If you haven’t read Kt’s post, read that first. If you’re not already familiar with us, you can check out bios out at Chimera Editing, along with some awesome testimonials, including one from my 2015 mentee!
Some editing advice, for those about to go into the trenches, before you get to the scavenger hunt letter.
1. Put the MS down. If you haven’t read your novel for more than a week, do not read it now. The distance will help you in your revisions. Alternately, if you’ve just finished up other edits on it, or are working on edits now: It’s in your best interest to finish and put it down while the mentors pick. I just finished a MS myself, and made notes of what I already knew while writing it the next steps were going to be for editing it. But I’m putting it down until after #pitchwars (Unless I end up with free time in September while KT works on it.) because when you’re too close, it’s hard to figure out how to fix it.
2. We’re here to guide you, not to fix all your problems for you. Depending on what your specific novel’s problems are, we’ll have different approaches to solving them. But most of the time, we’re highlighting what works, what doesn’t, and giving ideas for how to fix those things that don’t. That doesn’t mean you need to do exactly what we suggest, if you think something else would work better for your vision of the story. I was editing a novel recently where it’s plot important that she interacts with her parents. They’re visiting, and it’s a paragraph of, essentially,”And I love my parents because of these things they’ve gone through with me.” That makes a very distant scene, right? We don’t get to see how they interact, we don’t get that love up close. You can solve issues like that by putting in a scene where you SEE them interacting together. Whether it’s having dinner, going shopping, celebrating a holiday, it doesn’t matter exactly. What matters is it accomplishes a specific thing for the story, be it on the emotional tone, character development, plot, or pacing. In an ideal world, the same scene will help on all those aspects. If I suggest dinner and you’d rather have them celebrating a holiday, great, just make sure you follow the ripple effects in the rest of the story, or you’ll have them celebrating Christmas and admiring fall leaves in the same week.
3. Your novel will end up different. Things like plot, pacing, and character development are REALLY important. You have to know, going into this, what the core of your story, the parts you’re never willing to change, are. The MS I just finished has a bi MC, and that’s important. I wouldn’t make her a lesbian, because that’s part of the core. On an objective level, could it be changed? Yes. It would have a lot of ripple effects and I’d have to change several key factors about the world building of her culture to make it work, but it could be done. But I want more good bi representation in the world, and it fits the character and story to be bi, so it’s one of the things I wouldn’t change. Know what those things are, and make sure everything else works with them as we make changes.
4. The community in #Pitchwars is just as important as the contest itself. When your book is released (I’m eternally an optimist, I assume you’ve all written fantastic, amazing books that I’ll see on my shelves someday!), all the friends you make now will be in positions to help you. It’s why I do cover reveals whenever I can for people. Word of mouth is the best way to get people interested. Most of our editing clients come from other clients recommending us, or people seeing us on twitter or in contests. That’s exactly the way it should be.
5. Don’t stress about the small stuff. Every year, people gnash their teeth and wail because they sent an entry with a typo. We don’t care. Obviously, if your MS is unreadable because it’s written in 1337, that would be an issue. Make sure you’ve got it as polished as you can, but if you find an extra comma in there, relax. It’s fixable.
This is a crazy, awesome contest. So many authors have books out as a result of it, and more have learned skills and methods from it that they’re putting to work in new projects. I donate my time and services every year, because I love helping writers, and I adore the community in it. It’s grown so much, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. I hope it can get enough raised in donations to cover the costs and get it moving towards the future. Awesome things are at work behind the scenes, I can tell you that much.
I can also tell you the letter: