Adventures in Revising(2): CPs, Beta Readers, or hired editors?
I was reading Miss Snark’s First Victim and Authoress had a really great point about hiring an editor for revisions.
To paraphrase she pretty much says that you shouldn’t hire her for her professional critiquing services if your work has never had eyes on it (i.e. a CP or Beta Reader). For one thing, those people read your work for free, for another, they catch some of the small stuff (i.e. grammar, incorrect tenses, plot holes, etc). When you hire someone to edit, you want to get the most bang for your buck, so why would you waste a professional editor’s time having them correct commas and dialogue tags?
So it got me thinking, what is the right order for revising? Also how many CPs should you have? Where can you find a responsible beta reader? Also how do you know when you’re done?
I hope to give some advice/links in this article to help anyone who is a newbie to this whole revision game.
Critique Partners: Axie and I already did an article about CPs specifically.
Critique Partners are fellow writers (often people who write in the same genre as you) who trade MS so both parties can critique the other’s work. They can run the gamut of one-time critiquers or CPs you continue to trade with for all of your WIPs (my personal preference). They’ll look at grammar and spelling mistakes. They should also look at characterization, setting, etc. They’ll address issues of plot holes, continuity, characterization, believability, whether the MC is a sympathetic character, whether secondary characters are too two-dimensional, and sometimes even assist in fact checking, etc.
When to get a CP: At ANY POINT in writing. Some CPs exchange chapter by chapter of rough draft WIPs. Some CPs exchange the just-finished WIP of their completed MS. Some of them just trade random scenes that they are having issues with. When you’re looking for a CP be sure to say what stage you’re at and you’ll most definitely find someone in the same boat.
What you get: Free critique. Customizeable (i.e. you can search for someone who meets your criteria). CPs often stay with you throughout your whole writing career. We’re making friendships here people! These people will be able to lift you up when you’re sad, celebrate with you when you succeed, and push you to be a better writer. They are also great for encouraging you through writer’s-block or points where you’re unsure where the story is going. CPs can exist online or in person (in critique groups), meaning you can decide if you want to have a new in-person friend to chat with about your books, other books, how every YA conversation inevitably leads back to Harry Potter (proven fact).
Some Advice: You have to give as much as you get (or risk burning bridges). If you are super duper busy in your day job or with the fam, you might not be able to commit that much time to reading someone else’s MS. That’s fine if you have already established relationships with CPs, but if you go out and get a few shiny new CPs and then drop the ball from the get-go then you’re not really keeping up your side of the bargain. Of course, there should always be a “trial period” where you and your potential new CP can get a feel for the other person’s work. This is a time where you could realize that you don’t have the time, and if you’re upfront then you can always ask to keep that person’s contact info for when you’re more available. Ultimately a CP is crucial if you want to send out official queries/submissions.
Writer’s Digest has a good article about the Top 10 Worst CPs
YA Writers Reddit – This reddit is for those of us who are authors of YA novels. Discussing your original works in progress is our purpose. Feel free to discuss titles, characters, plots, themes, settings, critiques, etc. Also, any information pertinent to the genre and authors should be discussed here. Hopefully we can all learn from each other and write great books!
Beta Readers are people who read an MS with the intent of looking through the material and giving an opinion on whether they like the story (think of it as a small focus group to see if your story will do well once it’s published). They also find grammar and spelling mistakes. They can look at characterization, setting, etc. They can address issues of plot holes, continuity, characterization, believability, whether the MC is a sympathetic character, whether secondary characters are too two-dimensional, and sometimes even assist in fact checking.
While it’s tempting to just use family and friends as Beta Readers, if you’re an unpublished author then try to find people who don’t owe you their loyalty, their opinion will be less biased.
When to get a Beta Reader: When you’re completely done! And ideally when you’ve had at least one CP read it for the small things (i.e. grammar, tense, POV, spelling). Beta Readers are more often a big-picture kind of critiquer than a small details person (that’s because they’re more your audience than your peers).
What you get: Free critique. Customizeable (i.e. you can search for someone who meets your criteria)
It’s like a focus group (except one person). It’s going straight to the source (maybe a slightly more opinionated source) about whether your book will appeal to the audience you’re trying to reach. There are Beta Readers of all kinds, so you can really get some diverse opinions on your MS as a whole.
Some Advice: Beta Readers run the gamut and are obviously very subjective. Like CPs one Beta Reader might not have the same opinion as another so it could be confusing once you’ve had a few people read your work.
Editors for hire:
Editors for hire are people who work in the field (agents, editors, published authors) who will offer a professional critique for a fee. They are a great resource for POLISHED MS’s. When you are happy with your story and you don’t really have anything you can think of to make it better, then you can consider hiring an editor to give it that final shine before querying.
When to hire an editor: After multiple eyes have seen your MS and given their honest critique. If you’ve only done one round of revisions then go back and do another, and then another, and then another just to be safe. THEN think to yourself, “am I confident with this work?” If the answer is “yes” then go ahead and query. If the answer is “mostly, but I still feel like something is missing and I can’t figure out what.” Then you can look into hiring a professional editor. (There is always the option of sending to more Betas or CPs as well). What you get: Professional editing by someone who has experience and works in the industry! They know what agents and publishers are looking for. They can give you some great professional advice, and they are able to understand why something works or doesn’t based on industry experience. Also, many writers/agents/editors are also some of the biggest fans of books, that’s why they work in the field (this is especially true of YA professionals!)
Some Advice: Always remember, professional editors costs moo-lah. Beware of submitting unpolished MS’s for these services. You will often get an MS back with a lot of red pen that concentrates on the small stuff (i.e. grammar). I know it’s hard to wait, but it will be worth it. Run your MS through a few CPs and Betas before you turn to the professionals.
Pricing – I’ve heard a lot of prices quoted. There are those that do per word, per page, or just give a blanket price (but clarify that there is a cap for word count).
Some recommendations: Tehlor Kay Mejia, Katherine Locke, & Tracey Baptiste