We all need "other eyes" to help us better see our work as it is
rather than as we perceive it, "blinded" by intimacy and our deep
knowledge. But they have to be informed eyes that belong to a
writer/editor who can be articulate and knowledgeable on issues that
need to be dealt with
- scene setting
- dialogue tags
- muddy language
- lapses in continuity
- poor staging
- lack of tension
- need for conflict
- missing motivations
- clumsy language…the list goes on.
But, for a novel, the fees of even an eminently affordable editor such as myself are just not possible for many writers these days, especially those working on their first novel. I hear from many writers who are frustrated by their inability to get good feedback. What to do?
Finding a good local critique group is one answer, but that comes down to being in a locale where there are enough writers to sort through, and then a matter of luck finding writers who can also edit. I'm lucky enough to be in a critique group that works through email. One is an author with three published novels to her credit, and another works full time writing in her day job. Both have knowledge, insight, ability to articulate shortcomings they see, and to suggest solutions. I'm lucky.
But there are so many with no access. So I've been thinking about a novel (pun intended) way for you to get an intensive, objective, affordable critique of the opening chapters of your novel.
Please let me know what you think of this. All constructive criticism is welcome.
What if I started an Internet-based e-critique group? It could work this way:
The critiques would be on the first 50 pages (rounded up or down to the nearest chapter ending) of a novel. The crits would be in depth, including line editing (of the sort you've seen on FtQ, but of far larger samples), comments, and critiques.
They would be provided by me and four fellow writers of comparable skills.
Writers would email to me their samples. I would screen and sort
each sample to put together groups with comparable skills. Some might
not qualify if their work was not at an appropriately competent level
I'd include pointers on critiquing, as well. After I send out the samples to the group, we would have, let's say, one month to go through the samples, make edits, and craft commentary. At the end of that time we all "meet" at an agreed-upon time in an Internet critique room (I set this up) and share our edits and thoughts real-time. This would include a comprehensive edit by me, and I would critique the critiques as needed. The session could be for a couple of hours. The writers would also email to the others files of the edits so each would have a permanent record of all five.
There would also be an agreement signed by all guaranteeing confidentiality and nondisclosure of the material. This would be a hard copy agreement signed by each participant. It would cover ownership and ground rules for the critiques.
I think a wealth of information and insight would be generated for each writer at an affordable cost. They may make contact with compatible writers for other critique sessions. The possibilities go on. The group could continue, month by month, staying together for their entire novels. Or not.
There would be a fee for this. For one thing, I'd be paying to set up a chat room for our private sessions, reviewing submissions and organizing, and doing professional editing. In return, writers would receive five insightful, instructive critiques on their work, and a thorough lesson in editing and self-editing.
Motivated writers should be able to learn from this input and apply their new insights to the rest of their work. In the best of possible worlds they would still get "other eyes" for their whole manuscript once polished, for they will still need it. One possibility is that, out of the group that does the Internet critique, each writer will find one or more others willing to trade a read-through of a manuscript.
So now tell me…
- Is such a service of interest to you?
- What would such a service be worth for you? Payment can be though a credit card, done online with PayPal. Keep in mind that I'm visualizing a critique of a significant amount of work, not the few hundred words you've seen posted on FtQ. For a 50-page document, my base rate would be about US$170.
- Do you have any ideas to add to the above outline?
- See problems?
In summary, the "what's it worth question" is in regard to a ball-park idea of what you would pay in hard-earned dollars to receive:
- Five substantive/line edits of the first 50 pages of a novel.
- One would be by me (a pro) and four by qualified writers who have received coaching in what to do and how to do it.
- The edits should resemble those I've posted on FtQ.
- Coaching in the kind of editing I do, which informs your own self editing.
- New analytical skills and experience that will help you with your own work.
- Potentially, a connection to other writers who are capable of and willing to exchanging valuable critiques/edits of your work.
I think this could be a viable way to give professional and semi-pro feedback to writers who need it but can't find it. My belief is that all novelists need, at some time or another, exactly that kind of input. And I think that, if they can't afford a pro to peruse their entire manuscript (really the best option), this notion could definitely lift the level of their narrative.
Please let me hear from you via email or comment. If you'd like to try such a group one time, please let me know. Include your recommendation for an appropriate, one-time fee. I imagine being able to pull together ad hoc groups of competent authors whenever a sufficient number is ready to sign on.
For what it's worth.
Free edit in exchange for posting permission. You send a sample that you have questions about and of which you'd like an edit. I won't post it without your permission.
© 2005 Ray Rhamey