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robjvargas
01-30-2014, 09:45 PM
The thread on the WD Critique service was recently resurrected from zombie state, and I saw an old post that I thought deserved more exploration. But it's general, not specific to that critique service, so I'm splitting it here:


An additional thought, not about 2nd Draft in particular, but about critique services in general:

While a paid critique may in some cases be useful, in many others (perhaps a majority) of cases, it's used as a method of short-circuiting the process that makes someone a writer.

If someone else tells you how to "fix" your manuscript, then at some level the writing is no longer yours. At least part of it is theirs. There is value to struggling with your writing because when you solve a problem, it's really you doing it.

As a general point, I disagree. I mean, whether you pay for the critiquing or not, and you blindly accept what people tell you, then that's true. But does anyone operate that blindly on the advice they receive? My WIP's plotlines have altered a few times based on feedback, but I didn't do simply because someone fed that back.

It's still *your* choice to take or not take what you get in feedback.


I think there is value in having someone tell you what they think is wrong with a story. Telling you how to fix a story is less useful, imo. When someone tells you there's something wrong with your story, they're almost always right. When someone tells you how to fix your story, they're almost always wrong. Because they're telling you how they would fix your story, not how you would fix your story. Finding your own solutions is what makes you a writer.

The above is not true, however, if the person giving the critique is an aquiring editor. If an editor says "fix it this way and I'll buy it", that's how I'd fix it. :D

I think this is more in line with what I believe, except that I'm not so ready to reject outside feedback as I read the above to say. "When someone else tells you how to fix your story, they're almost always wrong." That's dismissive, and I think it risks missing opportunities.

I don't think Roger meant to dismiss. I think we actually agree that no one can tell you how your story *should* go. Only you know that.

But if a critique (paid or not) tells me, "the story makes more sense to me if you..." That's constructive feedback. And it's worthy of consideration.

We the writer should not simply accept that critique and change what we've written. Maybe that confusion is actually what was intended. Maybe the critique is flatly wrong about the meaning of a word. Maybe the reader missed something.

There's all kinds of reasons to reject a critique. But there's all kinds of reasons to accept it, also. We should not blindly do one or the other.

MookyMcD
01-30-2014, 09:53 PM
There are a thousand ways this thread can go south. :popcorn:

My $.02:

If you're going to trade publish, that service is part of the reason you only get a percentage.

If you're querying, you probably need to be a good enough writer to get yourself close enough to publishable that the agents/editors can see that and provide the service. I'm not saying betas and CPs shouldn't help, but in terms of shelling out a couple grand to get your MS ready for an agent -- I don't see that as worthwhile.

If you're going to self-publish, then it's a whole different ballgame. It's probably a good idea (with a truly professional editing service), because that's what it will take to have a book that is equivalent to what it would have been through trade publishing (with a good house). On the other hand, that's not cheep, and you have to be willing to write off thousands of dollars you're not getting back (or spend it on lottery tickets which probably have the same or better ROI).

thothguard51
01-30-2014, 09:54 PM
My opinion from experience; telling me what is wrong with my work is useless for me if it is not explained to me why something is a problem.

I might also add that a particular critique for one piece may not work in other pieces, even withing the same story. It really depends on the work and what the author is attempting to accomplish. Which is why it is important to know why something works, or does not work, instead of just being told to fix it...

jaksen
01-30-2014, 10:02 PM
And be careful who you pick to edit or critique. As I've stated in other threads, I've started reading more self-published books. Even in those in which the writer thanks their editor, I've noticed some horrible mistakes. (For example, confusing the words 'feint' and 'faint.' Or its for it's. Both of which should be pretty obvious errors for anyone who is an editor.)

Before hiring anyone, check their credentials. Check what other books they've worked on. Check everything.

KTC
01-30-2014, 10:03 PM
I will NEVER pay for editing services. EVER.

I don't believe in it. I believe in polishing my work to the best of my ability and submitting it. When it's accepted, I will work with in-house editors to polish it to their liking.

T J Deen
01-30-2014, 10:12 PM
for about a year now I've been considering paying for professional critique / content edit. There are soooo many services that do this though and it's soooo hard to choose one.

some of them look like fly by night website templates while others are side services offered by authors and agents who may or may not have had a best seller in their resume.

on average, a 100k manuscript will run from 1600$ to 2000$ and that puts the pressure on to make sure you choose the right one.

this far into my investigation I've resorted to reading the books of those who are offering this service to kinda qualify if they're the one I'm most comfortable working with.

I also don't agree with one of the quotes above that said using this service short circuits the process that makes someone a writer. If that statement was in fact true then why do traditional publishers use the exact same services (albeit in-house of course) on works they want to go forward on?

Jamesaritchie
01-30-2014, 10:37 PM
If you're self-publishing, paid critiques, editing, and even complete revisions, can be a good idea, as long as you pick someone capable of doing the job, and such people are both rare, and extremely expensive.

If you're planning to publish traditionally, forget about it. The only opinions that count are those of agents and editors. Even the best hired editor only knows what he wants, and what he wants, even if it's technically good, may be the opposite of what agents and editors at publishers want.

I have nothing against 2nd draft, and if nothing you do is working, if you aren't getting bites, I see nothing at all wrong with using something like 2nd draft to get a professional opinion.

The trick, I think, is to realize that such services should only be taken as opinion, that you have to be able to edit, rewrite, and revise your own writing in accordance with opinions you agree with.

When and if you actually sell a book, chances are very high that it will still need work, no matter who you hire to work on it. Often a lot of work because it has to fit the editor's line, and the editor's judgment of what sells and what doesn't.

The editor will offer suggestions, will ask for this or that, and you'll have to be able do the work yourself. At that point, you can't hire it done. So the sooner you learn to do these things yourself, the better.

If you use something like 2nd draft, or a qualified hired editor, as a learning tool, great. If you use them as a "They'll do it all for me" tool, it will probably come back to kick you in the butt.

Buffysquirrel
01-30-2014, 10:56 PM
I have been thinking that I could make some money editing for s/p authors. I do after all know the difference between feint and faint. And horde and hoard.

Chris P
01-30-2014, 11:34 PM
I used to work for a copy editing/proofreading service that offered critique and query packages. I began refusing critique jobs after my second one because I didn't feel right taking more money than the writer was likely to make from the book. Besides, I recognized that what the two clients needed was a developmental editor and that's simply not what I have to offer. Shoot, I wasn't even published myself at the time and know even less about what sells books than I do now! So I stuck to formatting the references sections of scientific papers and making sure the Latin genus and species names were spelled correctly.

I agree with the above that all suggestions should be considered, but the writer should not be afraid to stick up for something he or she thinks works. I had one editor say "I wasn't convinced by the main character's change of heart in your short story; take 500 words and make me believe it." So I did and it made a good story great. On the other hand, a different editor said "Cut chapter 11" until I explained the significance, and she replied with "I can't believe I missed that. Keep it."

robjvargas
01-30-2014, 11:38 PM
I will NEVER pay for editing services. EVER.

I don't believe in it. I believe in polishing my work to the best of my ability and submitting it. When it's accepted, I will work with in-house editors to polish it to their liking.

This dovetails with what Mooky said. If you're committed to the trade publishing route, so be it.

Wilde_at_heart
01-30-2014, 11:40 PM
I have been thinking that I could make some money editing for s/p authors. I do after all know the difference between feint and faint. And horde and hoard.

This, and I'm familiar with common idioms (referring to a discussion that came up the other day on here).

I'm a bit leery of paying anyone for such a service unless I was convinced they had genuinely superior skills and only took on projects they were suitable for in regards to style, genre, etc.. In which case they'd probably be quite expensive.
I'm not convinced it's worth it, at any rate. There are plenty of places to get critiques for free (or in return for providing critiques, which I find just as useful to learn from). Proper editing is also something every writer can and really should learn.

robjvargas
01-30-2014, 11:47 PM
The trick, I think, is to realize that such services should only be taken as opinion, that you have to be able to edit, rewrite, and revise your own writing in accordance with opinions you agree with.


Exactly. And while paid services are the focus, I think it's good to remember this for Betas, critique groups, whatever other form of free feedback you might seek/get as well.

Kylabelle
01-30-2014, 11:57 PM
Quite possibly knowing how best to make use of editing and critique is itself a skill. So the question of someone else "fixing" your story becomes a question of your authority as the writer, and the extent to which you have learned to discern useful, good advice and correction from that which would weaken your work. I think Chris P's examples make this point perfectly.

I say this because I know more than one person who has become (temporarily) stalled from taking in advice and not having the inner certainty to meet it critically and make decisions about how to proceed. We learn how to make use of critique by practicing making use of it.

And when I read the OP my first thought was that this was a semantical issue. It's pretty hard to distinctly describe the choice point in general terms, where the writer has to take responsibility for following a crit suggestion, or not. If the writer is giving too much responsibility over to the critique, then that's a problem. But it's always up to the writer to decide where that cut-off point is.

Shadow_Ferret
01-31-2014, 12:17 AM
What? $1600 to $2000? What struggling writer has that kind of throwaway money?

No, best you learn to do all those things yourself -- be a well-rounded, self-sufficient writer.

There's no sense starting off in a $2000 hole before you've even started.

Filigree
01-31-2014, 12:46 AM
I'd benefit somewhat from having an editor for a 16K novella I'm planning to self-publish. I know this from extrapolating my editing experiences with a very diligent e-pub a year ago. But I'm already committed to filing copyright and buying an ISBN for this book, as well as paying a cover designer. The amount of money I realistically stand to make from this novella in one year *might* pay back the costs of publishing.

I'd need a skilled editor with a background in both SF&F, as well as erotic romance. That won't be cheap. So I'll have to rely on my learned skills and the advice of a couple of very thorough beta readers.

I'd love the novella to earn more money than my commercially published erotic romance does now, but I'm self-publishing as a wider strategic career move. Without a professional editor, I don't know that I can give a perfectly professional product - but I can come reasonably close.

As for commercially publishing anything, I'd never spend money on a editorial service first, and I'd be a bit skeptical of anyone who told me I had to.

slhuang
01-31-2014, 01:30 AM
I'm incredibly grateful to my betas. They are marvelous. My ms improved so much thanks to them.

I am also extremely pleased with my pro editor so far (I'm SPing and I just started working with her). She's helping me polish the ms to a high, high shine.

But I think the idea that the writing is no longer mine is just hogwash. It took me weeks to implement my first round of beta critiques. Even when they made exact suggestions, I would figure out if it went with the flow and how to reword things to make them fit into my style. And more often their comments were things like, "I don't like your MC" or "this part is confusing." It was a great deal of work -- writing work -- to implement my betas' critiques.

In fact, implementing a full critique was a task that was new to me, and I was completely overwhelmed at first. I figured it out, but I would go to a complete 180 from the post quoted in the OP and say that not only is implementing critique not taking away from the skillset of writing, but it's adding a very, very necessary skill: the skill of, well, implementing a critique.

Similarly, I would never for a moment think that anyone I've critiqued, no matter how in-depth, then has a book that somehow is not all their own. In fact, I know how much extra work I'm giving my bet-ees when I give them back mss marked up from A to Z. They have to figure out which of my comments to take, and how, and actually figure out how to use my comments to strengthen their books. Which to me is a far more Herculean task than writing the damn thing in the first place.

slhuang
01-31-2014, 01:42 AM
for about a year now I've been considering paying for professional critique / content edit. There are soooo many services that do this though and it's soooo hard to choose one.

Check out these two FAQ (thanks Medi!):

Editors recommended by AW (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=246884)

What to ask a copyeditor (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=271090)

After much research I had four editors on my SP shortlist, three from the list above and Rose Fox (http://www.copymancer.com/) (whom I didn't end up hiring, but who was delightful, professional, and skilled during our correspondence). I feel like I would have been in safe hands with any of them, and I believe most (all?) of them have experience editing for big trade publishers.


What? $1600 to $2000? What struggling writer has that kind of throwaway money?

No, best you learn to do all those things yourself -- be a well-rounded, self-sufficient writer.

There's no sense starting off in a $2000 hole before you've even started.

Well, for SPing, you're acting as the publisher, so it makes sense that you'd have to put out the initial investment a publisher otherwise would do for you. It makes a lot of sense to me that royalty percentages are lower for trade published books than for SPed books, because the publisher is putting in a great deal of upfront investment and is betting on a return from the proceeds of the book sales. SPers wear both hats -- writer and publisher -- and thus invest their own money in their books and hope for a return from royalties.

We all self-edit, of course, but I'm skeptical that it's possible for any author to edit him/herself to the standard a pro editor would set. Even writers who are themselves pro editors.

KTC
01-31-2014, 08:57 AM
This dovetails with what Mooky said. If you're committed to the trade publishing route, so be it.

Absolutely. I should have made that clear. Sorry. Anyone who goes self-pub route SHOULD get editing. 100%. But if they are not going sp route, they should definitely not waste the money.

Kitty Crocodile
01-31-2014, 09:58 PM
I had the first ten pages of my novel critiqued this week, and I found it incredibly helpful. This is the fifth draft of the book. During the past couple of years I've been working on it I've pretty much taught myself how to write fiction (had some help from Holly Lisle): it's been a learning process, and I believe I've made considerable progress and the book is just about ready to be submitted. But the critique helped me realize what I still need to pay attention to, and it also gave me some tools to identify my weaknesses (I think I'm afraid of exposition, for one thing).

And I think I now understand why many of my reader friends haven't actually managed to read the manuscript: despite several rewrites the beginning is too confusing and unclear.

For someone like me who doesn't have beta readers, a short critique by a professional editor can be very useful. I would be hesitant to pay for the entire manuscript, so now I'm going to see if I can take what I've learned from this experience and apply it to the rest of the book.

If I manage to land an agent but the book won't sell, then I will very likely hire an editor and self-publish.

Liosse de Velishaf
02-01-2014, 12:41 AM
Sort of depends on how you define professional, doesn't it?

Marshein
02-08-2014, 02:41 AM
I'm a professional editor. I'm also a writer, and I think that makes me a better editor, since I've experienced the process from both sides now (with apologies to Joni Mitchell!). My motto is "Every writer deserves an editor." Note use of the term "deserves," meaning it is a positive experience if the editor knows what she's doing. Critiquing is a different story. I do that too, but not that often. It can be very subjective. But it can also be useful. The writer has to remain alert, and know which parts of a critique to believe and which not. It's an expensive proposition for possibly iffy results.

IMO most critiquing should be in the form of (1) asking questions of the writer so they think about why they wrote what they did and whether it should stay; and (2) telling the writer your own interpretation of something so they'll know this is how something comes across. But fixing it? No. Only grammar and typos and syntax and such ought to be fixed by other people.

We editors take a lot of beatings. Lately I'm starting to feel the way lawyers must feel!

JustSarah
02-08-2014, 03:10 AM
I think the confusing part is picking what to do, if you plan on hybrid publishing. I'd committed to the trade route for the novellas, though I've heard trade houses won't touch poetry.

Plus there is picking one that goes with your genre. I've browsed pro editors online, and I found one offering services from everything from poetry, non-fiction papers, novels, picture books, and ... wait it a minute, those are totally different things.

But yea picking the right one is hard.

But for trade I'm committed to learning the skills myself, and then see what further changes a trade editor would suggest being made. Take that into consideration.

hikarinotsubasa
02-08-2014, 03:25 AM
My experience with freelance editors has so far only been free samples... I was not impressed by any of the editors I've spoken to to hire them. Not because what they were doing wasn't valuable... but it wasn't really DIFFERENT from what I've gotten from betas and CPs.

One recent editor, in her sample edit, did things like changing: "Yes," said John. to "Yes," John said. (Not an actual example... but flipping word order in a way that didn't change the meaning of the sentence.) with no explanation as to why. That confuses me... it may have sounded more natural in her voice to say that, but it no longer sounded like me. (I've had beta readers do that too... if there's a REASON, I'm glad to think about it, but just changing word order or substituting synonyms with no explanation as to why the suggestion was made, when both are technically correct, is confusing)

If you're talking about copy editing - there/their/they're or effect/affect, or correct use of punctuation or typos... I can see that as being of value. You can probably find a beta to do it, too, as long as you're willing and able to swap, but I can see that paying for the service would be helpful.

For developmental editing though, I think I am going to stick to betas who are my target audience and/or writers in my genre, and hopefully eventually an agent and editor, who love my book and understand its audience.

Just my two cents. Whatever works for you and your book. ;)

y.yang
03-01-2014, 08:51 AM
I found a few companies that offered free sample edits and discovered that it's important to consider the background of the editor as well.

For instance, my book was for children 8-12 years of age and only one of the four editors realized that I was writing over the heads of my target audience, and that what I cared about, kids don't.

chompers
03-01-2014, 09:19 AM
I think this is more in line with what I believe, except that I'm not so ready to reject outside feedback as I read the above to say. "When someone else tells you how to fix your story, they're almost always wrong." That's dismissive, and I think it risks missing opportunities.


I think this shows that people can be selective on what feedback they implement, based on who it's coming from. This is a quote from Gaiman, isn't it? I think people are more likely to agree if they think they should--for example, comments from well-known authors, or perhaps paid editors. After all, they're experts, right?

aruna
03-01-2014, 01:26 PM
I've said this before, but not recently so I'll say it again:
I used a critique service before querying, about 12 years ago. In the UK, such services are much more accepted than in the US and good ones are of a high standard. The one I used gave me one or two really good suggestions; I rewrote according to those suggestions and she sent the book directly to a major agent, who accepted it immediately. The book went to auction, and sold for good five figures (GBP).
In the messy state it was in beforehand it would never have sold. I had the talent but lacked some of the skills. Only an editor could help me bring it into a good enough shape to be accepted. All the actual work was done by me. It was always my manuscript. After acceptance, my HarperCollins editor had even more great suggestions.

It's funny how in all the other arts, ie music, ballet, painting etc, rigorous coaching by an expert in order to reach full potential is par for the course. Only writers are supposed to reach excellence all by themselves. I don't get it.

Old Hack
03-01-2014, 02:08 PM
It's funny how in all the other arts, ie music, ballet, painting etc, rigorous coaching by an expert in order to reach full potential is par for the course. Only writers are supposed to reach excellence all by themselves. I don't get it.

I think the difference lies in where writers seek editorial help, and what they learn from the process.

If a writer works with an "editor" who imposes changes on the book, or who doesn't explain why changes should be made, the writer isn't going to learn anything to apply to future works.

If a writer works with an editor who suggests changes, explains why she thinks they should be made, and explains how they work within her vision of the book, the writer will learn a lot about how to improve not just the book the editor has worked on, but also how to improve her future works.

There are a lot of people who offer the first sort of editing. There are only a few people and organisations who offer the second type of editorial service, and I think that when a writer is stuck, and can't get any further, it's well worth considering paying a good editorial advisor for their opinion. As Aruna has shown, it can accelerate a writer through several stages of learning very fast indeed, and if that happens (and it's entirely up to the writer) then it represents very good value for money.

It's worth being careful about who you approach, of course: such services don't come cheap. And be realistic about your chances of earning back the money you spend on the editorial advice. Don't pay for it if you can't afford to not get it back. But don't dismiss the value of working with good editorial agencies just because it doesn't guarantee you publication: it can be brilliantly helpful.

Chekurtab
03-02-2014, 12:46 AM
I'm in the learning curve of the writing process. I have a critique group of ten writers that provides me with a feedback no money would buy. I'm gonna ask some writer friends to beta-read my MS, free of charge of course. At the end, I plan to hire an editor to go over the finished MS.
What I'm trying to say, there is room for all of the above. Critiquing, editing, betareading are not mutually exclusive IMHO. Someone like me would probably be better off going through all of the stages and learning in the process. The other, more established writers, may wanna skip on some steps. Just my 2 cents.

Jo Zebedee
03-02-2014, 12:50 AM
I've used two professional editors and some high-level critters, plus a writing group. I didn't pay a massive amount for either editor, found them through a specialist sff site they were members of, and both - Teresa Edgerton and J.S.Maryatt - were amazing. I didn't get an agent with my first book, but did get two small publisher offers (both declined), but did get an agent with my second book, which benefitted from what I learned from the first edit as well as the bespoke one.

For me, it was money well spent (about 600 for both) and brought my writng on immensely.

Marshein
03-27-2014, 10:22 PM
I don't think poetry should be edited and wouldn't do it. Ever.

Re: "John said vs. said John." I call this arbitrary editing. It's mindlessly done. I used to always change start to begin and vice versa, until I became aware I was doing it--in my own work too--and had to force myself to stop. Just bcause there's another way to say something doesn't mean you have to change it. There should be, as you said, a reason for the change.

I don't mean to brag, but from the things I've heard both here and on Goodreads, I am an awesome editor! (I guess I do mean to brag!)

veinglory
03-27-2014, 10:44 PM
It's funny how in all the other arts, ie music, ballet, painting etc, rigorous coaching by an expert in order to reach full potential is par for the course. Only writers are supposed to reach excellence all by themselves. I don't get it.

Any of these people running a small business will need to balances their costs and profits. In the case of a generic self-published book, $1,400 exceeds the total expected profit.

If this was a $1,400 education course it would be placed against some kind of life-time earning expectation (or self-actualization goal) but I see editing of a specific book as predominantly an investment only in that book.

If a person agrees they will likely take a loss on it, but do it anyway for their gratification, more power to them. If they have a realistic marketing plan with a substantial profit at the bottom, wow--well done. But of not it is simply not the kind of investment in a generic self-published book I would blanket endorse.

The reason being that many people are simply not realistic about what their sales will be like, and any given stranger is more likely to need a reality check than a pat on the back.

ash.y
03-31-2014, 06:48 PM
The responses to these threads suggest that writers would be more comfortable with the idea of freelance editors if they were called "writing coaches" instead.

Versailles
04-01-2014, 08:45 PM
I had an agent interested, but by the end of the book said it required too much work for him to take on but invited me to edit and re-submit (and provided me 5 pages of awesome suggestions). He also offered to put me in touch with an editor who could help me.

Best $2k I ever spent. The editor (ex-editor at Big 6, in my genre, so in effect represented the buyer for my book) stripped my book of all the crap it didn't need and offered me great suggestions on how to rebuild. It was an amazing process and on resubmission I wasn't even worried about the agent liking it or not - I figured if he liked it the first time around, there was no way he wasn't going to love it now!

And it worked out and he signed me. Going out on submission shortly.

I agree with Aruna and can't think of a situation where a project wouldn't benefit from a second set of (qualified) eyes.