Today I went to meet a children’s book editor. We spoke for two hours about my book and it was the most productive time in my entire writing process.
She questioned everything: Why had it written it? Who was it aimed at? How did I imagine the characters? (It turned out that what I said aloud was actually very different to what was written on the page.) Most importantly, she asked – Did I think that I’d tied up everything at the end? I thought I had, but the answer was ‘no’.
It took someone asking these very basic questions to make me realise where I had gone wrong with the narrative. Having discussed my answers at length, I now have a much better idea of what I need to work on.
I decided on this type of editorial process for several reasons: it was within my budget, I found it useful to discuss the process of writing and I don’t think I’m yet at the stage where having an editor go through my work line by line would be helpful.
But I had a few options open and I thought other writers might find it useful if I listed these:
1. Give your draft to a friend or family member and get their feedback – obviously this is the easiest and cheapest option, but you’re likely to get a lot of bias, with people saying your work is great and giving little constructive criticism. If you have a ready audience available that is within your target age group, you’ve struck gold – particularly when it comes to the younger age ranges, in which it becomes quickly apparent if they’re bored of your work.
2. Join a critique group – I would recommend SCBWI (www.scbwi.org) – You pay an annual membership fee, but the critique groups are free and it’s easy to join. You don’t even have to meet in person – work and comments can be shared online. Here you have the great benefit of having other writers for the same age group giving you feedback on your work.
3. Use and editorial consultancy – there are many around and amongst the most well-known in the UK are Cornerstones (www.cornerstones.co.uk) and The Writer’s Workshop (www.writersworkshop.co.uk). You submit your draft and they match you up with the best editor for the genre and age-group for which you’re writing. They range in price range depending on how detailed a report you’re looking for and the length of your manuscript, but you’re looking at around £150 – £350. Expect a detailed written up report on everything from characterisation to spelling and grammar. Some offer to recommend you to agents if they think your manuscript is strong enough.
4. Use an independent editor – This is the route that I went down. They offer the most personalised service – often preferring to talk you through their recommended changes either in person or over the phone. Most will also do a detailed report on your work and some may offer to represent you to agents. Make sure that you choose the right agent for your genre. Amongst top independent children’s book editors that I’ve come across are Shelley Instone (www.shelleyinstoneliteraryconsultany.co.uk) and Bella Pearson (www.bellapearson.com).
Good luck with the editing!