Friday, June 27, 2014

Editor Interview with Marissa van Uden

I love falling into a story and just going along for the ride, but I also love capturing a story and examining it like a naturalist would, trying to figure out what makes it tick and how it turned out so beautiful.

I started out editing National Geographic books, and have been editing full time for over five years, working on all genres but specializing in science fiction and fantasy. I love my job: being able to help storytellers bring their ideas to life and seeing them grow as artists is incredibly rewarding.

What type of stories do you most enjoy editing? 
I specialize in my two favorite genres: science fiction and fantasy. I love the way these genres work like telescopic lenses to zoom in on certain elements of what it’s like to be human. SF/F can incorporate flavors and structures from literary fiction or any other genre, like mystery, romance, adventure, but because they use speculative worlds as a setting the author is free to remove or enhance cultural ideas or technologies we usually just take for granted. I love the open-mindedness and possibilities of SF/F.

What book are you most proud of having edited?
Some standout novels I’ve worked on recently are TheScorpion Game by Daniel Jeffries, TheCasquette Girls by Alys Arden, and the Harbingerof Treason by Bayard Smith. I’m also working with some up-and-coming authors on their shorter fiction, like Eduard F Vinyamata who just published Drone Commander Tidek, and Justin Mermelstein who regularly publishes beautiful fantasy novellas. But I feel more grateful than proud to have been a part of their production. It’s amazing to get the opportunity to work with new artists and see them bring their stories to life, one sentence at a time. 

What does your editing process look like from start to finish?
My process depends on which editing stage we’re in (developmental, substantive or line editing) and how far the author wants to push their work. At its heart, editing is all about understanding the author’s intentions and making sure their voice is coming across to readers as they want it. So I generally start with an open-minded and compassionate reading (more relaxed than analytical) to get a feel for story and mood, and to jot down first impressions. Then I’ll do a series of closer reads to diagnose problems, challenge weak or unclear writing, and offer the author suggestions, solutions or just new directions to consider.

How do you decide your pricing?
My range of fees is based on the Editorial Freelancers Association’s guidelines and my cost of living (manuscript editing is my full-time job), but every project is different, and I tailor my pricing to the authors needs. Basically, I start by reviewing the manuscript to get a feel for the story and for the author’s writing ability, and together we discuss the work that needs to be done. A big part of the pricing depends on the author: what they’re willing to invest in terms of finances and also post-editing revision time (i.e. do they want light surface edits they can just accept or reject at a glance, or are they looking for deeper and more challenging edits that could result in multiple rounds of revisions?). Once we know how much time we can give the manuscript, we can tailor the editing to focus on the most essential stuff and do as much as possible within that timeframe. 

What do you charge?
It depends on what kind of work the manuscript needs, and how much work is required to get the manuscript to where the author envisions it. Generally my rates fall between $3 and $8 per standard page (250 words). 

What are some of the typical mistakes you see writers make?
Lately I’ve seen many scenes written as if the author is describing what they see on a TV show or film. The narrative perspective floats behind the character like a camera, recording visuals and audio but not much else. We can see the character in the setting but we don’t learn what it’s like to experience it. 

The novel’s advantage over a film is that readers can go deep inside the character’s mind and imagine what it’s like to be someone else. They want that realistic human experience, not a realistic movie-watching experience. If someone’s in the mood for a film, they’ll go watch one, but when they pick up a novel, they usually want to be immersed in the psychological and sensory world of the character.

What are some things you think writers should look for/be wary of when hiring an editor?
After you’ve found an editor who has the level of experience and skill you are happy with, the most important thing is to make sure you understand each other. It doesn’t matter how great an editor is, if they don’t “get” you or your vision for the story then how can the collaboration bring out the best in your story? Manuscript editing is an act of translating the author’s imagination to a large group of readers’ imaginations, so your editor has to understand you and your audience.

What should a writer expect (or not expect) out of an editor?
An editor can help give you direction and perspective, and help you hone your writing by diagnosing the weaknesses and pointing the way to good fixes. They’re like a local guide you’ve hired for the difficult part of your journey. You should expect them to use their knowledge and experience to give you good advice and practical suggestions. You should not expect them to re-write your story, impose their own style, or guarantee you success.

What do you think makes a good editor?
Manuscript editors looking at story and content have to master some peculiar skills, like being able to adopt multiple mindsets (the author’s, the readers’, and the characters’) and then jumping back and forth between them. They have to have a kind of detective-like personality so they can keep a sharp focus while spending hours crouched over a single chapter, searching for tiny inconsistencies in the story and checking that everything stacks up. They need to have a good intuition for what’s working in a story and what’s not, good communication skills so they can explain why to an author, and good puzzle-solving skills so they can help rearrange the pieces so that everything fits.

When you’re not editing what do you like to do?
I love to learn new things, so I read loads of non-fiction as well as fiction and take online courses about science and the universe. When I’m not reading or studying, I like to take photographs, explore new towns, watch stand-up comedy, and gaze at the planets.

Freelance manuscript editor, specializing in science fiction & fantasy
Twitter: @marissavu

Friday, June 20, 2014

Editor Interview with Tom Hawking

I have been working as a proofreader and occasional editor for around four years. I started out doing it for a medical colleague I worked for as a typist, and have continued ever since. I read psychology at the University of Leicester in the UK, and so have mostly worked around medicine/psychology. I had a paper published in a journal before I left academia, and currently work as a manager for a car company.

After a few years I thought about expanding my proofreading work into editing fiction, so put out an ad on Goodreads to offer my services for free to a couple of people to build up some testimonials. The first book I edited was a novella (The Eyes That Drowned Uyumi), and although I advertised the work as for free, the author was happy enough to pay me a small sum. The other book I did was a full length novel (Conflicted by M M Koenig), which was already published but was being re-released ahead of the author’s second book in the series being published. After a few chapters, the author was so happy with my work she commissioned me to work on her second book, which I am currently in the middle of. I found that I really enjoyed the process, particularly the collaboration with the author and the chance to be part of helping someone to realize their dream. I am currently booking myself up for June onwards, and am always available for short edits such as short stories and novellas. 

What type of stories do you most enjoy editing? 
It may seem silly, but any and all really! Whilst I enjoy reading, I am often scared to venture from my common tastes. Editing work has given me different books to read that I would never have otherwise bought. As I am new to the field, in terms of fiction editing, I am still building up a varied portfolio, but if I were to go with one genre that I would particularly enjoy editing, it would be crime, particularly psychological crimes and thrillers.

Do you work for a company or are you a freelance editor? 
I work freelance, as I also have a 9-5 job at the moment. I hope to be able to work in editing full-time one day, but like the authors I work with, it is my extracurricular passion.

Are your rates affordable for indie authors? 
I like to think so! I offer discounts to indie/self-publishing authors, because I am firm believer that this part of the literature industry is something that needs encouraging, and whilst it’s great to make a good living it’s also as, or perhaps even more important to feel part of a piece of art. That may sound slightly trite, but I love the idea of the permanence and immortality of the written word, and being part of that, as well as helping authors to realize their dreams by publishing their work in the best form possible is an amazing feeling.

How do you decide your pricing? 
I ask authors to send me one- to two-thousand words to do a sample edit on. I aim to turn this around within 24 hours of receiving it, and I do a complete, deep edit of it. I also comment on the edits I have made, or suggestions I have, so that the author can see the logic behind it and get a feel for my editing style. I then put together a quote based on 2,500 words per hour, and adapt my hourly charge depending on the depth of editing required, based on a discussion of the sample editing I have done. If the author is a self-publisher, I reduce this amount by 20%. I also allow authors to spread payments across two to four months, if necessary.

What are some of the typical mistakes you see writers make?  
Grammar is a big one, as well as the concept of tense. For example they will be describing a scene in the past tense from a first-person perspective, then there will be some speech, which is of course present-tense, but then this tense continues in the following narrative. Although I know the books I have edited have gone through beta-reading, I still find I spot the odd continuity error too.

What things should a writer have done before contacting an editor? 
Beta-reading is probably the first thing I would expect a book to have gone through (which is another service I am looking to offer). When I read, I have a really clear picture of the scene in my head, which makes me really sensitive to continuity errors and the like. That can be distracting when editing, which elongates the work. I would also expect them to have read the book back a few times to self-edit, or at least have an idea of what they aren’t sure about and would like you to pay attention to. The final, and probably most important thing, is to know what they want from an editor. Working freelance, and especially with self-publishers, your brief comes from what the author wants, rather than the publishing house, as they are the client, so having some idea of what they are looking for allows me to be more focused.

What do you think makes a good editor?
Someone who listens to the client, and understands what they want and what their book is trying to convey. Some editors spend however long working on a manuscript and just submit it to the author, but I like to send my work in chunks of 10% or so of the total book, so the author and I are working on the same page (if you’ll pardon the pun). I view it much more as a collaborative process, so communication and working together is key for me. I also think that a slightly unnatural attention to detail, and a love of perfection are quite good traits for an editor to have, as well as the ability to not just say that a section doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense, but the writing ability to suggest an alternative. Constructive criticism is the key phrase.

What style guide do you use, and why? 
I use New Hart’s Rules, as well as the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Being from the UK, this tends to be the prevailing style guide. I also use the Chicago manual when working with American clients, although NHR gives lots of advice on how American and English styles differ, which is why I find it so handy.

What annoys you most about the current publishing industry?
I recently attended the London Book Fair and, whilst I met a lot of great authors and editors, I found that I was left slightly daunted and disheartened by the nature of the publishing industry. Having never been face-to-face with it before I was a little saddened by the overwhelming dominance of money and profits. I come from a business background, so I understand that everything is, in the end, about money, but part of what I love about literature is the romanticism (or maybe that’s just my perception) of the industry. Seeing the idea of beloved projects being reduced to the question of “will it sell?” was not the impression I expected to come away with. I suppose that’s why I’m passionate about self-publishing.

When you’re not editing what do you like to do?
An original answer: read! I also really enjoy triathlon so go running/biking/swimming. It is difficult to fit stuff in at the moment, working in the day and editing at night, so the other thing I like to do is watch films, as a way to turn my brain off from reading all day (and night). I spend a lot of time with my brother, who is an aspiring author himself, so we often discuss his book and what I am editing, and various things we’ve recently read. It’s a bit like a book group, but really just two literature geeks and a few bottles of wine.   

Friday, June 13, 2014

Editor Interview with Jaclyn Ann Lee

Jaclyn Ann Lee was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2007 she graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an Associate's Degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Social Sciences and Humanities. Currently she is enrolling in Southern New Hampshire University where she plans to complete her Bachelor's Degree in English and Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. Jaclyn has been deeply passionate about literature her entire life and recently found the courage to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an author and an editor. Her name and face are still fresh to the industry but she has been received with high regard by her fellow industry professionals and those who have chosen to work with the new editor. She is working as a freelance editor, with two completed professional jobs and many more booked for the upcoming months. Her developing Indie company, Darling Willow Creative, is currently in the works and will be used as the label under which she publishes her own work, as well as offers her freelancing services.

What type of stories do you most enjoy editing?
I am not biased when it comes to the type of story I edit, provided I do not find the harmful to the public or it does not go against my personal morality. I love all genres of literature, for each have their own charm and appeal characteristic of the style. As I reader, again I do not have a preference, though I do tend to favor fantasy, horror, and classical literature.

Do you work for a company or are you a freelance editor?
I am a freelance editor currently, working from my own rates and guidelines. Someday it may be nice to be a part of a company, but for now I am happy with the position that I am in. I do, however, work for an online literary magazine, The Oddville Press, as a volunteer editor. I love it! 

What book are you most proud of having edited?
As of this interview I have completed two professional novel edits (with more booked), and while I cherish each and every one of the authors I work with equally, I am proud of the first job I obtained. After reaching out to the good people on the public forums of Good Reads, a new author approached me with the opportunity to edit her debut novel. I am incredibly grateful for the chance she took with me, as she only had my passionate self-description and desperate pleading to use as reference. I enjoyed my first experience immensely! She is a fabulous person and author, and if it were not for her kind words I would not be experiencing the overwhelming success I am today.

What does your editing process look like from start to finish?
When I begin editing a manuscript I insist on doing a read through first so I can gain a better understanding of the author and the story he or she has bled from their heart and souls to share with literature enthusiasts. I believe that you have to understand the author, the plot, and the characters (if a fiction piece) to be able to deliver a successfully edited manuscript. I discuss what kind of editing the author would like, whether it's basic proofing or detailed line-by-line editing, the turnaround time they hope to have the edits received, address any concerns or questions, and do what I can to earn their trust and prove that I am qualified to edit their piece. I offer sample edits at the beginning so they may see how I work. It's important that I establish some sort of relationship with my clients, so they do not feel that they are just another job. They are more than a job to me. Once I understand the needs of the author and their story, and once I have delivered a satisfactory sample edit, I use Microsoft Word tracker so they can see a side-by-side comparison of what changes I suggest. I add side notes to many of the edits so they understand why I have suggested the change, and often tell them the phrases I love, my feelings on a particular passage (good or bad), and offer more than just a critical analysis. As a reader I like to point out more than just the mistakes; I like to point out the things that I enjoy. Once I have finished the edits I deliver them to my client and ask that they take the time to read through what I have done and let me know if there is anything there are not happy with. I try to do a final read through to make sure everything is sound for publication.

Are you rates affordable for Indie authors?
Absolutely! At this point in my career I am looking to build a reputation through a list of clients who enjoy working with me. My credibility is more important than breaking anyone's bank. My authors will tell you that I work hard to find a price that works for them. I do have set rates, but I am always willing to negotiate. I will not turn away an author simply for monetary reasons.

How do you decide your pricing? 
I base my pricing off of the type of editing requested, as well as the length of time it takes for me to complete the editing process. I wish to offer the best edits at competitive pricing and therefore will always discuss what the author is able to pay.

What are some of the typical mistakes you see writers make?
Punctuation, run-on sentences, confusion of tense, and passive voice seem to be the most common mistakes. I often find that while authors know what they want to convey in their minds, it doesn't always translate to paper. That's where I come in! Some authors know what they want to say but they aren't sure how to say it. I also find what I call "phantom objects", which are items used in the scene that seem to come out of nowhere.

Do you have any advice for new writers?
Believe in yourself and your ability. If you aren't going to believe in yourself, who else will? Don't take no for an answer and don't allow anyone to make you feel as though you can't be successful in the industry. If writing is what you are truly passionate about, NEVER give up! Passion is the most important ingredient in the recipe for success in the industry. Every book you write may not be a best seller, but that doesn't mean it's not exceptional in it's own way. When you aim I write a novel, write about things that you are interested in. Indifference regarding a subject matter comes across clearly to a reader if an author is writing just for the sake of writing. Write for yourself, and write from the heart.

What do you think makes a good editor?
A good editor will have excellent punctuation, grammar, spelling, obviously. It couldn't hurt if the editor is a writer as well, or perhaps even an avid reader. That makes the editing more enjoyable and more personal than someone that is simply looking to make a quick buck and who happens to be skilled with grammar. Above all things an editor should listen to their author and consider their feelings above all other things. Listen to your client, address any concerns or desires they may have. Get to know the author as a person and offer yourself for open communication whenever they may need to contact you about anything. Never try to change an author's writing style and when you suggest changes do so because it is what is best for the author and the book--not for you. Always keep your client and their feelings in mind. Don't think of the author as simply someone to make money off of. They trust you with the manuscript that they have poured their heart and soul into and often their writing feels like their children. They wouldn't trust their children with just anyone, and so it's your job to take good care of their precious words.

When you're not editing what do you like to do?
When I am not editing I am usually writing or reading. My desire to be a part of this industry stems from my love of literature, and therefore I immerse myself within the world as much as possible. I also love music and movies (especially Old Hollywood classics). I'm a pretty big nerd so I love video games, science fiction, and astronomy. I am currently learning about table-top gaming, which I find incredibly interesting! I enjoy cooking and baking, being active outdoors, and visiting museums and local hotspots. I love football and baseball (go Cincinnati!!!).

You can find the two novels I have edited on Amazon for download, and I highly recommend them to anyone! I endorse these books not just because I worked on them, but because I believe in them and the author.
Look for the debut novel, "Root Song", part of the Natural Wonders Saga by Anna Edwards.
and "Speak Tenderly to her" by Ruth E. Griffin.
Also stayed tuned for the publication of "Death of Winter", written by talented new author Lori-Anne Sparks, set to be released in August. 
Twitter- @jaclynalee
Personal website- Currently developing