Sunday 16 November 2014

A Review of my Editor - the Mighty Marissa van Uden

Reviewing another human being, this should be interesting…

It all started roughly seven months ago. I had just finished a heavy re-write on Spirit Rider: The Royal Problem. It was leaps and bounds better than the original version, which makes sense, seeing as I wrote that nearly five years ago! I must warn you that writers, like myself, are often inclined toward arrogance. So in my own hubris, I thought the latest version of my manuscript was perfect. I was all but ready to plonk it on Amazon and watch the money roll in. But then, people are supposed to get their work edited, are they not? Well, I had some money to spare and I thought, ‘sure’.

Enter Marissa van Uden.

I found her website through Google, and I approached her through email. Funny, intelligent, works in fantasy, loves dogs – what’s not to like? I requested a sample edit of my (then) first chapter, which Marissa kindly supplied. She made some very astute observations, pointing out a couple of details I’d never noticed before.

I was impressed. So much so, that I took the plunge. I shelled out for the Developmental Edit, whereby Marissa gives the entire manuscript a thorough examination, resulting in a (speaking purely in averages) thirty page report. Here, my arrogance (embarrassingly) took hold again. I thought, it’s one thing to find some clever points in the first chapter, but to get thirty pages out of examining my perfect story? Not possible! I genuinely sat on my haunches, worrying that for the amount I’d paid, I would only get back a document of perhaps five pages!

Then it came – all thirty eight pages of it. I was very pleasantly surprised. Amidst tonnes of praise, for what already existed, Marissa gave me a real, professional insight into the weaker parts of my manuscript. Everything from characters, to scenes, to chapter titles, was covered. I read the whole document in one sitting, nodding all the way with practically every point she made. I still had a lot of work to do.

I went away, reshuffled events, rewrote scenes, layered in more characterisation, and even conjured up a few brand new chapters from scratch. The big flaws had been addressed, now it was down to the finer, more intricate details. It was time for phase two – the Line Edit.

Marissa re-read the manuscript, with all the new changes. There’s no denying she was thorough before, but it was in a very broad, sweeping kind of way. The Line Edit is exactly what it sounds like. She goes through everything line-by-line, pruning the unneeded, suggesting little problems or inconsistencies here and there. That’s one of the most important points. Marissa isn't the kind of editor who just says “I don’t get this part” or “The dialogue here is clunky”. With almost every comment, she offered a little “Have you thought of it like this?” or “How about something along these lines?” Each of those little hints and suggestions were so perfectly thought-out and well-written, they often needed very little alteration before incorporating into the existing text. Trust me, this woman writes so well that I imagine she could very easily author her own best-seller, should the dark urge take her.

Back and forth the manuscript went between me and Marissa, ironing out niggling problems here and there. When we finally exceeded the established revisions set out by our original contract, yet were not finished, Marissa endeavoured to get as much done as possible, before she’d have to start charging extra. She apologised, because my alterations were taking us outside of the contract. That’s Marissa in a nutshell, going above and beyond the call of duty, for the sake of us authors.

Now it’s all coming to an end. I used to spend every morning, afternoon, evening (as well as every second in between!) waiting for her latest email. Sadly, this partnership is temporarily coming to a close. But it’s been a blast, and one thing’s for certain: when it comes to the Spirit Rider sequels or any other book I’ll write – Marissa van Uden will always be my first port of call.

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