I promised to do a post about my experience hiring a copy editor for Always & Forever. All in all, I'm very happy I did this. It has meant quite a bit of work, and I'm not quite at the finish line, even though I thought I was. Honestly, editing feels like a never-ending battle, but other authors do this all the time. I'll make it through.
Here are a few things that I plan to check and double check in any future novel:
Point of View Character - Honestly, I'm not certain I've ever heard a rule on how to pick a point of view character. I simply picked the character I thought worked best and went for it. My editor explained that the POV character should be chosen based on who in the scene has the most to lose if/when things go wrong. Unfortunately for me, this rule means there are three scenes in Always & Forever that I've chosen the wrong POV. Since this is essentially more Lilly's story than Zach's, sometimes I picked Zach when it should have been Lilly. Let me tell you, changing the POV character is not a little fix. I'm sloughing through, but I don't want to make this mistake again!
Does Something Change in Each Scene? - Another thing she nailed me on a few times is that my POV character started the scene thinking one thing and ended the scene thinking the same thing. Although something changed in the scene story wise (and they were important things that needed to happen in the book) she said if something doesn't change for the POV character then I didn't do my job as a writer. Easy enough fix, really, I just need to tweak a few things, but definitely something to look out for in the future.
Does the Plot Make Sense? - Honestly, this is why you need another person to look at your work. I think it is too hard to figure this out for yourself and it is important to have someone looking over your shoulder to make sure your plot holds together.
I think I got a lot out of the experience of hiring a copy editor, but honestly, I'm not taking all of her suggestions. She is, after all, merely a person with an opinion. I panicked and started changing everything at first, until I remembered that fact. I think it is a good idea to get a lot of people's opinions, and then make a decision from there. Lucky for me, I have a great group of critique partners (remember, you can do this for free at www.critiquecircle.com if you don't have a group in your area or you prefer to work on-line). When I had a hard time deciding whether or not to take the editor's advice on certain plot points (and really, this meant almost totally changing my book from what I had envisioned) they were able to tell me what they agreed with about what the editor said, what they disagreed with, and why. It's really helped me to understand what parts of my book worked, and where I need to work on clarification.
When it comes down to it, part of the reason I'm self publishing is so I don't have to listen to an editor if her vision doesn't agree with mine. One of my critique buddies reminded me, "This isn't an editor at Random House telling you make these changes in order to get a six figure advance." That really helped me put things into perspective.
Still, I've gained insight into my characters and into the story I wrote. There are many, many places in the novel where the editor has reminded me to add more internal thoughts, suggested flashbacks that would help bring things together, and suggested changes to certain scenes that will strengthen the whole of what I have done. She also made a wonderful suggestion to change one of my secondary character's personalities. I would never have seen this on my own, but I think it makes the book that much stronger.
Oh - she also nailed me a few times for telling and not showing...I hate that! But thankfully she caught them, because I thought I had eradicated all those telling problems.
Overall, I'm very pleased with my experience with an editor. I don't know if a copy editor is 100% necessary if you have a good critique group, but I learned more than I thought I might. Now, all I need to do is finish implementing the changes I've decided to make and send this baby off to my proof reader! And yes, hiring a proof reader is mandatory if you want to put out the best book possible.
Happy editing! Have a wonderful weekend!