What to expect from private editing
A good private editor will help you improve your work to the point at which it satisfies you and is fully presentable to agents and publishers. There are several steps to the process; you’ll be the one to choose how much or how little you want to invest in your work, both in time and money. The right way to proceed is to follow through with all the steps, but keep in mind that you can a) do them at your own pace, or b) do only the steps you feel are most important for your work. I’ll tell you what I think you need; you’ll decide if you’re going to do it.
Step 1. After you get in touch with me we’ll talk on the phone about your work. You’ll describe it, explain where you’re having difficulties, tell me what you think you want and need. I’ll ask questions to find out how I can help you, what your experience is, what your goals are. I’ll tell you how to format your work to industry standards, if you haven’t already done that. You’ll ask questions too, so you can get a sense of whether we can work together successfully. If you decide you want to move forward with me, we’ll discuss scheduling and fees. Private editors charge in different ways—by the hour, by the project, by the page. A per-page rate is usually the best way to go for both of us, though in some instances hourly rates or flat fees are more logical.
Step 2. Different writers and different projects require different kinds of editing, but I must do a complete read before I can evaluate your work, give you useful feedback, and help you figure out what further steps would benefit your work. There are cases in which it makes sense for me to start by reading only part of a writer’s work, but they’re rare. A complete read is where the process begins.
Step 3. Once I’ve read your work, I’ll give you plenty of feedback. Depending on the job, I may make brief pencil notes right on your manuscript, have extended discussions with you on the phone, and/or give you a written evaluation. Many private editors promise thirty-page written critiques; I don’t. Not every writer needs (or even wants) a thirty-page critique. What I do for you will be tailored to your needs; my only stipulation will be that you give me hard copy to work with. The goal of Step 3 is for you to be able to take my appraisal and suggestions (and sometimes criticisms) and go on by yourself to produce the next (and better) draft of your work.
Step 4. This step varies according to what we accomplish in Step 3. One of several things may happen: You might come back to me with a rewritten draft and ask me to read the new work and give you further feedback. You might come back to me with rewritten sections and ask me to give you feedback on those sections. You might come back to me with a new draft and be ready for a general or line edit on either a chapter or two or on the entire manuscript. In the case of a proposal, you might come back to me with a perfectly rewritten but not very attractive-looking manuscript and be ready to put it into a new and appealing format. Or you might decide that there’s no need for a Step 4 at all.