Is it worth hiring a professional editorial service?
Way back in 2019, I wrote a blog about how I’d finally summoned up the courage to share my manuscript with a close friend of mine. In 2021, I went a step further and submitted one of my completed manuscripts to a professional editorial service (note: it was a different novel, so I can’t compare the feedback from the two parties sadly, but I will be submitting the other one soon I hope).
I remember how nervous I felt in 2019 when I shared my work with my friend and to be honest I expected the same kind of butterflies when I submitted to a professional. In fact, I probably expected it to be worse, after all this was a ‘real’ writer, someone who knows what they’re talking about. And yes, I was nervous, but oddly less so than back in 2019. I don’t know if this is because I actually have grown as a writer and feel more confident, or because I’d actually edited this manuscript, so felt it was a stronger piece of work, or simply because I didn’t know the person who would be handing down their judgement. Probably all three.
Whatever the reason, it genuinely didn’t feel so scary. I filled out the little form, uploaded my manuscript, paid my money and that was that. (In case you’re wondering, I used Jericho Writers Manuscript Assessment service and I would recommend it).
A few weeks later, an email arrived in my inbox (after a bit of chasing because the original one went astray) with a word document containing the feedback.
Naturally, I was hoping I’d open this document and it would just say ‘this is a bloody brilliant book, no edits needed, publish now!’. You’ve probably guessed that’s not what I read upon opening. Instead it was full of comments, suggestions, and queries. And my heart sank.
Logically I knew there would be comments and feedback, ways to improve. It’s why I submitted the thing in the first place, to get a second opinion and some ideas on how to improve. But I will say that reading through all the areas where I need to pull my socks up a bit was hard to stomach. I read the document through once, resisted the urge to cry, and closed the email.
I didn’t open it up again for four months.
Then, one day, sick of my regular job, I found myself once again wishing that I could just get on and publish my book and see if I could make a real go of becoming an author. So I bit the bullet and opened that feedback document back up, printed it out and read it through multiple times, and each time got a little bit easier. I began to see it for what it was: objective feedback on my story, rather than criticism of me as a person or even a writer. Emboldened by this realisation, I got out some brightly coloured pens and began highlighting all of the nice comments (there were quite a few, which was a relief), the questions the editor had, and their suggestions for ways to improve.
Now, this is the part where I have to confess that’s as far as I’ve got. And for now, that’s fine. Actually, that’s not entirely true, I did then reach out to my writer friends for advice on my weakest area (dialogue).
But since then I’ve done nothing but occasionally look at the report and berate myself for not getting on and editing my story. I haven’t even read the resources my writing friends shared with me. That just feels like a step too far right now, and that’s fine. I’m getting to know my process now, and I know that at some point I will get annoyed, excited, or bored, and I’ll pick up that report, gather those resources, open my manuscript and start editing.
It will happen. And yes, I know there are lots of writers out there who would tell me to just get on and do it, to just make it happen. But that’s not how I currently roll. I write for pleasure, and all the while that’s the case, I see little point in pushing myself to the point of stress for no reason.
I will get around to it. I always do. And when it does finally happen, it will be because I feel ready, which means that I’ll do a better job of it. Eventually, I do hope that the periods between the different stages of writing a novel will grow smaller (especially if I plan to make any money out of it), but for now I don’t need to rush, and I need to take the process at my own pace.
It might be days, weeks, months or years before you see a post about how I used that feedback to edit my story, but I trust that it will happen, and for me, right now, that’s enough.
So, if you can relate to my experience, and are also beating yourself up for taking ‘too long’ to get stuff done, I’d say give yourself a break. Unless you’re a traditionally published writer with an editor on your back, and even that’s often more flexible than you might assume, then there’s no need to rush. Take your time, follow your process, and do it right for you.