Working with a freelance editor

I’ve been the fortunate recipient of an Arts Council grant to fund me whilst I write my fifth novel. One of the brilliant aspects of the grant is that I have been able to hire a freelance editor to read the latest draft of my work in progress. I was lucky enough to work with Ali Reynolds, who was an editor at Vintage, Random House.

You might think there isn’t much need for an editor prior to getting your book published
and it is not cheap (although it’s incredibly good value for the amount of time and expertise you receive) – but in my experience, it’s invaluable.  I’ve had two 2 book deals with publishers (John Murray and Black Swan) and am now between contracts – so I don’t have the luxury of working with an in-house editor.  As Ali says:


‘There are some key reasons why many novelists choose to seek professional help with their writing. Essentially the structure of publishing is changing; on the one hand the routes into mainstream publishing have become increasingly competitive and difficult to ‘break into’ and, on the other, the options for writers have opened up with the development of self-publishing routes.

Many writers know that to stand a chance of getting published their work needs to be as polished and ready for publication as possible so that it doesn’t fall at the first hurdle – the submission to literary agents. The submission process is fraught with rejections so it is crucial that writers don’t use their ‘one-shot’ at seeking representation before the work is truly capable of being appealing to agents, editors and the market of readers for their work.’

I do already have a literary agent but I felt it would be good to have a second opinion: an agent, after all, is mainly concerned with selling my work, rather than holding my hand through the process of writing it – although he does that too! And, as Ali says, because publishing has become so competitive, essentially we only have one shot at sending my novel out, so it needs to be as good as possible.

How it worked for me was that I sent Ali my novel. She read it very quickly and then we met up and discussed it. I  received a written report, which included our verbal discussion, as well as a marked up manuscript. I was not looking for copy editing – Ali pointed out specific sentences that could be improved or sections that related to her notes.

Ali’s main comments to me were on tailoring my work as specifically as possible to the new genre (psychological thriller) that I am attempting to move into after a decade of writing historical fiction. There was an added benefit of working with Ali. As she says,

‘One of the main reasons why writers chose to hire a freelance editor is because the experience of working with an editor who inhabits the story, characters, the worlds they create, is so appealing. The editor-writer dynamic can be so rewarding, it’s an intense experience, intellectually and creatively fulfilling.’

Once your work is as polished as possible, freelance editors can recommend agents to help you reach the next stage of your writing career.

It’s hard to receive criticism, even if it’s in your own best interest, but it’s well worth it.

Do let me know you get on working with a freelance editor.

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