Whether I’m editing your manuscript as a critique partner, Pitch Wars mentor, or freelance editor, you can expect the same from me. HONESTY.
If your manuscript isn’t good, I have to let you know. I wouldn’t be doing you any favors if I didn’t. That’s my job. I’ll try to break it to you gently, but hearing your manuscript need to be rewritten in part or completely isn’t easy for anyone to hear. Of course, I wouldn’t simply leave you with that type of feedback. I would tell you exactly what wasn’t working. I would make suggestions about what you could do to improve the work and let you know what parts of the craft of writing you might still need to learn.
If your manuscript is good but not great, I’ll do the same as above so I can help you turn silver into gold.
But, as an editor, and possibly your friend or friendly acquaintance, it’s never easy for me to inform a writer that he/she still has a lot to learn or that he/she needs to basically start over with this story. I know hearing that would crush most writers. Some might stop writing. Some might hate me (please don’t kill the messenger). And some, most, will dust themselves off, wipe away the tears, and get to work.
Having someone tell you how great your story is won’t make it great. And, let’s face it. Every manuscript ever written had something wrong with it. But, if yours is facing the chopping block, you don’t necessarily have to give up on it. Take time to really consider what I suggested. Are the premise and characters strong, but the writing needs improvement? That’s great news. Well, great in the it-can-be-worse sense. It means you are a natural storyteller and simply need to learn the craft of writing (or certain elements of it). Don’t despair. Nobody is born with that knowledge. All published writers had to learn the craft be it directly from courses or books or indirectly through criticism and trial and error.
If there were issues with your characters, ask yourself whether you chose the right people to be in THIS book. Sometimes, you just need to rework the characters or get to know them better. But, sometimes, switching characters (or a character) can make a huge difference. It might add more conflict for the protagonist. It might allow you to dig deeper within that character because you have a better understanding of him/her. And it might help you keep a consistent theme throughout the story. For example, let’s say your main theme is, “You can’t choose your family.” It wouldn’t necessarily work for your protagonist to have a great family she loves. With this theme, readers would expect the protagonist to suffer and grow, so she’d have to start with family issues and either resolve them or learn to deal with them by the end of the story.
Maybe you have the right characters, but they need to be developed further. This would also affect the plot and whether or not the reader would want to continue reading.
No matter what, when I give you constructive feedback, I’m not indirectly telling you to quit writing or to give up on your dream of becoming published. I’m pushing you and I’m showing you what you need to do to improve. It isn’t any different than a singer who needs to learn how to control her voice or how to breathe properly while singing. Or an actor who needs to dig deeper into his own experiences to show how a character might feel or act. Or a hockey player who needs to practice his shots on goal or train for endurance. They all need to work on their craft in some way. Writing is just like that. Even published authors will tell you they’ve continued to and will continue to learn their craft and how they can improve, because there’s always room for improvement.
It’s up to you what you do with feedback you receive on your story. But please know, if I worked on your manuscript, my heart was in the right place, and I’m only trying to help you improve.
This post isn’t directed at anyone in particular. The idea for it came after following several discussions about critique groups, working with a mentor, and hiring an editor.