When Andrew came to Reedsy looking for a developmental editor, he knew he’d written a good story, but he needed an experienced eye to take it to the next level. Andrew’s story is about the search for the right collaborator: an editor with experience working on both young adult and sci-fi novels — and, more importantly, someone who understood the topical relevance of his story.
We’ll let Andrew take it from here…
The Centauri Survivors is a young adult science fiction novel. It’s about a group of teenagers on a journey to a new exoplanet that goes murderously wrong. The idea for the story came to me about ten years ago, as an exploration of the environmental, social, and moral aspects of the quest to populate another planet.
When I set out to write The Centauri Survivors, I wasn’t starting from square one: I’d already written and published other books and short stories. So as much as I was already familiar with the process of writing a book, I knew just as well how much a great novel would rely on the input of an experienced editor.
The challenge: a unique premise in need of a polish
When I turned to Reedsy to find an editor, I had a pretty specific person in mind: a developmental editor with lots of experience providing structural feedback on YA sci-fi. And I found that in Amanda Rutter.
When I decided to hire Amanda, I knew that there were two specific areas I wanted her to address: 1) keeping the point of view consistent, and 2) tightening the beginning of my novel.
Other than that, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I hoped that she would think of ways to improve my story that I never would have, and that she’d be ruthless and thorough.
Luckily, Amanda’s editorial review was all of those things.
The solution: a developmental editor familiar with YA sci-fi
Amanda’s developmental edit of The Centauri Survivors involved five main steps:
Step One: a quick read-through.
This is to get an idea of the author’s writing style, the number of chapters/chapter length, how the book ends, and how the story builds up to the ending.
Step Two: a chapter-by-chapter review.
This is where the editorial report really starts to take shape. For each chapter, notes are taken about the following things:
- Pacing issues, plot holes, or gaps in character development.
- If there are any scenes (or entire chapters) that don’t further the plot. If so, they should be cut.
- If there are any aspects of the story that need clarification. This is especially important for a speculative book like The Centauri Survivors, which relies on worldbuilding and setting.
Step Three: consideration of the book overall.
After the manuscript has been read for a second time at a micro level, the overall book is considered and the editorial report is completed with the bigger picture items. This addresses things like:
- Is the hook strong enough to keep readers interested?
- Does the plot work logically and structurally? Is there a suitable beginning, middle, and end? Is the ending satisfying
- Do the characters work, in terms of their arc? How do they grow through the novel? Do they have believable motivations?
Step Four: chat with the author for clarification
After the editorial report was delivered, we chatted over the phone to ensure that all the feedback was clear.
Step Five: final read-through
After the author finishes working through the book with the editorial notes in mind, the manuscript is given a final read-through and any final thoughts or advice are presented.
My hope was that Amanda’s revision process would take my book from being “okay” to “excellent.” And that’s exactly what her in-depth review did. It was during our phone call, especially, that I knew Amanda understood what my concerns with the manuscript were — and, moreover, what I was trying to achieve with my book.
Without giving away all the secrets of how her developmental edit improved my book, here is how we addressed those initial concerns of mine:
Point of View: I wrote my novel in third person omniscient and knew that there were areas where I jumped between omniscient and third person limited. In addition, my novel features an ensemble cast, and it was important to me that all of the characters were well-developed. Amanda suggested I switch to the third person limited POV so that the narrator can jump into the thoughts of each character — allowing readers to understand the characters’ emotions and the impact of the events occurring. She was instrumental in helping me make that switch and ensuring the point of view stayed consistent throughout.
Exposition: I was concerned about the preamble at the start of my novel. Amanda and I discussed the potential of dropping the first 12,000 words of my book in order to start more “in the action.” This ended up working very well — and I ended up incorporating the information about the alien planet and its inhabitants that I cut from the start of the novel throughout the story, making the pacing stronger.
The outcome: a book ready to take on the market
After my collaboration with Amanda, I know that my book is not only better than it was, it’s better than I could ever have gotten it on my own — no matter how much work I might have put into it. The collaboration has improved my publishing experience by making me more confident in the quality of my book, and therefore more confident about marketing it. Furthermore, working with Amanda taught me a number of incredibly valuable lessons about constructing a novel that I can now incorporate into my future projects.
Hiring the right editor is certainly a test for indie authors — primarily in terms of finding the right person to do the job. But I can’t stress enough the importance of meeting this challenge head-on.
Now, I appreciate that this is a real ask for authors on a limited budget. However, Reedsy co-founder Ricardo Fayet says that if you can only spend money on one thing, make it the developmental edit — and I agree with him.
I am more convinced than ever that authors have to invest to get their books to stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace of new books. Amanda’s revision achieved this for me.