Hire an editor. Join a writing course. Work with a book coach. Gather beta readers. Join a writing group. Just write, write, write until your fingers fall off.
What’s the best next step for YOU and your writing? Let me walk you through my decision-making framework to help you find your ideal writing, editing, and publishing path.
There’s a question I hear writers asking all the time. It takes a lot of different forms, but ultimately, it’s the same question. Here are a few versions of it:
“When should I hire an editor?”
“Do I really need to hire an editor in order to get published?”
“How do I know when I’m ready to work with an editor?”
Sometimes it comes not as a question, but as a piece of advice presented as a blanket statement to every writer ever. Those statements can look like this:
“You should always hire an editor before you ever publish anything.”
“You should never hire an editor before you query agents. You should never pay anything in order to get your book out in the world. The traditional publisher is the one who should be paying you.”
And whoo boy, do I have a lot of thoughts about that last one.
But honestly, every single statement and question I’ve just listed, and all the other versions of this I see around the internet—they all get me so fired up and excited.
The Truth: There’s No Right Path, Only YOUR Path
Because the truth is, there’s no one right path to write and edit and publish your book. Writers take so many paths through this process. A lot of those paths look similar, and a lot of them look wildly different.
The path you should take is the one that works for you.
Which means those blanket statements about the one right way to write and edit and publish a book are really about what’s worked for one writer. They don’t have to be the way that you choose.
That’s liberating, right? You don’t have to follow anyone else’s path. You get to discover and create your path.
And on the other hand, that’s overwhelming. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were clear rules here? A tried-and-true step-by-step process that works for every writer, every time, that reliably gets your story ideas out of your head and into the hands of readers who love them.
But there aren’t rules about what path you should take. You getto discover your own path—and also, you haveto create your own path.
Pros and cons. Freedom and burden.
When the world is your oyster, when the whole realm of writing choices is before you, how do you figure out the best choices for you?
Your Invitation to Self-Discovery
This is why I love those questions so much, the ones about when or whether to hire an editor.
Because on the surface, those questions seem simple. You just want a simple answer, right? For someone to say, “Now is the time. This is the moment. This is the thing that’s perfect for you, the thing that will guarantee your brilliant success.”
But in reality, those questions are invitations into something much deeper. They’re invitations to interrogate your own writing, editing, and publishing path. Invitations to tap into your own dreams and motivations and goals and priorities for your writing and determine for yourself what is the best fit and most true for you.
And that invitation is incredibly powerful if you choose to embrace it and explore it.
What does it look like to accept that invitation? What does it look like to determine for yourself what your best path to storytelling is?
I would love to share that with you in this article. But honestly, that topic is too huge for a podcast episode or article. I tried to write it as a single episode a few weeks ago, and it ballooned into a two-episode series, and then a four-episode series, and then a six-episode series.
And then one of my editor friends stepped in and said, “Maybe this isn’t a podcast episode at all. Maybe it’s something you need a lot more time and space to explore properly.” And I realized she was completely right.
And so I’ve taken all my thoughts that were going to go into podcast episodes, and I’ve compiled them into a masterclass that I’m planning to teach sometime soon.
I don’t have a date on the calendar yet because right now, my schedule is just jam-packed. But as soon as I have a date for it, you’ll be the first to know. It’ll be an hour, or maybe a little longer because I just have so much to say about this and timekeeping isn’t my best skill, and it’ll be free.
I’m really excited for it, and I hope you come!
Your Sneak Peek at My Decision-Making Framework
But in this article, I actually want to give you a sneak peek of what I’ll be covering in that masterclass. Right now, I’m going to share the essentials of the decision-making framework I use to help writers figure out when to hire an editor.
And I’m going to show you how that decision-making framework works in the context of a specific decision you have the opportunity to make right now, today, if you’re reading this article the week that it’s published.
My good friend Savannah Gilbo, a fellow editor and book coach, teaches a writing course called Notes to Novel.
It’s an eight-week course where she coaches writers on how to confidently write a story you feel proud of without the self-doubt, frustration, and overwhelm that stops most writers in their tracks.
The course includes thirty writing lessons on topics like genre, theme, character development, scene writing, story planning, and more. And all the lessons include workbooks, checklists, and cheat sheets so you can follow along and develop your novel as you go through the course.
By the end of the course, you’ll have a roadmap for writing a novel-length draft that matches the vision you had in your head and connects with your ideal readers.
You’ll also get lifetime access to the course, which means you can apply the entire Notes to Novel system to every story you write in the future.
If you want to see everything that’s inside Notes to Novel, click right here to get all the details.
Right now, doors to Notes to Novel are open. But they’ll be closing this Thursday, October 12, 2023, at 11:59 pm Pacific time.
Which means that this decision—the decision about whether or not to join Notes to Novel—is a decision about your writing path that you get to make this week.
And it’s the perfect sandbox to see my decision-making framework at work.
See the Framework in Action
So here’s what we’re going to do. We have a question to answer: Should you join Notes to Novel right now?
And I’m going to walk you through a process to find your answer to that question.
We’re going to start off by imagining that you have absolutely no idea whether Notes to Novel is right for you.
In fact, you’re not sure what anything is right for you. You don’t know if you need an editor, or a writing course, or beta readers, or more time to write, or what.
But what you do know is that you have an invitation. You have an invitation, an opportunity, to dig deep and discover the writing path that feels true and right for you.
The 2-Step Process to Find Your Best Next Step
How are you going to make this decision?
Here’s the process I recommend:
First, determine your values and your needs.
Then, seek out the thing that best aligns with your values and needs.
That’s the super simple version. Let’s take a closer look at those steps.
Step 1: Determine Your Values and Needs
Your values are the things that are important to you.
For example, you might value:
- Saving money
- Learning from experts
- Producing a book quickly
- Producing the best story you’re capable of
- Enjoying the writing process and wherever it leads you
Your needs are the things that will be most useful and relevant for your writing, editing, and publishing process right now.
For example, you might need:
- To learn how to write realistic dialogue
- To build stronger story structure for your novel
- Someone who’s not you to take a look at your writing and help you get unstuck
- Someone who knows the publishing industry to advise you on how to query agents
Your values might change over time. Your needs will definitely change over time.
And that’s okay! The goal isn’t to identify the one set of values and one set of needs that will guide your decision making forever.
It’s to identify the values and needs that are important to you right now so you can make the next right choice for your novel.
And once you’ve done that, you’re ready for step 2:
Step 2: Seek out the resources that best align with your values and needs.
Seek out the thing that best aligns with your values and needs.
The world of writing education is absolutely full of resources to help you write an amazing novel. There are just so many things out there—podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, books, courses, book coaches, editors, writing groups, and more.
When you don’t know your values and needs, that’s terrible news. How in the world can you pick the right thing out of an enormous sea of resources when you have no way to figure out what that right thing is?
But when you do know your values and needs, that enormous sea is a wonderful thing. It means that somewhere out there, there’s the exact right thing for you. And since you know what to look for, you’ll recognize it when you see it.
So those are our two steps: identify your values and needs, and then find the writing resource that best fits your unique values and needs.
Now, let’s see this in action.
The 2 Steps in Action
You’re here, with your specific values and needs. We don’t know what your values and needs are yet. That’s a mystery we get to uncover.
And Notes to Novel is here: a specific writing resource, a course I highly recommend if it’s the right fit for you. We know the course is reliable. We know Savannah is a great writing teacher. We know that at the end of the course, you’ll have a solid roadmap to guide you through your next draft.
So the question is, is Notes to Novel the right fit for you based on your values and needs?
And the way to answer this question is . . . by asking a lot more questions.
I’ll Coach You Through This Process
I’ve gone back to my script for my upcoming masterclass, and I’ve pulled out some of my favorite questions to help you identify your values and needs.
Some of them are questions you’ve probably guessed already. But I think you’ll hear some surprises here, too, some questions that will prompt you to look at your writing in a different way.
I have three questions for you to answer about your values, and then three questions for you to answer about your needs.
And I actually encourage you to pull out a pen and paper, or the Notes app on your phone, and actually pause and write down your answers to all these questions.
Because the goal here isn’t to toss out a quick, knee-jerk answer. It’s to accept the invitation to interrogate your own desires and priorities and motivations and needs for your own writing and publishing path. That’s an invitation that deserves time and space and thoughtful self-reflection.
So if you have a few minutes to work through this as a guided exercise, I recommend you pull out something to write with and really consider and write down your answers as you go.
Think of this as a one-on-one coaching call between me and you. I’m going to guide you through a process of self-reflection to help you understand yourself as a writer.
Which, by the way, is pretty much exactly what happens on my coaching calls with my paid clients. So you’re getting a taste of what it’s like to work with me for free!
3 Questions About Your Values
All right, ready to get into the questions? Let’s dive in. We’ll start with the questions about your values.
Question 1: Do you want to call in help early and often, or do you want to see how far you can take your writing on your own?
Let me explain what I mean.
I’ve met some writers who reach out very early on in their writing process for expert support. They want feedback on the first draft of their first book, and they send it to me before anyone else has read it. Or they have an idea and an outline and they want feedback on it before they write.
They value getting really early support, right at the beginning of their writing process—and honestly, at the beginning of their entire writing career—to help make sure they’re on the right track and show them what to do next.
And I’ve met other writers who like to see how far they can take their writing all on their own. They gobble up craft books and podcasts like this one, and they write and self-edit over and over and over until they’ve polished their story to the absolute best of their ability. And then, once they’ve taken it as far as they possibly can and they know they’ve reached the end of everything they know how to do on their own, they reach out to me for feedback.
These writers value challenging themselves to see what they can create all on their own. They also value getting the most bang for their buck—they often spend a lot of time studying free and low-cost writing resources before taking the leap to invest in editing to take their skills even further.
So which one are you? Do you want to call in help early and often to guide you from the very beginning? Or do you want to stretch yourself and see how far you can go on your own?
Notes to Novel: “Early Help” Vs. “Go Far Alone”
Now, remember, in this exercise, we have a specific goal: we’re trying to figure out, should you join Notes to Novel now?
Step 1 is to determine your values and goals. And step 2 is to see whether Notes to Novel fits those values and goals.
So once you’ve written down your answer to each question about your values and goals, I’m going to tell you how Notes to Novel stacks up, so you can see whether it fits the vision for your writing life that you’re building.
Here’s where Notes to Novel falls on that line between “call in help early” and “go far alone”:
I’d say Notes to Novel is right in the middle. It could absolutely be a good fit for either camp.
If you’re a “call in help early” kind of person, this is a way to get a lot of structured guidance early on. It won’t include one-on-one coaching from Savannah, but it will include eight weeks of group coaching calls, where you can ask your specific questions and learn from the questions other writers are asking.
And if you’re a “go far alone” kind of person, this is a great way to get a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time and a very organized way. You’ll have thirty lessons in six modules to teach you the fundamentals of writing a great book. And you won’t have to share your pages with Savannah or other writers for feedback, so you still get to challenge yourself to execute on your own before you bring in someone else to give you feedback.
Plus, if after Notes to Novel, you’re feeling like you’ve taken your novel as far as you can and you’re ready for that one-on-one feedback, I have two bonuses you’ll get from me that will be perfect for that.
The first bonus is in-line notes on your first 3,000 words so you can get direction on your writing right at the start of your draft.
And the second bonus is a $200 discount on a Full Manuscript Evaluation. This is the package I recommend to writers after you have a full draft, when you’ve written the whole story but aren’t sure what to do with it next. So you can take Notes to Novel and focus on independent learning, and then when you’ve done everything you can with everything you learn, you can come to me and I’ll help you take your writing to the next level.
All that to say, Notes to Novel is the kind of middle balance between “call in help early” and “go far alone.” No matter what you answered here, the course might be a good fit for you.
Let’s dig into the second values question.
Question 2: Do you learn best in one-on-one or group settings?
Right now, I lead a monthly writing group with about a dozen writers. Every month, I select two writers to share a chapter of their novel, and we all read their scenes and then go around and give them feedback.
This means that only two writers are getting feedback on their writing each month. But every writer in the group always leaves with something new they’ve learned to apply to their own writing.
It always amazes me how much learning can happen in a group setting, even when you’re listening to questions other people are asking or giving feedback on someone else’s writing.
On the other hand, I have some clients who come to me and say, “I do not want or need to learn to write a book in a group. I want one trusted expert to learn from, so I can do exactly what they recommend and not get distracted by crowdsourced ideas.”
In that case, group coaching and writers groups probably aren’t for them!
How about you? Do you prefer to learn in groups, or to learn one-on-one?
Notes to Novel: Group vs. One-on-One Learning
Here’s where Notes to Novel falls:
The course includes eight weeks of group coaching calls with Savannah. She won’t give feedback on writers’ scenes, but she will answer any and all questions that you and other writers bring. If you’re stuck in your novel, or you’re confused by something in the course, or you need help figuring out how to apply something in the course to your story, you can bring her all your questions and she’ll answer you in the group calls.
If you’re looking for one-on-one feedback on your pages from an editor or book coach, this won’t include that. So in that case, Notes to Novel won’t be a good fit for you.
But if you know you love learning alongside others, or you’re open to exploring it, then Notes to Novel is a really valuable way to get expert coaching on your writing.
And now for our third values question:
Question 3: What’s your budget to invest financially in your writing?
Yep, this is a question you probably have thought of yourself. I’m not breaking new ground here. But this is such an important question to consider, and it’s going to impact every choice you make throughout your entire writing, editing, and publishing journey.
So take a moment to think right now. What are you willing and able to invest in your writing right now?
You don’t need exact numbers. Just get a general sense of what your budget for writing looks like right now.
Notes to Novel: Budget
And once you have that idea in mind, here’s how Notes to Novel stacks up:
If your budget is free99, Notes to Novel isn’t the right choice for you. It does cost money.
But if you do have a budget to work with, then Notes to Novel is a great way to get a lot of writing training and support at a great price for all the value you’ll get. It’s also a lot lower than what you’d spend if you hired an editor or book coach to work with you one-on-one to teach you that same amount of material.
Of course, you know I love working with writers one-on-one for editing and book coaching. That’s my bread and butter. I’m not going to tell you that hiring an editor is too expensive an investment. If I did that, I’d be out of a job! And honestly, I think books and writers would suffer if one-on-one editorial work disappeared from the world.
That said: in Notes to Novel, you’re going to get about 25 hours of lessons, homework, and Q&A with Savannah. That’s not including all the bonuses, and Savannah has a ton of bonuses.
If you hire an editor to work with you one-on-one, you can expect to pay $100 an hour on the low end. Which means that for the same number of hours of training, you’d be paying upwards of $2,500—and again, that’s on the low end.
If you join Notes to Novel today, and you pay the full price all at once, the whole course is $1,497. That’s at least a thousand dollar discount versus learning all of this one-on-one with a coach.
And you can save that thousand dollars to invest in working with an editor or book coach after you complete the course, where we’ll be able to build on everything you’ve already learned to advance your novel even more.
Now, if you have a budget, but that budget doesn’t allow you to make a large investment all at once, there’s also a payment plan option. You can join the course now and pay for it in six low monthly installments.
So consider your budget—because the way you choose to spend your money absolutely reflects your values—and then use that as a guide to help you decide whether Notes to Novel is a good fit for you.
Values Question Recap
And those are all the values questions I want to walk you through. Here they are again:
- Question 1: Do you want to call in help early and often, or do you want to see how far you can take your writing on your own?
- Question 2: Do you learn best in one-on-one or group settings?
- Question 3: What’s your budget to invest financially in your writing?
And here’s how Notes to Novel stacks up:
- If you value calling in help in your writing early or going far on your own,
- If you value learning in group settings with other writers,
- If you value investing financially in your writing in order to improve your craft,
Then Notes to Novel might be a great fit for you. Click right here and join the course.
- If you value learning in one-on-one settings and not in a group,
- If you have a limited budget to invest in your writing and the Notes to Novel payment plan doesn’t work for you,
Then Notes to Novel might not be for you.
Part 2 Is Coming Tomorrow
Now, keep in mind that this is just half of our decision-making process. So if you don’t have complete clarity about Notes to Novel yet, that’s okay.
So far, we’ve identified the values that shape your writing, editing, and publishing goals. Next up, we’ll do the same for your needs.
I have three more questions to ask you about what you need in your writing right now. And one of those questions is my favorite question of this entire process, so get excited for that!
But remember how I said that every time I’ve tried to write about this topic, it just balloons all the way out of hand? Well, that happened with this article too. When I wrote out everything I wanted to coach you through, this ended up being more than twice as long as my typical articles.
So I’ve decided to split this into two parts. I’ll wrap this article up here for now. And in the next article, we’ll work through the needs questions and help you make a for-sure decision about Notes to Novel.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait a week for that. Notes to Novel closes on Thursday, so this is a decision to make relatively quickly. And so I’ll share the second article tomorrow.
Some Final Notes on Notes to Novel
Before I sign off, I do want to mention that I am an affiliate of Savannah’s course. That means if you click here and purchase the course, I’ll receive a commission, and you’ll receive special bonuses you can only get from me.
I recommend the course because I’ve worked with Savannah and I know how excellent her resources for writers are. She’s a wonderful writing teacher, and she’s going to take such good care of your story. But in the spirit of full disclosure, that’s important to mention.
Ultimately, I am passionate about helping writers find the resources and support that’s exactly right for you at exactly the point in your writing journey that you’re in right now.
If you’re thinking Notes to Novel is the right fit for you, fantastic! Click here and join the course.
And if you’re still not sure, don’t worry. We’ll get into the rest of our discernment questions tomorrow, and I think they’ll bring you a lot of clarity about the best decision for you.
Until then, happy editing!