Like photography. Kind of.
And easier than you think. And harder than you think.
What’s it like writing a book? Using a professional editor.
I’m pretty much focusing on my experience of using a professional editor for this blog post. I’ll write a future post about how I write, and compare it to my main creative pursuit—photography.
The Front Matter (which includes the introduction) was the first section that my editor and I worked on for my upcoming book If You Only Knew. This was my first time* working with a professional editor.
Her name is Angela Wiechmann. And, she’s wonderful. We’re not finished with the editing process yet, but I’m sure I’ll still think Angie is wonderful when we’re done. Or at the least, I’m optimistic. ;)
Was using an editor going to feel like English class with red pen marks everywhere? Did my writing suck?
I had NO idea what to expect. I mean we met and talked about the process. But in the real world as it related to my book, I was kinda clueless. (Not her fault. Sometimes I’m more of a “big picture” kind of thinker. I knew the finer details would work out. I knew what the cost would be. No surprises there!)
It turned out there was no red pen. And, she didn’t make me feel like my writing sucked.
I think there were eight revisions for the front matter section (which included the preface, acknowledgements, and introduction). I recall a few headaches while trying to make my brain work on re-writes. It was an ok process. I’m just glad I’m not writing a 300-page fiction book! Although I think if you understand the process going into a several hundred-page book and that it would take time, you’d be ok. Just don’t think the process takes a week. My roughly 16,000 word book will take about two months. (To put that into perspective, your average novel has about 70,000–90,000 words.)
Will the editing process be really slow?
Of course I’m not Angie’s only client. What’s great about her is she lets me know when to expect her next edit. I use the time between editing rounds to do other things. Design a bookmark and business card. Create the design for the retractable tabletop banner. Work on photography. Or spend time doing all those things one normally does—grocery shop, make dinner, laundry. Maybe run the vacuum around. (Ok, I haven’t done that for awhile.) Or, just chill out with my husband. Spend a little time on Amazon Prime watching a movie or read a book.
Her input always includes her changes (like punctuation, past/present tense mix-ups, and suggestions for how to make the words flow a little better). And there are the parts and pieces I need to work on that she points out. Often she or I has questions, so we use the side comments to communicate about specific words or passages in the document. It works out pretty slick.
Your mileage may vary.
Most people won’t have this issue. But our biggest hiccup has been software issues.
Text wasn’t showing up properly. I don’t own Word. (Ick. Ick. Ick.) I use a free open-source software called OpenOffice. She uses Word, of course. Like most of the world. We figured out we could do the back and forth editing using Word and GoogleDocs. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I don’t have to rent Word for a few months to get the book finished. Not the end of the world. But still.
Will having an editor to learn from improve my writing in the future?
I was really hoping to soak up some knowledge from Angie. My brain is pretty focused on just getting the book done, so I’m thinking my writing—for better or worse—isn’t going to improve much. The mistakes I make I’ve been making for decades.
The big question: Would I hire her again?
In a heartbeat.
In the future I’m hoping to interview her for my occasional blog series called Inspiring Women. I started the blog series a few years ago to help promote women entrepreneurs in the area and in Minnesota. They are always people I’ve met and really liked. You can read past blog posts here.
P.S. I received no free or discounted services from Angie in exchange for this or any future blog post. I simply like her. And she’s a part of the village making up the entire process of creating and writing my first book.
*I realized it wasn’t my first time. When I wrote my masters thesis back in the 90s, I had a horrendous experience with the editors at the college. Ask me about it sometime. It’s where I came to hate the dreaded “red pen”.