The other day, I called around to find someone who could tell me why the bush in my front yard was dying. “Dying” may have been too generous. It seemed like maybe it was already dead. It had slowly turned brown over the past year and as of the week before, three-fourths of it was leafless. Not to mention, the trunk seemed to be growing something.
Still, I was hoping someone could help me salvage what was left.
The lawn care company I called first recommended a garden center. The garden center recommended a tree specialist. The tree specialist said this:
“Dead is dead.”
He explained that he could come take a look but it would cost me $250 and it didn’t sound like there was much left to save. “I’m not usually one to turn down billable hours, but it’s not like I can do an autopsy or even a tissue sample. Dead is dead.”
I thanked him for his forthright manner and said I would take his gentle suggestion not to hire him.
The next weekend, my husband went out with a saw to see what he could do. The bush turned out to be so dead, the saw was unnecessary. He more or less yanked it out of the ground with his bare hands.
I’m glad I saved my $250. It is a treat to encounter someone who isn’t just looking to make a buck.
To tell the truth, that tree specialist reminded me of me.
It doesn’t happen often, but there have been times when I had to turn down a client simply because I thought they would be wasting their money by hiring me. Not that their book idea was dead; they just were not ready for editing. (I have written previously about the reactions I have gotten when this happened after editing had already started.)
I am always pleased when writers want to have their books edited before publishing them. Sometimes, however, they have a few more steps to take before it is wise to spend money on an editor.
Here are 4 steps you should take before hiring an editor:
- Let the manuscript simmer. Take a week or, better yet, a month away from the manuscript before you begin your revisions. You can spend this time not thinking about the book at all, or use it to build your marketing platform, research agents and publishers, or read other books that will help you hone your craft.
- Read through the manuscript 2 or more times to make revisions. Most people require 20 revisions to get their work where they want it. It is an iterative process. However, you will probably need an outsider’s perspective before you get quite that far.
- Share your work with a friend. No, a friend isn’t likely to give you the best feedback, but you have to start somewhere. If you don’t already have a writing group to tell you what is good and bad about your story, start with a friend. You need to get the gumption up to expose your work to someone else and it’s OK if you start with a softball.
- Find a writing group, beta readers, or other outside people with writing experience to read your manuscript. Arrange for 3–5 well-chosen readers to give you specific constructive feedback on the writing. Then sort the feedback to determine which changes support your vision for the book.
You could continue on this path until you have completed your 20 revisions. That’s not a bad plan. But you might also decide it’s time to hire an editor before then. That’s not a bad plan either. What I would strongly advise against is typing “The End” and immediately beginning your search for an editor.
As the tree specialist illustrated, it’s often faster and cheaper to rip a dead bush out of the ground yourself than to pay someone to tell you what you already know.
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