Guest post by Lucy Chandler


Can’t Afford An Editor?
If you’re thinking of self-publishing your novel, ideally you should hire a professional editor to help you polish your work so that it’s ready to be released into the big wide world. Yet not every budding novelist will have the money to do this, and it would be a terrible shame for some writers to be held back from publishing their work simply because they are too poor to use professional services. However, receiving feedback on your novel is vital, and you really shouldn’t contemplate publishing anything that you alone have read.

A Long Process
For a lot of people who don’t write, or for people who are very new to writing, it’s easy to think that writing a book is just a matter of jotting down the story, finding a literary agent, and then leaning back on your recliner sofa, waiting for the cheques to start rolling in. Anyone who is familiar with the writing process will know the reality is very different. Writing a book requires a huge amount of re-writing and editing. It takes a lot of effort to create a book that reads effortlessly.
If you can’t afford an editor you’re going to need critiques on your work, and lots of them. The more critiques you receive, the greater chance you’ll have of catching all the kinks in your story which need ironing out. Numerous pairs of eyes will also help you spot typos and errors, which can be overlooked by even the most skilled professional.

Where to go
The best places to showcase your work are either a real-life writer’s workshop or an online one. Maybe an online workshop offers more objectivity, as it’s sometimes easier to be fully honest about someone’s work when you don’t have to physically face the person.
Critique Circle is an excellent (free) site to join if you’re serious about improving your writing. The site works on a points system. To post a short story or novel chapter requires 3 points, and to earn points you must critique fellow writers’ pieces. It’s a really valuable process on many levels. Not only will you gain critiques (some critters offer very detailed feedback, which is excellent for spotting typos and errors), it’s also incredibly useful to regularly read and critique writing from others. Knowing what to look out for in their writing helps enormously when you come to editing your own.

Quality Check
Not all critiques you receive will be of equal value to you. Whilst it’s true that there will probably be something useful in every piece of feedback, you may only gain the knowledge that a certain type of person isn’t going to like your book. It’s important to take various factors into account when judging which advice to take and which to discard.
Is the person well read? Do they read much from the genre you’re writing? Are they a close friend or family member? Are they generally interested in the subject matter of your book, or do they normally find it boring?
The answers to these questions will determine the quality of that person’s feedback. For example, if you get a critique from a close friend who has never read a fantasy novel before your one, they will 1) perhaps be unlikely to give you totally objective feedback because they are your friend, and 2) be unfamiliar with fantasy writing, so some of their comments may seem irrelevant or unhelpful.
It’s important to try and be as objective about the feedback as you can. Because you will undoubtedly find that whilst a number of people say they love your writing and can’t fault it, there will be just as many who will say the complete opposite. Try to be open to criticism when it feels valid and true, but also be objective about your stories’ strengths so that you can tell the difference between constructive, unbiased criticism, and personal opinion.
It can be hard to judge. And it’s tempting to try and take all feedback on board, but it’s just impossible. You can’t take on every suggestion offered to you, as much of the feedback you receive will be contradicting. Remember, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. This is why you need to exercise your own discernment, without defensively dismissing valuable input.

Take Your Writing Seriously
All writers who want to be published should take their writing seriously, but if you’re planning to self-publish and can’t afford an editor, you especially need to take the time and effort to make sure you’ve improved your work in every way you can. Although self-published authors are gaining a better profile recently, there is still a stigma attached to it, and part of the problem is that some authors just don’t edit their work properly. Remember that people will be paying money for your novel, so honour their custom by not sending your book to print before you know you’ve done your absolute best with it.

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