HOW TO BE EDITED AS A NEW AUTHOR (OR AT ANY LEVEL, REALLY…)

A-number one advice for new writers especially: Don’t rush the process. Man oh man. How many writers approach me who think they’re going to hand me their first or second draft of a novel and after one developmental edit they’re going to be done? Far too many. In this new landscape of 21st century ‘everyone’s a writer’ world, the culture has simply been infected with the idea that ‘anyone can do it.’ This isn’t to mock or knock anyone. Believe me. I take every email I receive seriously. But my point is: Respect the craft of writing.

Like anything—plumbing, law, construction, acting—there is much to learn before you can really write a serious novel. Some go to college and do the MFA. Some join a professional workshop. Some simply read constantly and write every day. There is no one right way to become a writer. Mostly I think it’s about drive, ambition, life experience, perseverance. Ambitious, nascent writers will go to writers’ conferences, join critique groups, carve out a daily or several-times-weekly writing discipline. They take it seriously. When they write a novel, they go through half a dozen or more drafts before even considering it anywhere near being “done.”

Referring to my opening paragraph, I’m not saying a writer can’t approach me—or any other editor—early in the stages of their novel-in-progress, or in their career. They can and should. But be aware that when you do, at this early stage, you will most likely be asked—encouraged—to follow up with several developmental edits. This isn’t because I want your money and am trying to squeeze you. Yes, I do editing more or less fulltime, and yes, I need to eat and survive. But, honestly, it’s really all about the fact that serious novels take serious time and care.

Debut novelist Gabriel Tallent (“My Absolute Darling”) took eight years to create the final draft of his book. It took Stephanie Danler many, many years and drafts and hardship to create “Sweetbitter.” Emma Cline took several years writing “The Girls.” My ex neo-Nazi skinhead client, Christian Picciolini, worked on his book, “Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead” for years before at last coming to me in 2014 and then working with me for a full year before his book was released in early 2015. My mom worked arguably for 15 years—on and off—until she finally finished a solid draft of her novel (published 2015), Lori Mohr’s “The Road at My Door.”

My point? It takes TIME. Be patient. Respect the process and the craft. Don’t rush it. Accept that you’re going to have to spend time and money. No, it’s not as easy as the media may make it seem. Writing a book is like raising a child. Think of it that way. It’ll wake you up in the middle of the night, torturing you. It’ll scream at you when you’re so tired you feel like you can’t go on. It takes finesse and kindness and love and every ounce of your energy and attention and respect.

I do developmental editing, focusing on plot and structure and voice and tone and dialogue and character-development and logic issues, etc. I zoom the camera out and look at the big picture of your novel. I will look at almost any type of book, except for children’s or mystery or serious fantasy. I prefer adult literary novels, gritty, real, raw YA, and memoir. If you aren’t sure, email me: michaelmohreditor@gmail.com. Browse the rest of my website. Again, I am more than happy to assist you from the very early stages. But be aware of what, precisely, you are jumping into. You’ll likely spend six months, a year, two years. You’ll spend money. But you’ll grow as a writer, and you’ll end up with a strong, drum-tight, diamond-sharp product.

It’s up to you, writers.

You said it, let’s edit.

Michael Mohr


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