Wednesday, July 24, 2013

After the Acceptance

We often see posts on the W1S1 blog from editors responsible for selecting stories from the slush piles, but what about after you've been selected. After signing some contracts, your story might be published as is. In other cases, particularly for novellas and novels, an editor will get involved and lead you through some revisions. Some writers cringe at the idea of being edited, but that's the wrong attitude. Your editor has a lot invested in your writing being a success. Remember, the editor's name often appears somewhere in the credits or acknowledgements. You should think of your editor as your best writing buddy, albeit a very honest one.

Katie Carroll is the author of the YA fantasy Elixir Bound and a content editor for MuseItUp Publishing. She's seen the editing process from both sides.

Jeff: What genres of books do you edit? Is it easier or harder to edit stories outside the genre in which you write?

Katie: I edit mostly young adult and middle grade books, pretty much across all genres from humorous contemporary to high fantasy. Though, you will find me occasionally editing a story for adults. I generally stay away from historical (like to read but not necessarily edit these) and gory horror (too scary for my overactive imagination!).

I’m not sure I would say it’s harder or easier to edit based on genre. A lot of what makes editing hard or easy has to do with the author I’m working with. One advantage to working in a genre I’ve written is that I’m likely to be very familiar with the tropes and style of that genre and what kind of voice is appropriate for it.

Jeff: What are your goals when you edit? What's your process?

Katie: I’m what MuseItUp calls a content editor, so that means I’m focusing on story and language, not necessarily line edits. By story I mean having fully fleshed out characters, a good story arc, a good opening hook, scenes that move the story forward. I also check for continuity issues and consistent point of view, among other things. For language, I’m looking at word choice, showing not telling, eliminating repetitive words or phrases, authentic dialogue, eliminating dialogue tags when possible, using active instead of passive words…and well the list could go on and on.

Jeff: What are some of the challenges you face when editing?

Katie: Effective communication is the biggest challenge when editing. I need to figure out a way (keep in mind I do all my editing through the computer, using primarily track changes and emails) to convey what I want in a clear way that the author will understand, but I also need to do it in a respectful manner that won’t offend the writer. As a writer myself, I know how hard it is to receive criticism, even when it’s constructive and thoughtful. I try to always remember that when making marks on a manuscript.

Jeff: What should writers do and not do to get the most out of the editing process?

Katie: I think the most important thing a writer can do during the editing process is keep an open mind. An editor is there is help you make the work the best it can be, and an editor won’t take on a project unless they are passionate about it themselves, so they really only want what’s best for the story. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you disagree with an editor, though. The key is to communicate why you disagree. Editors are humans; we make mistakes (not often but it happens from time to time ☺), and we make suggestions that you may not agree with. That’s okay. Just talk it over. Also, work hard at the editing process. This is your writing, with your name on it, so own it and push yourself to bring it to the next level.

Jeff: How has being an editor impacted your writing?

Katie: Being an editor has definitely made me a better writer and more importantly a better revisor. I’ve learned a whole new list of writing points to push my work to be better. It’s also helped me to be a better advocate for my own work. I have a better idea of what editors are looking for and how to pitch a story with the market in mind. I used to find writing jacket copy and synopses so difficult, but now I can step aside from my own writing and see it from an editor’s perspective. Somehow it makes the synopsis type stuff easier to create.

20 comments:

  1. Great post, Katie and Jeff. Thanks for the behind the scenes look. I totally agree: communication is key.

    As a MuseItUp author (and no, Katie isn't my editor), I must say, the editors I've worked with have been fantastic. They really want my work to shine and we communicate with each other to make sure that's what happens.

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    1. Hi, Mary! I think most editors really do just want to make the author's work shine, even if it sometimes just feels like they're pointing out all the places where things aren't working! :)

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  2. Thanks, Jeff, for the great interview!

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    1. You're welcome, Katie. I'm sure your responses will give many writers a new perspective on the process.

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  3. A very interesting look at publishing a novel from the other side, Katie and Jeff. I've discovered that realizing your editor is there to make your book the best it can be is the first step in becoming a better writer. It gets a little easier with every book I write, so I know I'm on the right track. Thanks guys!!

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    1. Thanks, Suzanne! It's been like a whole writing school for me to see books from the editorial side.

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  4. I am one of the lucky authors who benefits from Katie's editing. Let me just say, she's FABULOUS!! My YA high fantasy novel has improved so much under her astute guidance! :) And thanks to Katie (and my awesome group of critique partners), I'll know what to watch for on my next manuscript! Always learning! :)

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    1. Awww, you're always making me blush, Erin! Erin's story was pretty fabulous to begin with, so it made my job that much more fun. Every book I write is a new learning experience. One of these days I might actually feel like I know what I'm doing when writing a novel!

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    2. Awwww...thanks! :)

      LOL! I hope I feel like I know what I'm doing one day! ;)

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  5. I'd like to second everything Erin just said. I too benefited from Katie's suggestions. A great author once said, "the editor is always right." As much as I'd like to change it to "almost" always right, 0.99999 repeating is the same as 1 (don't argue with me, it can be proven). Sometimes the editors suggestion is a hard pill to swallow, but take the red pill, face reality, see what lies at the bottom of the rabbit hole. Right, Erin?

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    1. I love my authors! And, yes, always take the red pill and go down the rabbit hole...

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    2. Yes, red pill for sure!! :)

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  6. I admire good editors. One of those skills I know I don't have. Wonderful, Katie.

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    1. I had to chuckle at this, Mirka, because I am far better at editing other peoples' works than I am at my own. It's so much harder to see what my own story/writing needs.

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  7. Another editor Katie victim, er I mean, um, well, actually, working with Katie as my editor was fantastic!!! Sorry. Couldn't resist adding exclamation points. I feared the editorial process would be daunting and overwhelming and yet it was challenging and fun. I hope to get the opportunity to work with Katie again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here and for being such an easy to work with editor. ^_^

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    1. LOL! Have I given the reduce the exclamation points lecture to all my authors? I hope to work with you again, too, Angelina! And go ahead and use those exclamation points on the Internet...just the right place for them. :)

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  8. Haha! Did you get the exclamation point hand slap too, Angelina?? ;)

    We are showing the Katie love!! <3 Katie's authors REPRESENT!! :)

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    1. Woohoo for my authors! Thanks for all the love.

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  9. Love this interview. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the editing process.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl.

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