You wrote your novel for a long time, maybe years. You put your soul into this project. Perhaps you have already let test readers study your book, pestered them with questions and revised the text of what they had to criticise. But is your book ready for publication?
My novel wasn't. Whenever I read my story, I got doubts. "City of Lies" didn't feel real, not like an actual novel. I knew it was time to let a professional in.
Maybe you feel the same way, but you think. Oh, God! A professional?! What if he or she thinks my story is awful?
I'm excited every time I email my editor again. Always palpitations and sweats! Not because I'm scared of her - she's lovely. I am afraid of criticism.
The worst scenes play out in my head. I see in front of me how she tears up my printed text in midair and shouts: "It's a cheek to send me something like that. How can you believe that this is a good story!" She'll call me indignantly and say I should leave the writing entirely or find another editor. In any case, she doesn't want to work with an amateur like me.
Of course, that never happened. Not being overly dramatic is what makes a real professional! She works through my text and brings suggestions for improvement, completely neutral! She doesn't take it personally if I've written crap, and she is happy when I have succeeded in writing an excellent passage. Yes, there is also praise from the editor.
Because you are so attached to your creative work, it is essential to entrust the text to an expert. Relatives or friends usually cannot understand your text on a deeper level. You will not necessarily be able to see or formulate what is still a problem.
Treat your story to someone who knows something. All the work you've put into your novel deserves good editing too.
Of course, it's not just about the expert status of your editor. Find someone you like. The reviews on my editor's site spoke of her humour and her professionalism. Those reviews made me contact her.
Listen to your gut. Most editors will offer you a quick proofreading session to see how they work and what their comments are on your text. Send out a few sample pages to get to know. At the latest, then you should have a feeling for whether this suits you.
I was very enthusiastic about proofreading. My editor was able to give me excellent technical tips in a short time. Her reply showed me that just a few pages are enough to open my eyes to specific "errors" that I had never noticed before.
First, I had my editor do a plot report. She tapped the story for weaknesses and asked about the character's motives and the story's actual theme. So many insights about the characters and the story came to me after the plot report. Such an opinion doesn't cost much - I paid around 70 € for it - it brings you to look at your story and your characters from a different perspective. After that, I had a lot to do with revising my novel.
When I had the feeling: that's it, my editor went through chapter by chapter again, primarily to assess my expression. I felt particularly unsafe here. I wanted my novel just to read well.
When she criticised something about the text, I never felt bad about it. Sure, sometimes I didn't feel like revising a passage or even rewriting an entire scene. But the comments from my editor also motivated me to stick with it. There was always something to laugh about.
So take courage. Seek help if you get stuck with your manuscript. You can do that even if you haven't finished your novel yet.
Showing your work to a professional may be scary, but in the end, it'll take your text to a whole new level, at least it did for me. Give your story the text it deserves. It pays to overcome your fears.
My novel City of Lies would not exist without the help of my editor Lisa Vo Dieu. Thanks!
Anja, aka AS Renner, is the author of the novel City of Lies. She has a passion for people and their stories. As a writing coach, she supports creatives who got stuck. The subscribers to her newsletter are currently receiving the free eBook "Intuitive Writing. My Seven Steps to a Finished Novel."