Recently I met a girl who’s new to writing novels. She told me she’d finished her first draft and was about to revise.
“Awesome!” I told her. Then I asked, “Do you have a critique group?”
“Oh, no. My sister was an English major and she’s editing it for me.”
“Oh… that’s cool. You know, you might want to consider finding some other writers to look at it. Writers really know what to look for when it comes to critiquing.”
Yeah, girlfriend did not want my advice. Probably I should stop giving it to people who don’t ask.
“Well, she reads A TON, so she actually knows what she’s talking about.”
FYI, I’ve heard “they ACTUALLY know what they’re talking about” so many times. Just so you know, that’s like saying someone who watches a lot of medical dramas ACTUALLY knows how to perform surgery. So. Yeah. Enjoy that experience.
Guys, I’ll admit, I haven’t been writing my entire life. But I think that makes it easier to see how I’ve grown. I’ve gone through this, and I am telling you there is a huge difference in the feedback you get from a critique partner who specializes in writing novels and your undoubtedly awesome non-novelist English major sibling/friend/romantic partner.
Writer friends, you will learn more about writing stories from other story writers, because they’ve studied the craft. There’s more to it than correct grammar. There’s structure, plot, character, character arc, voice, pacing, and SO MANY THINGS that people who sit down and write novels know so much more intimately than people who’ve only studied them.
And completely aside from this, it’s my opinion that novels should be workshopped, not “edited.” You wrote one draft and now your friend is fixing your grammar and then you’re going to query? NO. That book is not ready. Writing groups and critique partners don’t fix your grammar. They fix your entire book. Fixing the grammar/typos/wording is called “polishing” and it’s YOUR job, and you do it when the overall story issues are fixed.
Oh, and also, most English Majors don’t actually study much (if any) editing or grammar.
Go forth and find critique partners. Good luck!