JustWriteCat » January 15th, 2010, 7:24 pm

Great timing....I recently started working with Mr. Rinzler on my first manuscript. After receiving feedback from one agent - with an invitation to resubmit upon revision - I thought working with a developmental editor would be a solid investment. I'll have the opportunity to meet Alan in Seattle next week (he's giving a talk at the Elliot Bay Bookstore)!

Thank you for sharing your experiences. When I see pages of red, I will try not to get discouraged. :)

Catherine

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marilyn peake
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Re: Of working with a famous Editor and killing your darlings

Post by marilyn peake » January 16th, 2010, 12:41 am

JustWriteCat,

It’s so cool to meet people here in these Forums who are currently working with Alan Rinzler. I received his review of my work today, and am very excited. His suggestions were excellent and he sounded enthusiastic. He honed in on aspects of my novel I thought might need to change as well as things I hadn’t thought about, e.g. the need to use chapter headings to label specific time periods in a novel involving time travel. So cool that you’ll actually meet with him. We’re talking for an hour this coming Wednesday and then I’m going to hunker down and write, write, write. Looking forward to it! Good luck with your project!
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

rose
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Re: Of working with a famous Editor and killing your darlings

Post by rose » January 17th, 2010, 1:46 pm

As a freelance writer/editor, I often get first draft manuscripts from authors who think they are ready for final editing when they seriously need some developmental guidance. It's a sticky picket to have to tell someone who is looking for a $15.00/hr service that what they need is more like $80.00 an hour, and LOTS more work. This is where I often recommend finding a good and honest critique group or writing partner.

I am glad to hear that you are all happy with the service Alan provides.

rose
Follow my work at Smashwords:

Riders on the Rez http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/35697
The Good-Bye Man

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