Editing services are interesting. I’m sure. I know, I’ve tried. Maybe, they’re even useful, depending on what you’re looking to get out of them. Like I said, I’ve tried. Not sure or not if this is coming through clearly enough, I wasn’t impressed.
What do writers need an editor for? I’m not sure what everyone else is looking for, but I can tell you I’m not worried about story points or plots or characterization. I need help with grammar and punctuation, the technical side of writing. I have absolute faith in my own abilities to convert my ideas into a narrative flow that I’m proud of. I just need time. And a lot more practice, in some instances.
I think my idea of an editor started with Star Trek, discussing what editors did in terms of breaking down stories and being a sounding board for the bible of a television show’s vision. Then, I met Mr. Bowne in English and took journalism. So, then I decided that editors should correct grammar and punctuation. I think that’s mostly where my opinion has stayed ever since.
That means, when I decided I thought my first few chapters were polished enough and I had decided to stick my neck out and figure out how to get published, I’d heard a lot of talk about needing an editor or not needed an editor. This search lead me to Writer’s Digest, which I have since decided I don’t particularly like. Oh they offer interesting tidbits, every now and then, but mostly, they are (in my mind) about making money at the expense of their audience. Not a huge surprise, they’re a company.
The thing is, they off this editing service, 2nd Draft. And, I figured, what the hell, I’ve got three chapters, I don’t know if my grammar or punctuation is very strong, let’s send it in and see what happens. After four weeks, and having to remind the supposed editor several times, I finally received the notes back. They were… well, horrible.
The editor corrected several punctuation mistakes such as “let’s” vs “lets” and oh so helpfully pointed out intentional fragments of character thought, indicating that if I hadn’t noticed, there were several fragments. Then decided to indicate that he wouldn’t bother to point these out all the time unless he decided it was excessive.
I don’t know where to start. I suppose a good one would be, if, as an editor whom someone has submitted their work for critiquing, you’re sole purpose is grammar, pointing out grammatical problems is kind of the point. Not, “oh, hey, I’m only going to do this on occasion.” Then, the punctuation editing was horrible. I found more missing commas and incomplete thoughts on my next read through than this “editor” had in his professional read through.
Of course, taken on it’s own, this suggests that I need to be more careful on my own editing process, but reading out loud was a habit I’ve only recently formed, in major part due to the SixFold writing competition. Here’s to learning and expanding repetour. It is time consuming but useful. More on that in another post.
Listen, not all (though a good portion) of this is to suggest that I think editors are useless, I’ve understood that it’s a relationship that, like anything else, sometimes needs a little bit of magic. But, I don’t think I was out of line. I wanted grammar and punctuation, and the notes I got back were useless, late, and not worth the effort and money. I find more self help in read out loud. I’m not piling on to a horrible editor, I don’t think. Except to say that this guys a horrible editor and I think he needs a new line of work. This is his profession, so I’ll refrain from using his name. I guess that’s a courtesy, though one I’m not sure he deserves.
Coming back around to a completed thought, I’m not sure I need an editor again, at this point. I think, unless someone (an agent or publisher) points out that I need some serious work, but likes my idea and then puts me in touch with someone willing to talk and have dialogue, this isn’t going to work. All this processed showed is that simply submitting a piece and getting a half-hearted critique isn’t worth the price or effort and, in it’s own manners, have stalled my work. I’ll get back on track. Just slightly disheartening to keep realizing that as far as I’ve traveled, I have so much more to do. And that someone who’s job it is to help out and spot the small details couldn’t. I could have done better.
It’s a lot like the SixFold’s competition, actually. The depth of comments I returned were much more insightful and lengthy than the ones I received in return and I could have written more. Work between a writer and editor is a dialogue. Whatever the hell came from Writer’s Digest and their 2nd Draft service was not.