A (Very) Brief History Of Editing
It's natural for any writer, no matter how experienced, to seek out helpful suggestions for a work in progress.
This need is healthy and eternal. How else can we know what's getting through?
The saga of literature is filled with anecdotes about the honest, constructive relationship between writer and editor. (Often the first editor is a spouse, fellow writer, or friend who's a clear-eyed reader.) Writers' groups, though popular, are bound by the critical ability of their members.
In the world's most solitary occupation there's always a limit to what you can see for yourself—a crucial problem when a piece of writing's going to leave your desk to try to find its lonely way.
If the work's intended for self-publication, before it enters the permanence of print you owe it to yourself to make it absolutely as good as it can be.
Who Needs It?
The world has changed radically since the era when Hawthorne aided Melville on Moby-Dick. It's easy to send your "manuscript" instantaneously across the planet, but it's more difficult than ever, even in professional publishing, to find editors who actually edit. Nobody has the time, even if they have the expertise.
As a result, all literary agents and publishers expect a work (especially from somebody they don't know) to arrive fully finished. The days when a writer might be held by the hand through draft after draft are long gone.
Whether you're writing a poem, a memoir, a short story, an essay, a screenplay, a novel, a 600-page history or a 30-page book proposal, you must make it as perfect as you can before submitting it. (Every professional lives by this.) Not to do so is an invitation to be cruelly and swiftly rejected.
If the writer doesn't care enough to get something right before sending it in, or can't tell that it's not ready—then, alas, it just isn't ready. The problem is that you only get one chance with each agent or publisher, and you simply can't afford to waste your sole opportunity.
That's where a professional editor comes in, to better your odds immeasurably.
Since an overwhelming majority of writers today—and it will remain the pattern of the future, too—sensibly sidestep all this to self-publish, for them a private editor becomes essential.
Why Weller Can Help
Anthony's assisted fellow writers for over three decades, and edited more than thirty books that have appeared from major commercial and academic publishers.
He has significantly improved everything from novels and travel memoirs to autobiographies, children's stories, cookbooks; from works on modern Iran, whaling ships, Diane Arbus, the Maya, and the Supreme Court to a thesis on vaccines. He's adjusted successful screenplays and plays. He often helps businesses with their websites.
Though Anthony's own specialty is fiction, his broad experience in writing magazine articles on many diverse subjects has given him an ability to see what an author's getting at even when the destination seems murky.
It's normal to lose your way and wind up discouraged. Writing is difficult for everybody.
At What Stage Should You Find An Editor?
This depends entirely on you, and on the work in question.
Some people approach an editor before starting, some when they're waist-deep in a first draft. Some wait until things start to go wrong, some until they have a highly-polished revision. Some want a strong critical read (and telephone consultation) by a trusted professional only at the last minute. Some avoid it until they've been turned down by several agents or publishers, and they're forced to admit there's room for improvement.
The goal of a superb editor is first to see what the work wants to be, help the author find a solid structure, then point out which aspects and scenes are successful or which aren't (and why), what needs improving or deepening and what should be left alone, where to enlarge and where to trim.
If the structure's wrong, the finest sentences in the world won't save it; and picking things apart word by word will waste everybody's time.
Though it's a primal fear of any writer, precise editing—no matter how hands-on—should be a sympathetic, encouraging process which respects and enhances your style without changing it. The work must end up sounding like you at your very best, not like an editor.
Anthony's rate for editing/consulting is $200 an hour. The needs of each project are different.
Read what other authors have said about Anthony Weller's editing.