Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ask the Editor: How Much Polish?

by Holly West

I'm gonna be honest with you. Life has been hectic for me lately and with no signs of that letting up, I gave myself permission to skip my regular post this week.

But this morning, as my husband and I were driving up to Oregon where we'll help move my grandmother into her spiffy new house, I got to thinking about my own writing and came up with a quick and easy post--which will hopefully also be useful (it was to me). So here we go.

I contacted author and, for this post's purposes, freelance editor, Bryon Quertermous, and asked him this:

Ideally, how polished--or unpolished--should a manuscript be when you get it? Should the author turn in what they consider to be their final draft or is it better to submit an earlier draft?

This is actually a question that has kind of gnawed at me since I turned my second book, MISTRESS OF LIES, in to my editor. She didn't get a rough draft but it also wasn't as polished as I might've liked at the time. As a debut author, we're constantly told we need to make sure our manuscript is picture perfect before you submit it to anyone. For me, that eased up a bit in my second go 'round, but my third novel was pretty rough when I submitted it to my editor. It made me wonder--what is the optimum time to submit a manuscript for editing?

Here's what Bryon had to say:

"It depends on the author. For a first time author or second time author looking at the very first printout of the manuscript, I think there's more work to be done there. Those first few rounds of working through a manuscript is where a lot of the learning comes from for a writer. Breaking down the story and moving stuff around and really seeing your stuff from the inside out is incredibly helpful. Bringing in another voice too soon can really kill that learning experience. I think once an author has worked through a manuscript on their own a few times until they're too close to it to move to the next level is a good time for a new author to bring in outside voices.

For experienced writers though, I come in at the outline stage sometimes and a lot of times come in after that first draft to help the author assess the work and what it's strengths and weaknesses are. This is usually when they're trying something new or stretching themselves on a new series installment."

Bryon's input pretty much corresponds to my own experience with editors. Ultimately, we all want to publish the best books possible, but sometimes it's hard to suss out just what that means, both in general, and for the individual book and author. That, of course, is why editors exist.

Thanks, Bryon, for sharing a bit of your perspective on the subject.


Bryon's latest novel, RIOT LOAD, is out from Polis Books, and is available on Amazon, B& and from your indie retailers. His website is

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