by Karen Saari
You finally get a paying client and he has sent his manuscript to you. The excitement is real! You can’t wait to dig in and start working on those words.
Well, that was my experience anyway. I’d been dragging people off the streets, begging them to let me edit what they’d written, for a few years. I didn’t care if I got paid, I just wanted to play with their words. I took classes, read books and edited everything I could get my hands on. And then I reached the point where I believed this was the job God gave me and I hung up my shingle.
I was so excited when I landed my first job, it never crossed my mind that maybe this manuscript was not ready for editing. And it was not. So, how do you know? What is it that will make you send the book back? (Sometimes just a few cringes will let you know!)
- It’s normal to correct some tense issues here and there, but if the pages are filled with a combination of past, present, and future tense, that’s a sign.
- Is it full of the word as? I mean full! This reveals a passive voice. An entire manuscript in passive voice needs work.
- Do you see the same word or phrase used again and again … and again? Example –
Does everyone bound wherever they go regardless of situation, age, or ability? Do elderly women bound into the kitchen to fix dinner?
- Does it seem like a rough draft, or worse, the synopsis? Example –
George tells Mary about the dogs getting out and how they could have gotten in her garden. She is upset and runs outside.
- Does every character have the POV when they speak?
- Is it all telling and not showing anything?
- Are there sentences that are out of place and context? Example –
(A paragraph about the mess Mary found in the newly-planted garden after the dogs got into it last night.) Next sentence –
Mondays were reserved for doing laundry.
(Next paragraph is Mary on the phone, telling her best friend about the garden.)
What does doing laundry have to do with anything? It’s likely a cut/paste error, but if you find a lot of them, it can take up a good chunk of time. The author should have caught those during his final read-through before sending it.
What should you do to make the send back decision and also keep the job?
- Before you address the issue with them, pray. Pray for wisdom, the right words and a receptive heart on their part. This is after all, their baby.
- Find the main problems and talk to the author about your concerns. You might prepare them a checklist with a few suggestions to help them do some rewrites.
- Tell the author it’s not ready for an editor. If you offer mentoring services, this is a good opportunity to help an aspiring author, and gain a client.
- Suggest they go through the manuscript one more time, with your notes in hand and make the appropriate changes. If you feel led, offer to answer a limited amount of questions per week.
- You might tell them you’ll reserve them a spot on your waiting list (with a deposit) in 6-8 weeks (or whatever) but essentially giving them a deadline so they don’t lose hope.
As Christian people, our ultimate goal is to bring glory to Him in all that we do, not just gaining another client for our list. We should always be open to helping, not just getting hired. Yes, we are in business, and we do need to make a living. But we are not here on our own, we are ambassadors for the King and if we reach out to help someone and suffer lack, it’s all counted for good. He may or may not make up the lack – I’ve definitely seen Him do it and I’ve also made it in the times He has not made up that lack of funds.
Don’t get stuck editing a rough draft! It’s okay to say, “Not yet.”
Karen Saari loves to play with words, whether it’s writing or editing. She is a Christian, wife, mother and grandmother. Karen is currently working on her BA in English and Creative Writing. She writes Contemporary Christian Women’s Fiction, and is working on a new book – The Neighbor’s Club.
She has many hobbies – an avid reader, she also sews and knits and is learning to draw and paint with watercolors. Yard sales and thrift stores are her favorite shopping places, besides craft stores. Check out Karen’s blog here.
Karen lives with her husband, Robert in the mountains of northern California. They enjoy traveling the Oregon coast and photography.
This is excellent advice! If you decide to mentor writers, you have to use wisdom in each case. I started out mentoring for a couple of years, then changed my focus. During that time, I had a wide variety of experiences. The worst was a sweet older man who had written a full-length novel. However, it was awful in many ways, so I gently worked with him on and off for 9 months. But I eventually realized he had no interest in learning anything–he wanted me to just rewrite his entire book! Then he wouldn’t pay me–with a contract. He sent me threatening emails, tried to guilt me into writing his book (we’d only gotten about a third of the way through), and bombarded me daily. It was horrible. He finally paid me a little bit & I cut bait to get away from him. I learned quickly to pick up on the attitudes of people I was considering mentoring. But I had some awesome experiences as well! Two new writers devoured every single suggestion and instruction I gave them, they worked on their own to learn writing skills as well, and they are multi-published now. I am so proud of them! One last example that illustrates you truly have to trust God to lead you. There was an older lady who had been writing her life story for decades. Her passion was to publish it in a book. I had downtime when I met her, and she was a dear Christian lady who I really bonded with, so I agreed to help her–mostly for free, just charging a small amount. But her book was a jumbled mess. I worked with her on and off for over a year to get it organized, readable, and interesting. She then paid for a company to publish it. She couldn’t stop thanking me! About six months later, she unexpectedly died. I was in shock! I had even visited her and her husband a few times. But I am SO glad that I (often secretly grudgingly) stuck it out with her. She fulfilled her dream and left a legacy for her family. Now she’s in heaven (as of last month). Mentoring is a challenging field, but if you enjoy it and work with genuine people, it can be very rewarding.
Lora, we do interact with some interesting people! I wish I would have cut bait on one of mine, but, here I am 3 years later still slogging my way through. I’m nearing the end of what I agreed to do and after that, I won’t take any more work from this client.
Love the story of the lady writing her life story – you were a real blessing to her 🙂