Meghan had a real challenge when I contacted her about editing my novel. My first novel was already published, and this second book was a sequel. I was a nervous wreck, all aquiver with excitement because I’d never hired a professional editor before. I had no idea what to expect or really any idea of what I wanted from an editor.

I was desperate for real criticism and real, constructive advice. I wanted to be confident that my book was as good as any book published by a traditional house.

The Time Travel Journals: Bridgebuilders was as perfect as my critique groups and I could make it, but I knew editors possessed some secret knowledge that took a story to the next level. I just had no idea what that was. Beyond correcting all my grammar mistakes, I had some vague idea of someone providing closely guarded advice that would make my book perfect. “Move chapter 4 to before chapter 7, add another chapter between 12 and 13, and rewrite the ending.” And I would be speechless with awe.

Meghan spent a great deal of time during our first phone call explaining the difference between a developmental edit and a copy edit. I wanted both, but like many authors, I couldn’t meet the price. Because my book had been through many, many critiques and I’d used an electronic editing program, I knew it was basically okay from a grammatical standpoint. I knew it wasn’t perfect (oh, how I hate commas!) but I thought I could survive without the copy edit. So we agreed Meghan would do a manuscript evaluation and let me know what I needed to fix.

I was happy that Meghan provided a contract that spelled out her duties, the time frame, and the cost. So many freelancers skip this step because they want to seem trusting, but that doesn’t work for me. Writing novels is a business. So is editing. A contract shows that you take your work seriously and that your clients can depend on you.

So Bridgebuilders went to live with Meghan for a while. I was busy writing another book, but I still worried. “Will she say the story is nice but not good enough to publish? Will she heap praise on it and rave about my awesome talent?” I didn’t want either of these to happen.

Her evaluation was thorough and thoughtful, and she returned my Word document with her comments and corrections in Track Changes. I found it instructive, but also very easy, to see each of her suggestions. I had to decide for myself if I wanted to keep her changes, but it was a rare occurrence if I didn’t follow her advice. I was always able to ask her questions if I needed clarification on something, too.

Meghan’s evaluation covered characters, setting, dialogue, pace, and descriptions. She addressed the beginning and ending of the novel and made special note of places at the beginning where I needed to provide more information for a reader who may not have read the first book in the series. She even corrected some of those commas and provided a short lesson on when to use them.

Her technical suggestions helped me fix errors and tighten up my writing, but she also never forgot that I was telling a story – and everything she did made it a much better one.

Marlene Dotterer
The Time Travel Journals, Book Two: Bridgebuilders – sci-fi/fantasy, 2012

Website: MarleneDotterer.wordpress.com