Guest Post by Marcy Kennedy

I always get excited when I have a guest. And having Marcy here is no exception. That’s why I’d like for us to take a few moments to get to know a little bit about Marcy Kennedy.

Marcy grew up within the peace and sincerity of a small town, as a farmer’s daughter. Thus, when growing up, her dreams were filled with lots of heroism and adventure. Maybe that’s why Marcy is an author of fantasy fiction, so she can share with us her super secret weapon against a world that can be dark, brutal and an unfair place to live.

Besides writing fiction, she is married, has a human-sized Great Dane and seven cats. And on occasion, Marcy has been known to have an adventurous streak that includes scuba diving with sharks and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. Yet, Marcy admits, the scariest undertaking of them all, is playing her flute…in public.

Okay Marcy, now that we know this, we’d all like to hear you play! Right guys?

Sorry Marcy, I just couldn’t help myself. 🙂

As an Editor, Marcy puts to use her Bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology and a Master’s in Theological Studies. It is with this education that Marcy instills intense curiosity in human nature and history, along with a faith that makes her not only want to be a better person, but it is the very reason she took this journey to become a professional writer.

Thus in 2007, Marcy won the suspense/thriller category of Writer’s Digest’s Popular Fiction Competition and 2009, she won the grand prize. And since then, she’s won numerous other awards.

Wow Marcy, you’ve been busy! Congratulations to you!

Now, I’d like to talk about the reason I invited Marcy here today. I had found not only myself, but others over the last several months, had either written posts or made remarks about floundering as a writer. Yet, this is not just something that happens to a new writer. This curse happens to plague all writers, no matter where you are in this venture.

So when we reach a point in our writing when we need some help, what can we do? Where do we go for help? It may just be a friend or fellow author. But have you thought about working with an editor? And what are the benefits of working with an editor?

Here’s where I think Marcy can help!

Take it away Marcy!

How to Make the Most of Your Time with a Freelance Editor


When Karen asked me to write a post for her on why an editor is so important and how an editor can make our writing better, I leapt at the chance. As a freelance editor, I love helping authors take their books to the next level.

I also find nothing is more depressing than reading a book that could have been great…but isn’t.

And most of the time the only thing standing between an okay book and a good book, between a good book and a great book is a professional edit. (Or, and I think it’s important to be completely honest here, more than one edit.)

I know that hiring a freelance editor can be expensive, so I thought the most important post I could write is one to explain how to make the most of your time working with a freelance editor, especially if you’re on a limited budget.

I’ve written about the types of edits before, so I’ll direct you there if you need a refresher on the differences between a developmental edit, line edit, copy edit, and proofread. Where I’ve found most writers need an experienced editor’s eyes is on the big picture level of a developmental edit. But those can cost $500 to $3000 (or more!) depending on the length of your book, the depth of the edit, and a number of other factors.

Waiting a little longer to publish and saving up the money is the most common advice you’ll hear for solving this problem. I agree with that, but I think there are other things you can do as well.

So here are my top three tips for making the most of your time with a freelance editor regardless of your budget.

(1) Ask if the editor is willing to do a plot review.

This will mean a little extra work for you, but it’s well worth it. Go through your book and write a paragraph detailing each scene. What’s the point of view character’s goal? What happens? What essential plot/sub-plot information is revealed in this scene? In what way does this scene affect the characters? What’s the total word count after each chapter? (This last one is important for structure.) Include as much detail as you can. For an 80,000-word novel, you might write 20-30 pages.

Then hand that document over to the editor for review. They’ll look for plot holes, loose ends that haven’t been tied off, episodic writing, and places where the pacing may be wrong. If you go into enough depth in your summary, they’ll also be able to comment on your main character’s motivation, the consistency of their actions, whether they’re active or reactive (you want the former), and much more.

If you can’t afford any other kind of developmental edit, please find an editor who will do a plot review for you.

Even if you can afford a developmental edit, a plot review in advance can help avoid the problem of your book needing more than one developmental editing pass. It’s not uncommon for me to work on a book that really needs a second developmental edit due to major plot problems before it’s ready to go on to a line or copy edit. It’s heart breaking for an editor because our hands are tied. The author can’t afford a second developmental edit, and we can’t afford to work for free.

If you stall out on a book you love and desperately want to finish, a plot review can also help you get back on track.

(2) If this is your first book, hire an editor to do a critique of your first three chapters.


This is also a great idea if you’re aiming to traditionally publish, but have piled up rejections from agents or publishers.

Few things will improve your writing quicker than working with a good editor. They’ll help you see your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. They’ll even give you mini-lessons on how to improve your areas of weakness.

This is another way to make sure you get the most from a full developmental edit. A critique of your first three chapters will allow you to fix craft issues in the rest of your book before sending it off to an editor.

(3) Don’t be afraid to tell the editor you can’t afford the amount they quoted you, and ask what they could do within your budget.

Not every editor will be willing to customize, but a lot of us will, especially if we’re also writers ourselves. I’m committed to finding ways to help self-publishers put out the best work possible because the higher the quality of self-published books on the market, the more the stigma will go down and the more we all benefit.

Important Bonus Tip: Contact an editor well in advance!

So many writers don’t understand you should book an editor a month or more in advance of when you expect to need them. I’ll often squeeze a writer in, giving up my evenings and weekends, but I’ve also had to turn people away because they hadn’t talked to me far enough in advance and I was already overbooked.

I know it can be difficult to predict when your book will be ready, but at least contact the editor you want to work with and give them a rough time frame. You don’t want to lose the chance to work with a great editor because you didn’t email them far enough in advance.

And now it’s your turn. What questions do you have about hiring or working with an editor?

About Marcy Kennedy:

Marcy is a fantasy writer who believes there’s always hope—sometimes you just have to dig a little harder to find it. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor. (Check out Marcy’s editing services here.) You can find her blogging about writing on Wednesdays/Thursdays and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth on Mondays and Fridays Because Fantasy Is More Real Than You Think

Thank you Marcy!
No, thank you Karen.

May I speak for all of us when I say, thank you Marcy for sharing this information! It was inspiring and you were a great help!

So what do you think? Have you used the services of an editor before? If so, how was your experience? Are you frustrated or feel like you need a little help with your writing? Perhaps your story is in the developmental stage and you feel that you need a little support or an extra pair of eyes. Whatever the case may be, please feel free to ask Marcy any questions you may have!

Thank you for stopping by and for all the blog love and amazing comments!


32 thoughts on “Guest Post by Marcy Kennedy

  1. Pingback: Three Tips for Making the Most of Your Time With a Freelance Editor - Marcy Kennedy

  2. Susie Lindau (@SusieLindau)

    This is such great advice!
    I am just finishing my final read-through before my first novel goes out to be read by betas. I plan to find any holes and patch them up waaaay before sending it out for pro editing. How much editing and what kind should we do if I plan to have my book traditionally published?

    1. Marcy Kennedy

      Hi Susie 🙂 I’m glad you stopped by. If you plan to traditionally publish, then don’t get any editing done. I’m going to add a few “unless” statements to that, but if you want to traditionally publish, your book should go through all the edits it needs with your agent and publisher. One of the benefits of traditional publishing is that you don’t have to carry those costs yourself.

      Here are the “unless” statements I promised 🙂

      Unless you’re a new writer (for example, if this is your first book or you’ve been writing less than two years). If you’re newer to writing, then hiring an editor for a plot review and/or a critique of your first three chapters can really help make sure you’re where you need to be before querying. That can save you a lot of wasted time if your book isn’t ready and can also help you more quickly move to the point where it will be ready. Or it might be that the first book was a learning experience and an editor can nicely tell you that you might want to move on to a new project.

      Unless your first 10-15 query letters come back without anyone expressing interest by asking to see the full manuscript (or if you’re sending out full manuscripts and then receiving rejections). If that happens, then something is wrong and you need to figure out what it is before you send out another batch of queries. If your query letters and sample chapters aren’t getting results, then you should hire an editor to look at your first three chapters and your query letter. If you’re receiving requests for full manuscripts but are then getting turned down, you probably need a plot review. If they asked for a full, they liked your writing enough to be interested but then something later in the book fell apart.

      I hope that helps 🙂
      Marcy Kennedy recently posted..Three Tips for Making the Most of Your Time With a Freelance EditorMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Ditto Pat! I am actually using that method right now on a current WIP re-write. It’s really helping me keep on track. You’ll love it! 🙂

  3. Renee Schuls-Jacobson

    Wowzers, Marcy! I read this and then I read it again. And again. You know that I was struggling with my WIP for a while. I wonder if I’m at the point where I could really use your eyes. The things you say make so much sense. I knew that I would want an editor for final edits, but I hadn’t considered using an editor mid-process. Good food for thought.
    Renee Schuls-Jacobson recently posted..5 Things I Learned at BlissDom 2013My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Renee! I want you to know that I had you in mind when I asked Marcy to write this post. If I were in your position, I would definitely approach an editor to help mid-process or even in the developmental stage of your novel. They see the weaknesses and strengths of the plot and our writing. And I think it help to regain our confidence Renee. I’m so glad you found this post helpful. Stay in touch so we can keep each other going! You’re not alone. We’re all trying our best to write a good story. Take a deep breathe. Help is on its way! Thanks Renee! 🙂

    2. Marcy Kennedy

      I think it’s common for authors not to think about getting help partway through, but it can make a big difference. It’s like diagnosing cancer early and treating it, compared to diagnosing it late and having a rough fight ahead of you. We’re a profession where we don’t get to study as an apprentice under a master, so anything we can do to make the process easier is a good thing.
      Marcy Kennedy recently posted..Three Tips for Making the Most of Your Time With a Freelance EditorMy Profile

  4. Diana Beebe

    Marcy, thanks for the tip on doing a plot review. I think I need to do that for myself on my fantasy for which you just did a three-chapter critique. Your critique helped me see things that I hadn’t before.

    For anyone who needs an editor, I highly recommend Marcy!
    Diana Beebe recently posted..Demon Dog to CuddleMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Diana! Welcome! Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your personal experience with us. I am encouraged by your success with a plot review. I hear nothing but great things about Marcy’s ability to enhance a writer’s capability. We’ll take the referral! 🙂

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Tracy! Welcome! And thank you for sharing your personal working experience about working with Marcy with us. It sounds like Marcy is a great editor! 🙂

  5. Lisa Hall-Wilson

    I can attest to the fact that Marcy’s an excellent editor. She’s been my critique partner for several years. She’s tough but fair, and if you want to improve that’s what you need. You won’t get better by constantly getting pats on the back instead of constructive advice on how to improve.
    Lisa Hall-Wilson recently posted..If You Only Had A Few Steps To Live…My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Lisa! I appreciate your recommendation. Coming from a friend, I would imagine being on the receiving end of a critique could be a little bit touchy. But for you to come out and say this just shows how professional Marcy is. It sounds like she has a kind way of getting her point across. Yet, as you say, we cannot always expect a pat on the back if we want to improve. Thank you for sharing your own experience with us and for stopping by! 🙂

  6. Coleen Patrick

    Great advice! I second the advice for starting early. I’ve got a great editor, but you really need to plan. My next two projects are already scheduled into the next year.
    Like Tameri, I also had a not so great experience my first go round with an editor. It was a few years ago and I think I was very naive about the whole process. It’s important to get recommendations and also a free sample edit can be very helpful. Thanks, Marcy and Karen!
    Coleen Patrick recently posted..You’re in Charge: Rules for WritersMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Coleen! Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like it is more common than not. I think when we’re new, we don’t know what to expect. It must be hard for an editor to gage their critique too. Getting a free sample edit and recommendation is an awesome idea. It sounds like you’re happy with who you’re working with now. And your new book looks like it’s taking off in the right direction! That is so wonderful. So you and your editor make a great team. Congrats and thank you Coleen for coming by! 🙂

  7. C. C. Cedras

    Karen, thanks a MILLION for inviting Marcy to write about a topic that I’ve been keen to learn more about. I’m working on my first novel manuscript and I know I’m going to want a developmental edit so that the end product is as polished and professional as I can get it.

    The budget is a factor because I only know of about 12 copies I’ll sell (to the usual family and friendly suspects, LOL), so the plot review option is probably the most valuable take-away, for me, in this post.

    Great lessons here, Marcy and Karen. Thanks so much!
    C. C. Cedras recently posted..Love Me Tender…My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi C.C.! It is a pleasure to have you here! And you are welcome. I also am working on my first novel, so Marcy’s post comes at a great time for me too. I love that Marcy gives us suggestions on how to get the most out of our investment with an editor. Yet, I also think we are at the same time making an investment in ourselves. Because an editor is able to see the big picture. They can help us hone in on plot and weed out what doesn’t belong. Thus, they can make us a better writer and help us produce a much better story. Sounds worth it to me. And I venture to say that you’ll sell more than 12 copies of your book C.C. I’m so glad you took something away from this post today. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  8. Tameri Etherton

    Great advice, Marcy! I’ve found a really good editor I use for proof or copy editing, but for content editing, I need to go deeper. I had no idea there were so many kinds of editors when I first started out. Having the chapters paced out is crucial, something my editor first pointed out to me, and fortunately it was an easy fix, but I’m glad she caught it before I submitted to a publisher!

    Also, something that happened to me ~ get an idea of how long it will take your editor to complete the work. The first editor I hired wouldn’t give me a time frame. After she had the book for three months and hadn’t even looked at it, I requested it (and my check) back. It’s perfectly acceptable to refuse a service if the editor isn’t holding up their end of the work. Professionalism works both ways.
    Tameri Etherton recently posted..Buy me a cup of water for my birthday?My Profile

    1. Marcy Kennedy

      I’m so sorry you had that experience with an editor who wouldn’t give you a deadline. That’s definitely unprofessional. Always ask for a deadline.

      My guess is that editor was already fully booked for the next three months but didn’t want to tell you that because she wanted your money. That’s dishonest. The editor should always tell you when they expect to get to your book and how long they estimate it will take (it’s always an estimate because you never really know until you get into a book). Then you have the choice of deciding whether you want to wait for that editor or not if they can’t take you immediately or have quoted you a longer turnaround time.
      Marcy Kennedy recently posted..Three Tips for Making the Most of Your Time With a Freelance EditorMy Profile

    2. Karen Post author

      Hi Tameri! How are you? You need to change your gavatar pic to the one with the pink wig. I think you rock in it by the way! IMHO. And thank you for bring out your own personal story. Glad to hear that the editor returned your funds. But three months is a rather long time to wait when you weren’t told ahead of time. That sucked. Yet, I like how you said that pacing out the chapters is crucial. That’s why I wanted Marcy to write this post. And editor should make us look better. They can see our strengths and weed out our weaknesses. I think that would only give us more confidence for future writing projects. So thanks Tameri for stopping by! 🙂

  9. Julia

    Thanks Marcy. When my project is ready for an editor, I know now to contact one well in advance. Maybe five years enough time? Thanks for your thoughts about fees, and your faith that there is always hope. Ahem. Congratulations on your awards! I will have to check out your books.

    Great tips, and thank you Karen for posting this.
    Julia recently posted..Remember FallujahMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hey there Julia! How are you? I hope that Marcy’s post was helpful to you. I understand the seemingly undaunting task of writing a “first” novel. So it may seem like it may take “five years.” And even if it does…so what. It takes as long as it takes. We’re not in a race. It’s all about the story and we want to do the story justice. But I think that using an editor to make our stories better isn’t a bad idea. It could even give us more confidence in our own writing ability, as they, the editor, bring out our strengths and flush out our weaknesses. It’s the editor’s job to make us look good. Ooh, I like that idea. I won’t tell if you don’t! Thanks Julia for stopping by! 🙂

  10. Lynette M Burrows

    Hi, Karen and Marcy! Really helpful information in your post, Marcy. Thanks for asking for this Karen! I know I will need someone to look overy my manuscript when I finish my final edit (too many revisions to be sure I’ve cleaned it all up), but funds are tight. So this is particularly helpful. Questions for Marcy: on the plot review is that written in the same tense as your story or is it in present tense particularly? If you have a plot review instead of a developmental edit, what types of things might be missed in your story? Thanks!
    Lynette M Burrows recently posted..March Madness!My Profile

    1. Marcy Kennedy

      Preferably you’d write the plot review in the same tense as your story because that will help the editor check if you have a good grasp on that tense or not and give them a better sense of the feel of the book, but it’s not essential. Either way will work.

      A plot review isn’t going to be able to comment on craft issues that can only be seen in the actual book. So it would miss things like how the writer handles dialogue, point of view violations, showing vs. telling, inconsistent tone, not enough/too much description, how strong are your last lines/first lines for each chapter, reversed action-reaction sequences on a line-by-line basis, etc. If you felt you needed that craft help along with the big picture plot help, then I’d definitely recommend talking to an editor and seeing if they could customize something that would fit within your budget. There’s never any harm in asking. The worst they can say is “no.”

    2. Karen Post author

      Hi Lynette! Uh yeah, I am so happy to have Marcy here today. She’s our go to gal for editorial advice. She really knows her stuff. And I have similiar questions to yours Lynette. So thank you so much for asking! 🙂


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