If you’ve got a book manuscript, whether it’s a creative writing piece or something in the non-fiction category, you want to have an editor.
Of course, editors cost money – unless you have a really awesome older sister who rips your stories to shreds for free, leaving you temporarily sobbing over your brutalized manuscript but ultimately much happier with it.
Considering how that awesome older sister might possibly be reading this, I should probably clarify that I’ve never actually sobbed over her editorial eviscerations. I have gotten annoyed with her, and I’ve done some seriously indignant huffing and puffing, admittedly.
However, she’s pretty spot-on with her critiques overall. Which is why I keep going back to her time and time again.
I do realize how fortunate I am in having her in my life, and not just because she’s a stupendous sibling. Most editors simply aren’t as financially gracious as she is. Not if they’re worth their salt.
Professional editors can easily charge a flat rate of $3,000 - $4,000 per manuscript. For one read-through. Which is a lot of money, especially for starving artist types or writers who are just starting out.
Personally, I charge $25 per 50 minutes (with some significant freebies thrown in: a complimentary initial edit and a detailed summary of your writing strengths and areas for improvement). Added up, that rate is almost always going to be significantly less than $3,000.
Exactly how much less depends on the manuscript’s page count and general strength. Obviously, a well-manicured copy is going to cost less at an hourly rate than one that needs a lot of work.
So if you want a professional editor of my caliber with my very reasonable prices, here’s a tip to save you yet another nice chunk of change…
Vary your sentence structure.
One way I can tell a writing novice from a writing pro is through sentence structure. I don’t want to make this a blanket statement, as I’m sure there are exceptions out there. There usually are. But for the most part, inexperienced writers have a bad habit of starting all their sentences with three, and only three, different parts of speech:
That means their standard paragraphs might read like this:
Timothy said she was going to go. Lacey said she might not. Their argument was long, easily escalating after the first five minutes. The official fight started out when he told her she was going to do whatever she was going to do regardless of what he said. She then replied with, “Like you care anyway!” It was an emotional bloodbath.
Now, there are a few pointers I could make about paragraph breaks and whether to show vs. tell. But do you know what my biggest critique would be?
If you guessed “sentence structure,” you win a prize. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim it today!
(No, seriously. Go ahead. Just make sure to reference this blog post.)
Consider the same information with some simple variations thrown in there… sentences that start with verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions or even – gasp! – conjunctions for a change:
Timothy said she was going to go. But Lacey said she might not. Easily escalating after the first five minutes, their argument went on way too long. The official fight started when he told her she was going to do whatever she was going to do regardless of what he said. To which she replied, “Like you care anyway!” After that, it was an emotional bloodbath.
See how it automatically flows more smoothly?
That’s because reading a book, no matter the genre, should feel like listening to someone tell a story. There’s a reason why the creative writing world especially talks about narratives and narrators and narration. The manuscript is supposed to read as if it’s being audibly narrated by some captivating persona.
And captivating personas understand the importance of sounding natural.
In regular, natural conversation, we don’t limit ourselves to starting out sentences with nouns, pronouns and articles. We switch it up. In fact, it’s safe to say that the more emotion we want to evoke, the more we switch it up.
If you change your paragraphs up like that before you sign me on, you’ve just cost me a nice chunk of change. I no longer have to spend time trying to make your sentences run together smoothly. They already do, decreasing my billable hours.
Why am I telling you this if it’s going to cost me money?
Well, believe it or not, I really am on your side. I don’t like sending my creative writing and non-fiction clients crazy-high invoices. I want you to get the most cost-effective edit possible.
So vary your sentence structure before you send it my way. More than likely, that one major manuscript-editing trick will change your editorial quality immensely.