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  • Derya Dinç

When Should a Writer Consult an Editor?

As a writer, your work may be complete, or you might be stuck at any point. Some aspiring writers have a great story in mind but don’t know how to put it on paper or may get stuck during the writing process. So, at what stage should a writer decide that pushing forward alone is insufficient and seek help from an editor?

For Those Who Don’t Know How to Start Writing

You have a great story in mind, but you don’t know how or where to begin writing. Maybe you’ve been thinking about this story for months or even years. You might have even abandoned the idea and shelved your story because you didn’t know how to start.

You are right to hesitate. Writing a book is not easy and requires long hours and sacrifices every day. Before committing to such a big task, it’s better to ensure that your story can become a novel than to spend months on it and fail. Some stories may sound great in development, but you might fail to create a suitable beginning or end. You may not have thought of features that add depth to your characters, making them realistic, or you might not have worked on the settings in your imaginary world.

One method to test if your story is sufficient to create a novel is to break it into chapters. An average novel consists of 20-25 chapters, with longer novels having 30 or more. A novel starts at 50,000 words, which is quite short. An average novel is between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Let’s assume your first book consists of 22 chapters and 80,000 words. This number might seem intimidating at first, but it’s a much more attainable goal when viewed as 3,600 words or 7.5 Word pages per chapter. Can you plan 22 chapters, each at least 7.5 pages, for the story in your mind? I’m not talking about the act of writing itself at this stage. Writing a paragraph summary for each chapter can help you see if your story is sufficient to form a novel.

Another helpful method is reading books in the same category as your planned novel and comparing your story with published books. Notice the details in these novels: how characters are described, where their journey begins and ends, how the balance between good and bad is established, how settings are handled, and how the plot is explained. This way, you can test whether your story has the necessary details. If using this method, examine several novels by different authors before deciding to start writing.

If, despite all this, you are still unsure if your story can become a novel or don’t know how to start writing, you can work with an editor or a writing coach. You can find more information about writing coaching in my blog post titled "Writing Coaching."

For Those Stuck During Writing

You may have passed one of the toughest stages, planning, and started writing your novel but are stuck at a certain point and can’t progress. In this case, I want to suggest a few exercises to determine where the problem lies.

First, if you didn’t test whether your story was sufficient to form a novel before starting to write, I recommend checking the first section of this article. If you started writing confidently that your story would form a novel but got stuck, there could be several reasons. For example, you might have lost your inspiration at some point. In this case, if you don’t have an editor or writing coach to brainstorm with, my advice is to take a break from forcing yourself.

The human mind combines what we perceive with our senses from our surroundings with sources like memories and emotions in our minds and turns them into a story. Through this storytelling process, we give meaning to objects and events around us. When the conscious mind focuses too much on this storytelling process, it becomes tense, making it difficult to adapt effectively to changing conditions around us. We can understand this better with an example; think about losing your keys. The more stressed you become while looking for them, the less likely you are to find them because your brain struggles to focus on its surroundings due to the stress, causing you to miss many things. Just like finding a solution to a problem only when you stop thinking about it, if you’re stuck at a certain point in your book, one thing you can do is take a break. Read your favorite author’s books. Go out among people. For example, a crowded shopping mall or restaurant can provide the inspiration you need to overcome a stuck point. Different people in motion and their dialogues can be sources of inspiration for your characters.

For new writers, sharing their work with people they know can be difficult at first. However, if you are stuck at a certain point in your story, getting feedback from trusted people and brainstorming with them can help you. But be careful when selecting these people. Your family and closest friends might avoid pointing out your mistakes to avoid upsetting you or might not give you feedback because they don’t enjoy reading, which could discourage you. Therefore, you can join book clubs where members read books in your genre and get their opinions. Although these people are not professionals, they are accustomed to reading content in your genre and can give more open and honest feedback since they don’t share an emotional bond like family or close friends. However, to protect your content’s rights, I recommend conducting this process via email. This way, if your content is stolen and published by someone else, you’ll have evidence proving the story is yours.

Just as for writers who don’t know how to start, you can read other books in your category. An unexpected story might spark the brainstorming needed to solve your stuck point. If none of these methods work, you can work with an editor or a writing coach and get professional help.

For Those Who Have Finished Writing Their Book

You’ve reached the end of a very challenging journey and finished writing your book. If you wrote your story just for yourself and don’t intend to publish it, you’ve reached the end of this journey. But if you want to get your story published and see it on bookstore shelves, a new journey awaits you.

For some writers, the journey to get their book published can be much more challenging than writing it. The aspiring writer must first find publishers that publish books in the same genre as their work and work with Turkish authors. Some publishers may prefer to publish only foreign authors and not accept Turkish authors. What matters to the writer is choosing a publisher experienced in the genre they wrote. This ensures a good start thanks to the publisher’s existing readership. Also, the publisher will focus on the best-selling book category at fairs, signings, and advertisements. For example, if you publish a novel with a publisher that publishes children’s books, the publisher may not allocate space for you at fairs, and their social media ads may not reach the right target audiences. Therefore, choosing the right publisher is crucial, especially for aspiring writers looking to publish their first book.

Another point is that each publisher has its own submission process. Some publishers accept files via email, while others require sending the file by mail. Some require filling out forms on their website, while others ask for a resume. When submitting your file, don’t forget to personalize your application according to the publisher. Also, each publisher’s response time may vary and can sometimes extend to six months. Many publishers don’t specify the reasons why they reject authors. Some may indicate that they could work with you if certain points are corrected.

Publishers receive many files each month. Editors who review these files not only look at the story but also at the writing style, language, grammar and logic errors, time shifts, character development, chapter organization, and sequence. Even if your story is excellent, your file may be rejected if too much work is required on all other points. A story filled with writing or logic errors can make it difficult for the editor to focus.

For a new writer, the best step is to get an editor’s opinion before sending the file to publishers. An editor can create a report of points that need improvement or correction for your file or work on your file directly to make it publication-ready. This increases the chances of your file being accepted by publishers and prevents negative reviews from readers if you decide to publish the file yourself without publishers. Working with an editor or proofreader on your book will improve it in every aspect, increasing its chances of being published, its readability, and its likelihood of being liked by readers.

No matter what stage of the writing process you are at, if you are struggling to progress or have an issue with your story, an editor is the right person to help you overcome these problems and unlock your story’s full potential.

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