I don't know when, on the writing curve, Stephen King or Nelson DeMille might seek editorial advice, only that it is documented that they do. So it begs the question, for the writer trying to break into the business with a major royalty publisher--and who accepts that a professional editor looking at the manuscript might not be a bad idea--when is the right time to hire a book editor. Generally there are Two Issues
For most people it's a matter of time and money. Let's look at the time element first. A common practice is for a writer to send a manuscript to an editor for a critique after it is felt that the material is in A-grade condition and ready for market--except for perhaps the slightest touch up. But if it is determined that there are problems with plot or character elements which cannot be remedied by modifying, deleting, or inserting a few sentences here or there, then the entire piece will often require a wholesale revision. How Much Time Does a Writer Have?
If an author should seek an editor to review a story concept and its set up from an early point in the creative process, steps can be taken to keep the plot elements in focus. And the time saved can be substantial, since a rewrite can often require months. From a time standpoint, isn't it better to catch any problems early--and rectify them--rather than spend considerable time on a draft that will have no prospects in its current condition? If a writer has the discipline to work with an editor during a manuscript's developmental stage, this initiative can be a valuable time saving practice. How Much Money Does a Writer Want to Spend?
No one likes to pay a second time for a process that failed initially. This is the most salient reason I can think of to justify bringing an editor into the fold at the start. The early-stage placement of a manuscript with a professional editor is almost always the most economical way for a writer to work, and usually substantially so. Does Anybody Really Work This Way?
Unfortunately, many unpublished writers will consider an editor only after a series of rejections from agents, or publishers who accept unagented submissions. This article is not going to change the modus operandi of a lot of writers who are already ensconced within the publishing labyrinth. But I hope these contentions might motivate some others who read this piece to consider contacting a professional editor toward the beginning stages of the first draft and not when it is completed. Editors are Becoming More Flexible
As with most everything facing a writer who is hoping to become published for the first time, there is no one size that fits all. And while I hate to close an article with a disclaimer, it is important to report that many well-respected editors only want to see completed manuscripts. Yet it seems like more and more highly regarded professionals in the literary industry are acceding to this article's primary premise, which is to encourage authors to present early-stage material for review.
By Robert L. Bacon, Founder The Perfect Write
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