Who is on the plum tree?
For many years, I was a singer. I sang with famous people, performed in my own right, toured with bands and recorded.
In the studio, a producer is the one who holds the overall vision for the track/album, tweaks performance, helps interpretation, brings out the best in you, adds the magic sparkle.
Finding a great editor is a bit like that. S/he must be literate and broadly educated enough to understand voice, background, rhythm, nuance and composition, apart from knowing grammar. S/he must also know the ways in which we colloquialise language or allow sluggish habits to creep into ordinary, daily speech. In a narrative voice, these should not appear on our pages (unless specific for certain dialogue).
The relationship with an editor is delicate, intimate, trusting. Your creation is, after all, intensely personal until such time as it is fledged. I am careful whom I trust with my works of heart and soul.
I am lucky enough to have found my editor-of-choice. Shawn Mackenzie is a wonderful writer in her own right. She is editing the follow-up to my book: Orange Petals In A Storm. Exaltation Of A Rose will be released towards the end of the year.
I wanted to introduce Shawn to you, as I think I have found a treasure. I asked her to illustrate her approach to editing by asking her the following:
1.Why is having an editor so important apart from the obvious: finding typos.
Personally, I believe every writer – even the best of us – benefits from a good editor. After weeks, months, years of crafting our novels or volumes of poetry, we become so close to them that we can no longer distinguish the highs from the lows. Either every word seems a gem from the lips of the Muses or a great brown slug leaving nothing but a trail of slime through our once beautiful garden. An editor gives us the perspective of fresh eyes. And this is not the same as showing your work to Grandma Esther who will love every word because that’s her job. She’s family. An editor is a professional. Her job is not to coddle; it is to make your work the best it can be. If our manuscripts are our children about to have their debut, then editors are their finishing school, there to make sure they put their best foot forward and don’t get laughed at for using the wrong fork or drinking from the finger bowl.
As for typos – while a line edit or solid proofing will pick them up, it is a waste of your hard earned cash to have your editor mired in a slew of sloppy errors. Not to mention it tends to piss an editor off no end. Before getting to the point of seeking outside eyes, take assiduous advantage of spellcheck and a good dictionary. These are the tools of our craft and should be used well.
2) What, in your opinion, defines a great editor?
To answer this question, let me slip on my writer’s hat. As a writer, I want an editor who works with me, not against me. Someone who does not pull punches, even to the point of saying, flat out, this just doesn’t work. I don’t need pats on the back; I need a clear eye and fresh ear. (That said, it helps to have someone who knows how to critique without crushing the spirit.) I look for an editor who can tell me where I stray from my tale, lose the authenticity of my characters, the humanity of my story, or simply get too caught up in the sound of my own words. I look for an editor who respects my voice, who helps me enhance and refine it, make it sing, not someone who wants to impose their own voice on my writing. A great editor is detailed, meticulous, knows their stuff, but can also think outside of the box. They see the forest as well as each knot on each bole of each individual tree. That is the sort of editor I strive to be.
Remember that the relationship between writer and editor is like that between dance partners. Not everyone moves to the same rhythm. Find someone who gets you, and vice versa. Many editors – myself included – will offer a trial edit of 3-5 pages – a spin around the proverbial dance floor – just so you know the fit is right.
3) How would you define the editing process? Does it have stages?
The editing process depends a lot on the condition of a manuscript and what the author wants/needs. In the early stages, you might want a structural edit or beta read. This is a general read-though and critique of plot, character, dialogue, etc. It is designed to give the author a sense of whether or not they are on the right track.
When you feel your manuscript is just about ready for its public unveiling – be it going to agents or publishers or onto the e-book market – then you’d be looking for a detailed line-edit. As it sounds, this is when the editor goes line by line, word by word. They pick off the small as well as the big: the clunky phrase, the misplaced comma, as well as that big oops in temporal continuity or character development that slipped past.Understandably, a beta read is much cheaper than a line edit. Either way, you don’t want to waste your money and an editor’s time with a first draft. Before going the professional route, write and rewrite, self-edit, take your work to your writers’ group if you’re fortunate enough to have one. Use these resources. They are invaluable. And then, when you are ready, find the editor who fits.
4) Where can people find you?
For anyone wishing to see a sample of my work, I have two books out from Llewellyn Worldwide: The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook and Dragons for Beginners, both of which can be explored on Amazon.
My work can also be found at my web site,
For editing terms and rates, I can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. All work is strictly confidential.