Needed: Professional Advice before the Query?

Needed: Professional Advice before the Query?

The Divining Wand’s Q&A page has been active again with another “writing” question. However please remember that all questions, including those about authors and their books, are welcome too.


I am in the middle of a novel in progress, which I put away for 12 months, and which I have dusted off and begun work on. My goal is to finish it by the end of this year (Dec. 2010).

My question: Would it be useful to hire a professional editor to provide editorial advice on my novel once it’s finished and before I begin to query agents?

This Fairy Godmother chose author, teacher, and former student of Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird), Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being), to respond:

“There are few professions in life where we can do the work at home and spring it on the public and have it universally accepted. In my writing career, I’ve never sent a manuscript to an agent or editor without careful reads by my trusted readers, all of whom in my case are writers. Each manuscript goes through careful scrutiny, and then I spend a great deal of time making the thing right before sending it on to agent or editor. And in that way, I end up getting a lot done up front. With my first novel, Her Daughter’s Eyes, my editor commented on how very little there was to do (it was never that easy again).

“So yes. Finish your draft. Make it as best you can. And then hire someone who writes in your field to read it. You should expect to get back notes and textual comments. You should also ask for a follow up after you finish reading through both.

“The truth also is that might not be enough. But it usually is, and you will have the confidence that your work is going out in its party dress, ready for the party.”

But serendipity was in play as our messages crossed paths and Jessica’s OTHER email arrived in my Inbox announcing that;

“Due to unforeseen and universal tiltings, I’ve found myself with some time this quarter to work with folks privately. This could either be a quick hourly consult or a full manuscript read. As I’ve written around in genres, I’m able to work with contemporary, literary, and/or genre fiction–romance and young adult.

“I’ve had a crash course in the past few months on “How to Get an Agent,” and I did just do that, signing with a new agent only two weeks ago. In that time, I have sharpened my query writing skills and have learned a great deal about the process anew–synopsis writing, chapter outlines, and first 50 page edits. Personally, I’m hoping to never have to use these skills again, but I could help guide you through the morass.

“If you are interested in working on a full manuscript or something much smaller or know someone who is, please email me or forward this on and I’d be happy to talk further. Thank you.”

This is an open invitation to all those who might be seeking assistance. If interested, please contact:

Announcement: The winner of Randy Susan Meyers’ The Murderer’s Daughters is Erika. Congratulations to you! Now please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly. Thank you to all who commented.

4 thoughts on “Needed: Professional Advice before the Query?

  1. Thank you Jessica and Larramie (for providing such talent for the answer!)! This is in line with how I feel. Because the book has evolved over such a long time, it would benefit from a neutral, but professional eye. I will definitely follow your advice! Thank you!

  2. Hi, suzanne–

    I am pretty sure that all our work needs that neutral eye, that gaze that is unattached, unbiased. And often, we have to pay people for such a gaze (think of a therapist! An editor is a book therapist).

    Good luck with your novel.



  3. Hi Jessica and Larramie,

    Even two days later, I’m still in awe and thrilled by Jessica for supplying such a great answer, and for Larramie for supplying such a knowledgeable source. Thank you both!

    And Jessica, I will be emailing you soon for follow up.

    Thank you!

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