Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today.
Please introduce yourself. Hi, I’m Nikki Andrews, AKA Kinan Werdski or Runs With Bears. Long stories.
How did you get into this line of work? Several years ago, a bunch of authors were featured in a collection by a very small local publisher. The editing was so poor that I begged to fix at least the punctuation. That led to a standing position at the company, with more responsibility as time went on. By the time the company folded, I had discovered how much I love the work, and sought out possibilities for freelance and contract work.
Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? Do you have any you love? I don’t accept erotica, porn, or dystopian novels, simply because I don’t like them. I love mysteries, classic sci-fi, and well-written fantasy.
Are you also a writer? If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor? Yes, I am. I self-edit, but also submit to my writing group, and welcome editing by my publisher. If I were self-publishing, I would definitely hire an editor to check my work.
What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors? I think authors short-change themselves by trying to edit their own work. Editing is a different skill from writing, requiring a whole other set of qualifications. Most important of all, an editor is not emotionally attached to a manuscript, and can see where changes need to be made.
Have you ever refused a manuscript? Other than for genres I usually refuse, I rarely turn down work. On occasion I have advised authors that their work needs more than ordinary editing; they may need a writing coach or instructor. In those cases, I’m willing to help, but because the work is much more intense, my fees are accordingly higher.
Have you ever had an author refuse your suggestions/changes? If so how did you deal with it? In my freelance work, a self-publishing author is, of course, free to do what she wants with my suggestions. However, if an author brings me a new story with exactly the same issues as the ones I corrected in his first manuscript, I gently suggest he refer to our previous work together before I contract the new one.
In work contracted to a press, I explain in detail why the change needs to be made and offer alternatives. I cite company policies and contracts, which often require edits to be made to company satisfaction. If all else fails–and this has never happened to me–a book might not be published if the author refuses to make satisfactory changes.
Editors often receive a bad press in the writing community, what are your thoughts on this? As an author, I understand the feeling. Editors criticize your book, which is like a stranger criticizing your child. But for an editor, it’s never personal; it’s always about improving the work. We may have different ideas on what “improvement” means, even among ourselves, but the goal is always to polish the gem.
Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word Manuscript. Regardless of length, I start with the big picture, the content. Is the story compelling, the characters well-rounded, the setting realistic within its genre? Does every scene serve a purpose, whether to advance the plot, develop the world, or deepen the emotion? The key question here is, “Do I want to read more?” If not, why not, and what can be done to make it more engaging?
Then (and often simultaneously) I do the line editing, which encompasses finding the right words, clarifying point of view, checking the flow of dialogue and narrative, verifying consistency, rooting out anachronisms, and more. Finally (and again simultaneously) I check grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
What is the difference between proof-reading and editing? Good question. Some people are under the impression that editing is making sure commas are in the right place. Nope, that’s proof-reading, which looks for the sort of errors that creep in when you’re writing in the middle of the night: there/they’re/their, or is/are, or !/? Proof-reading is “proving,” in the original sense of “testing,” that the text is exactly what you meant it to be, with all the p’s and q’s correct and every word in the right place. It’s a very painstaking process, but different from editing.
Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t? I love watching stories and characters come alive, and seeing writing grow stronger and more dynamic. I hate teaching how to punctuate dialogue.
Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? What genre do you enjoy the most? Housework can wait. Cooking can wait. Visiting relatives can definitely wait. I’d much rather read. I probably read more mysteries than anything else, but I also enjoy science fact and fiction, mainstream fiction, and history.
If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?” As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always “edited” my reads. If a book can make me switch off, I dance.
What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? Get some nuns to teach you basic grammar. Preferably with a ruler across the knuckles. Failing that, and in addition, read some good style guides. Study well-edited books (ask your librarian for suggestions) and figure out what makes them special. Take a course or two or five. Read. Read. Read.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit? Don’t.
Tell us a silly fact about yourself. I settle editorial disagreements with hard copies of Roget’s or CMOS at ten paces.
Please add any links to your blog/website etc.