Over at Clarion they asked about who edits your work yesterday. I thought I would answer it here as well as there.
I have a few different sets of people that get to play with my words. All of them are free and willing to help for various reasons. Once all of these rounds are done, I’ll hire a substantive and line-by-line editor and a separate proofreader before sending it off to agents.
Large Writer’s Group:
· Pros: The larger group lets me know where they are confused or where I did well in general (i.e. choreography, images, dialogue, impressions of characters). I know I’m doing really well when they consistently tell me that they forgot to write down their comments because “even though it’s science fiction” they got so engrossed in it. There are a lot of soldiers in it and a guy who is a former CIA operative so my battle scenes and spy stuff work better than they used to.
· Cons: They don’t know the difference between science fiction and fantasy because there is not a single spec fic author among them. They don’t know the standard jargon of either genre.
Small Writer’s Group
· Pros: They get into more detail. They know more of the story because I can read them larger chunks of it. They can nail me on little things and look at it through a different lens because they know the characters better. Most of them are mystery writers so they like the puzzles of science fiction and fantasy novels and can tell me where those puzzles are working, even though they don’t read anything in my genres other than me. Because they know that there are certain things they cannot help me on, they actively hunt down science fiction and fantasy resources/conferences for me.
· Cons: They are essentially the same as the large group since there’s not a single author who writes or reads in my genre among them.
Alpha Readers (good friends who know a bit about what I’m writing)
· Pros: They know how my mind works so if something doesn’t feel right they can explain why in a way that makes sense. Each one of them focuses on different things. One nails me on grammar. Another looks at how the romance works. Another looks at overall structure. And so forth and so on. I can send them the whole book or just pieces and they’ll look at it as I need it. There is no real schedule and email is fabulous.
· Cons: Only one of them lives near where I currently live so sometimes things take a while. The next closest person is an hour and a half away. After that, it takes a plane or several days to drive and see them. It can be expensive if I need to print out and mail a copy to someone.
Cold Readers (2 people who know nothing about my writing who are willing to read for me):
· Pros: I am not with them to explain so it’s down totally to their impressions. They are science fiction and fantasy readers. They know me well enough to know how I work as a person but not well enough to get inside my head. They want the whole manuscript as one piece.
· Cons: It is way expensive to print out that many pages and bind them together.