I have two current Works In Progress – a novel, Fatherhood, and its prequel novelette, Childhood. Childhood is positioned as a reader magnet, a short story offered for free to (hopefully) spark interest in the novel.
A novelette is shorter than a novella, which is shorter than a novel – averages of around 10,000 words, 35,000 words, and 80,000 words, respectively. Don’t let its diminutive stature fool you, though. A novelette requires the same attention to plot development and detail as a novel.
I’ve gone through the critique process for Childhood. For those unfamiliar, this involves peers (usually authors) reviewing the draft (usually first, second, and/or third) of a work before the author sends it to a professional editor for further work. By critiquing others’ work, authors become better writers. It’s a wonderful relationship that produces positive results, but is not complete. Critiques at this level only go as far as your peer group’s expertise and time.
The next step in producing a work of fiction is development (dev) editing. A professional editor will examine plot, timing, pacing, chapter structure, and other manuscript qualities to point out what does not work. This is not a cheering section; an author needs the dev editor to be brutally honest.
A few days ago I received my dev editor’s input for Childhood. In her email, she stressed I take a few days to process the comments before responding. I had no choice; I was at a conference and could not address the feedback until a few days later. But I did review the summary comments and let her know I appreciated the feedback and would be delayed with my response. She appreciated that, because, as she wrote, she wants to know that she’s provided the best service possible.
And she did. Pages of excellent comments pointing out opportunities for improvement. If I hadn’t gone through the process before, I may have been put off by the volume of feedback. But here’s the one important point to remember when receiving dev editor feedback: they want you to succeed. Once you believe that, the criticisms become positive opportunities for learning.
Such was my experience with my dev editor for my previous novel, Leaving Darkness. I had always been sort of “loose” with point of view (POV), but that feedback taught me how important it is for the reader to produce a work with “POV discipline” (my term, if you want to use it, I get royalties!). Seriously, I became a better writer because of that feedback, and my trade will only improve with the input for Childhood.
I offer this as 1) a glimpse into the novel creation process for the non-author and 2) encouragement for the author. If you’re writing fiction, go beyond your crit group and contract with a dev editor. Consider it tuition towards an advanced degree in writing.