Questions for Nan: PART ONE – EDITING TIPS TO FOLLOW.
Curiosity has always got the better of me. I like to know about people and what makes them tick. Okay call it being nosey, I don’t care. 😊
I wrote a blog a while ago: Editors are Angels. The good ones are worth their weight in gold, hence why I’m excited to have Nancy Swanson here on my blog today.
So, please give a warm welcome to my editor Nan Swanson
- An editing angel.
LG: Hi Nan, thanks so much for taking the time to be here and if you don’t mind I’m going to get straight on with my first question:
When did you first realise you had a panache for editing?
In 8th Grade (age 13-14) my classmates would hand me their reports and essays before turning them in to the teacher, asking me to check them for mistakes. I’ve been “editing” ever since, off and on, in various kinds of jobs. I used to say I have printer’s ink in my blood, since my grandfather was a printer and I was in his print shop at playpen age, plus off and on ever since. My grandmother did proofreading and other things in the shop, and my mother ran the linotype sometimes, before she became an English teacher. See what I mean?
LG: Have you always worked as an editor?
I was an English major in college/university and taught English grammar and literature to teenagers for a number of years. Later I took a course in editing also, because some freelance editing came my way occasionally no matter what I was doing in life, sometimes through friends and acquaintances, sometimes through a small ad here or there. Officially I began “wearing the hat” of being an editor with a publishing company in June of 2007, when TWRP was looking for more editors than they had started with the year before.
LG: What do you find is the most difficult part of your job?
LOL. Rejecting a manuscript. I can almost always see promise in what someone has written and submitted, and I never want to discourage anyone from expressing their ideas and thoughts and values in writing. Still, there are guidelines for what can be accepted for publication, and I try to abide by them. If I can steer an author toward what needs to be done to improve her or his writing and/or make it acceptable, that’s my goal even when I have to say we can’t contract it.
LG: What factors do you look for in a manuscript worthy of publishing?
Basically the same things I look for in a book I’d buy for my own reading enjoyment—interesting characters, as unique as possible in plot, reasonable setting, well written (i.e., not boring).
LG: What is your worst nightmare when editing?
Finding the author has put a lot of development and polish into the first part of the book but seems to have just dropped all effort by the middle, letting me and any potential readers limp to the close almost on our own.
LG: How do authors generally react when you suggest editorial changes?
Most thank me, some respond with questions on things they thought they had right, and we discuss, but none have yet been upset and angry, as far as I know from their communication. My philosophy is that what I do in edits is (a) try to follow TWRP’s house rules and guidelines (using CMOS – Chicago Manual of Style – as a guide) for punctuation and spelling (which must be U.S., not UK), and (b) suggest wording changes aimed at making things more clear for readers and at polishing the gem the author has offered, keeping in mind that the work belongs to the author and I’m just wanting to help make it better, make it clear and exact so readers can dash along as fast as possible chasing the plot line to the end of the story, the usual goal of the readers.
If an author doesn’t like what I’ve done to their wording, they are quite free to revert to the original or revise further if they wish. Sometimes I explain in a comment just why I made a change, which helps the author understand the reasoning behind it. I often have to explain that a clause or phrase at the beginning of a sentence needs to refer to what comes immediately after it. For instance: “Dancing across the waves, she saw a jet-ski coming at high speed toward her rowboat.” Hmm. So who or what was dancing across the waves? The sentence actually says she was. But you know that’s not what is meant, so the sentence needs to change. It could be “Looking across the waves, she saw…” or it could be “Dancing across the waves came a jet-ski at high speed directly toward her rowboat.” Or the author may have another revision instead. Just an example of an explanation I might give.
LG: How does an editor decide which genre they prefer to work in?
In my experience, it’s what I’ve always been partial to in my own reading, because that’s what I know the most about for construction, details, etc. Also, what the company needs can come into play, if guidelines are available to know what’s allowed – for instance, I sometimes wander over into our Fantasy department, especially for time travel stories that jump into the Historical. But I try desperately to avoid werewolves and vampires and anything too dark, because I’ve never read books about those and have no real knowledge of behaviour patterns or the many indicators referenced in their stories. The same used to be true of Steampunk, but I’ve spent a few years on one particular series of Steampunk and have loved it, at least that series from that author! I have no idea whether other authors’ Steampunk work would be similar or would put me off it entirely.
LG: What should authors look out for when they are proof-reading and editing to help streamline their novels?
Editing should deal primarily with content, with slightly less emphasis on presentation, possibly. I encourage authors to read their work aloud and listen for repetition of words or phrases, or variants of them, within just a few lines. Love – loved – loving for instance. Names can sometimes be repetitious without needing to be. I knew an author once who would use the heroine’s name several times in one paragraph for no reason. “She” would have worked just as well, because the heroine was alone, the only female in the room, so no confusion possible on the reader’s part!
Proofreading should include watching for typographical errors, like missing quotation marks on dialogue and doubled periods at the end of a sentence. But you can’t forget to watch for little things like a missing “to” or “in” where you want “it” instead. That’s where reading aloud is helpful also. Reading for the sense of it is important, too. Does the timeline hang together sensibly? Was this character’s name spelled differently 2 chapters ago? Where is that room, if they went up the stairs to it earlier but now the wheelchair goes there easily? Some of these things will be caught during edits, but sometimes they get missed until the final galley is being proofread!
LG: What are your favourite ‘releases’ from the stresses of your workload?
My brain gets overloaded with words by Friday afternoon, so my weekends are often devoted to sewing…quilting, more specifically. I love putting together gorgeous fabrics, sometimes according to a pattern if I can persuade my mind to stick with someone else’s idea! Rested somewhat with that hobby, I’ll watch TV with my daughter for relaxation. We like “NCIS” and have a standing date with BBC on our PBS station on the weekends for “Father Brown” and “Death in Paradise” and some of the older series that used to be on, not just crime stories but things like “Ballykissangel” and some others.
Nan, thank you so much for giving up your valuable time. I know I’ve sent you emails over weekends and yet you still responded. I always thought/hoped you’d bank them until the Monday, when your working week started. So it’s very kind, especially as I must have dragged you away from ‘relaxing’ which has always bothered me.
I’m positive that many of my readers and the writers who read this blog, will find the information you have shared invaluable. I know I have.
My next blog will incorporate the information on editing shared by Nan! It’s a perfect revision /editing tool, and I know editing can be the hardest, yet the most rewarding part of the process of writing. Personally, I never feel satisfied and am always working on ways to improve.
Last but not least, I confess the hardest bit for me with regard communication with your good self has been via email. Living in the UK, while you live in the US has been a tad difficult. When we did a ‘face to face’ is via ZOOM it was hugely helpful. I always felt I needed to gauge whether I was on the right tracks, and knew I kept sending emails which would only clog up your time and effort, so when we did get to speak it was brilliant. At last I could selfishly meet you in person, get to know you a little better, and ask a million questions without having to write them.
Take care and thank you.
I would be grateful for any feedback / pleasant comments bots, you are a total waste of space.
#historical #romance #literature #women #saga #fiction #WW11 #mystery #crime
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13 Replies to “Editors are Angels”
Thank you this was really wonderful
I enjoyed this interview, Ladies! And I agree with this statement, Lynn: “Editors are Angels”. My editor is fabulous in polishing my manuscript. All the best!
Hi Mary, thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my blog. I am so grateful to wonderful comments. I’ll be sure to share them with Nan.
Thank you Nan and Linda for this wonderful and enlightening interview! The relationship between an author and editor is a very special one. I have a particular favorite editor who has been so kind and patient with my work, she has become a friend. Thanks, Nan!
How lovely to hear this Laura. We are so lucky aren’t we. Thanks for responding to my post.
Love the interview. Isn’t that one of the nicest things about writing in The Garden–marvelous people to work with like your editor. Congrats to both if you!
Oh Kim, how wonderful to hear from you. I totally agree. The garden is the best.
Nan is the best! And I will make sure my wheelchair-using character uses the elevator!
Oh Linda, how great to hear from you. I’m glad it was useful. There’s another post to come shortly.
What a great interview with some wonderful insight for authors. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Terry. It’s so heartening to know that I can get replies without SPAM.
Great questions and answers. Thank you for sharing Nan’s thoughts. Her suggestions are most helpful in creating a better-polished manuscript!
Thank you Jan for commenting. I’m glad you enjoyed it. There’s one more to come. And thank goodness I can read a decent message without disgusting SPAM.