Once upon a time, there was a young woman who thought she could edit alone. She was wrong. Luckily for her, she met a friendly fairy who introduced her to her future best writing friend — Christy. They toiled night and day, perfecting each other’s art and writing magical stories that impressed the world and sold millions of copies worldwide.
Ahem…sorry, got a little carried away there. But the story is mostly true. Except for the bit about “millions of copies sold”, but that’s what fairy tales are for, right? And who knows what the future holds…
Back in the day, I thought I would go through an edit or two, send my work in progress (WIP) to beta readers for a bit of feedback, edit some more, and out the door it would go. While that may have worked to some extent, I don’t think it would have produced my best possible novel. Luckily, a good friend of mine introduced me to her sister, a fellow fantasy writer who has become a critical resource in my manuscript revision.
The Critique Partner
It’s a reciprocal relationship: I edit Christy’s work, and she edits mine. We work chapter by chapter over email, and then meet once a month to discuss the themes and overall story development, as well as any specific issues we’re having with the WIP. This process has provided an extra set of eyes for me, but what’s more, editing Christy’s work has helped improve my writing.
In teaching others, we teach ourselves.
I’m not an expert editor, so I can’t say that I’m truly teaching anything, but what I am doing is pointing out errors and problems that I see in Christy’s work, which in turn opens my eyes to the same or similar problems in my own. In other words, by editing her chapters, I’m strengthening my editing chops, which helps me edit my chapters. Then when Christy comments on my WIP, I can see it through a new lens, which broadens my editing range, which I can then apply to Christy’s, and so on, and so forth. It’s a cyclical process that improves my writing near exponentially.
Part of my good fortune resides in the fact that Christy and I have different, but complimentary skills. I tend to be strongest in pace and action, while Christy is particularly good at dialogue. As a result, we’re constantly learning from each other and pointing out areas for improvement. Sometimes we go over the same chapter a few times, revising until it feels right before moving on.
I suppose the professional writers out there — the ones who already have multiple books under their belt and produce multiple books a year — would find the pace of this system too slow. I’ll admit, I wish I could write faster. But without this level of focused work, I don’t think I would be improving my craft as quickly as I am. I’m not even sure that SANYARE would be publication worthy at the end of my original planned process.
For the writers out there, especially the aspiring fiction novelists, I strongly recommend finding a trusted critique partner or writing group to help you refine your story piece by piece before sending out your full manuscript. I’m sure your beta readers/editors will appreciate it.
And to Christy, if I haven’t said it before, or frequently enough, let me say it now:
Do you use a critique partner? Do you have any other suggestions for the editing process?