Probably everyone who reads *Insert Subplot Here knows by now how much I hate editing. It’s boring, it’s time-consuming, it’s hard, and it’s boring. The story is done! I want to move on!
Partly because I don’t enjoy it I am always looking out for ways to work smarter, not harder. I decided maybe now was the time to take a workshop, level my skills up, so that I don’t keep smacking against the same “I don’t know what I’m do-ing~” wall. But the workshops that I found were either a) for beginners b) full c) way out of my price range or d) combos of the above.
Often the best way to solve a problem is to rephrase it, to come at it from another angle. So: what was I hoping from a workshop? I’d want one that was focused on my specific weak spots; that might help me figure ways to make my fiction more marketable; that was under $200 and didn’t require me to travel.
And it hit me: my editor.
I have a fabulous editor in Nicole Brewer: she’s detailed and thorough but she also likes my work, so when she says she wants me to change something, I know it’s because she wants to make sure the story more effective, not because of her personal likes and dislikes. She explains the whys of her choices very well, and out of the dozens and dozens of changes (hundreds!) she suggested in Ashes I only vetoed the one. So needless to say, I will keep throwing work at her for as long as she’s willing to accept it.
And I thought, why not treat her edits like a workshop? Instead of just carrying through the suggestions, why not see what lessons I can glean from them? So I sent her Northern Portents.
I love Northern Portents. I just like re-reading it. I keep struggling with improving it because something isn’t clicking with my beta-readers; they just aren’t as enthusiastic as I am. Why is that? So after much dithering (because of the aforementioned “I don’t know what I’m doooo-ing” dance), Nicole and I finally worked out what I was looking for: a professional “beta-read” with a specific eye on making NP more likely to sell. And what I got back was perfect, exactly what I’d hoped for: specific change suggestions, but also broader points that I can apply towards my future stories.
Well, one thing that I dislike in fiction is when the main character should know the name of the secondary character, but the narrative keeps referring to them as “the man” or “the toll-booth attendant” or whatever. So when I wrote NP, I thought, the protagonist has been stuck with these people for years now; he knows all the members of his detachment like he knows his family. So they all had names and he used them.
Trouble is, as Nicole rightly pointed out, it was too many names for the reader to keep track of, and unnecessary detail.
So I’ve dropped names where appropriate and rolled some characters together where appropriate and it’s a super suggestion to keep in mind when I start something new or (sigh) start editing Embers.
That’s probably the only example I can give without going too deeply into context, but my point is: paying an editor to give me one-on-one attention that I could go away and extract lessons from was way more effective than any workshops I’ve been to, where the attention is spread over multiple attendees and the lessons more generic.
Something to think about.