by Victoria Bennion
Are you looking for fiction fixers for your children’s book? If so, input from an editor can help you to develop your story.
If this is a direction you’re considering then there are a number of independent editorial writing services to choose from such as The Golden Egg Academy, Cornerstones, The Literary Consultancy and The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books
Catherine Coe also offers editorial writing services. Catherine was a commissioning editor at Orchard Books (an imprint of Hachette Children's Books) for many years before going freelance in 2011. She now works for a wide range of major publishers and agents, and also directly with writers. She uses her vast editorial experience, plus her understanding of being on the 'other side' (she is also the author of over 30 children's books), to mentor talented writers on their journey to publication. She always tailors her editorial services to each client, offering manuscript critiques, comprehensive assessments, line-editing, submission package reviews and more. She's very happy to chat to writers about what might suit them best, with no obligation. For her contact details and more information, check out her website
To find more editorial options Google "Literary Consultancies" and you’ll have plenty to choose from.
Often consultancies require you to have completed your manuscript before you begin working with them. Then you’re assigned a suitable editor but at the point I applied to the consultancy I joined it was in its infancy so I was able to select my editor. He then sent me a chart to fill in, called a book map, which looked at the themes and structure of my book.
A couple of weeks after I filled in the book map and sent it back the editor emailed me with the gut wrenching news that he didn’t think the book as it was would work. Not what I was hoping to hear!
After I had a chance to digest the comments we spoke on the phone and discussed what I could change. Before I started working with an editor I didn’t realise that it is very much a two way process. That’s why if you can’t manage face to face meeting because of distance or circumstances (like me - I was pregnant and attached to a sick bucket so travelling at the time was out of the question) talking via Skype or the phone is essential to make sure the editor understands what you’re trying to do and so you have the chance to ask what they meant by various comments on your manuscript. After the call I felt buoyed up and ready to get going.
I then began writing the beginning of draft two along the lines we discussed and when I was ready I sent the first 30 pages to the editor. We met in London on a Saturday (when I was no longer attached to the sick bucket) at one of the children’s publishers, Scholastic, for an editorial surgery to check my manuscript was going along the right lines.
It was the first time I’d been into a children’s publishers and it was so exciting. There were quotes from books on the walls and children’s books everywhere. The editor was very encouraging and told me to continue. (Cue huge sigh of relief.)
He explained the next step would be a full report when I had completed the draft. The cost of full reports is usually based on the word count and can start at £200-£300.
What can you expect from a full manuscript report? Mine was three sides and divided into sections which looked at the following:
The editor introduced the book and discussed if the concept was strong enough
2. Plot and Dramatic Tension
Had I started the story in the right place? Did the manuscript contain enough drama to be effective? Were some things too subtle for the readership? How is the pace and tension? Would cutting anything improve this?
Are they integrated? Strong, weak, properly explored? Relationships between characters. Are there opportunities to enrich characterisation?
4. Theme and setting
Is the theme as integrated as it could be with the plot to make the story as powerful as it could be? Are all inventions credible?
5. Voice and Style
Does the style of writing work with the story? There were comments on dialogue and narration noting any words that jarred. Also considered if the voice is good, irritating or appropriate.
6. Next Steps
At the end of the report was a Next Steps section which listed the most essential points to work on.
I had a follow up phone call with the editor a few days after receiving the report to talk through questions and queries.
Then it’s up to you to go back and work on what’s been flagged up or perhaps to consider mentoring.
What I found interesting about the process was that sometimes I had doubts about what I'd written and they were usually points the editor honed in on. So, I learnt more about trusting my instincts.
Some of the literary consultancies offer mentoring services. This is usually for writers whose manuscripts are close to submission and need fine tuning. During mentoring you’ll work one to one with your mentor and prepare your submission package.
After my own experiences I'd definitely recommend working with an editor if you can afford it. I've learnt a lot which I'll be able to take forward into other writing projects.
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