Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today. Hi! Thanks for the lovely welcome, and thank you for supporting so many authors and editors.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your editing experience. I’m Laurie, but you probably already know that. I’ve been copyediting, proofreading, and doing light developmental editing for about twenty years, back in the days of red pens and stuff. My educational and early professional background is in journalism, advertising, and marketing. I edited and proofed novels on the side, at first informally, for writing colleagues and my own work. About seven years ago, I moved into it professionally. Now, nearly all the authors I edit are indies.
How did you get into this line of work? It’s been an odd, slow climb. My mother went back to school when I was a kid, and by the time I was in junior high, she had me proofreading her papers. Taking advantage of my knack for finding errors, I guess. In college, I studied journalism and advertising—more editing there. Wherever I worked, it seemed, I became the person everyone went to before any writing went out the door. It feels like I evolved into editing and writing on parallel paths, gathering more training as I went along.
Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? Apologies to the zombie fans, but I don’t need the nightmares.
Are you also a writer? If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor? Yes, I’m the author of four novels and one novella, and my work has been published in several anthologies. I self-edit to the best of my ability, but like so many other writers, I reach a point of saturation and need fresh eyes. After getting input from beta readers, I do hire an editor. It’s so hard to edit your own work thoroughly.
Have you ever refused a manuscript? I’ve never been in that position, although I might if it looked like the author needed to take another spin through the manuscript before editing – either because the story wasn’t well-developed enough or needed so many basic changes that it wouldn’t be cost-effective for the author to pay for several rounds of edits.
Have you ever had an author refuse your suggestions/changes? If so how did you deal with it? Authors ultimately own their stories and can accept or refuse my suggestions. Some have declined, either on grounds of style or artistic license. I’m okay with that. In some cases, I’ve tried to make an argument for accepting a change, but you can’t force someone’s hand, particularly in areas that are subjective. The proper use of a semicolon, yes. Grammar constructs that leave a sentence vague, yes. Using a fragment when appropriate, I’m not going to argue. Breaking a “rule” if it works with the rhythm and tone of your book, ditto. If an author is dinged for grammatical or spelling errors in a review, then perhaps he or she should have taken my suggestions. Or at least have hired a proofreader to look at it before publication.
Editors often receive a bad press in the writing community, what are your thoughts on this? I’ve seen two major arguments in the community. The first, I think, is when authors equate “editor” with “an enemy against creativity who will screw up my book,” either by sterilizing the author’s voice or creating a cookie-cutter story. Ugh. It fills me with such despair to hear those memes. And often it’s because the author is envisioning the type of editor who acquires manuscripts in big publishing houses. Most editors who work with indie authors do not do that. I wouldn’t dream of rewriting someone’s work or tinkering with an author’s voice. If an author is still developing his or her voice, I might make suggestions that a different sentence structure or breaking some habits could make the work stronger. But I’m not out to murder your creativity. The other argument I’ve heard comes from authors who have been burned by editors—either because the communication was poor or the editor didn’t provide what the author needed. Or both.
What is the difference between proofreading and editing? Proofreading used to mean just that – reading the proofed galleys for typos and formatting errors before a book went to press. As it stands today, it’s the last step before publishing – generally a good looking-through to find errors in spelling, punctuation, spacing, homophone choices, and other irritants that might not have been caught in earlier editing. That’s the fine-tuning. Editing can come in a number of levels: developmental editing looks at the big picture, the story arc, and the character development. Depending on who is defining it, line editing or copyediting really gets into the trenches with a story and looks at sentence structure and flow, grammar, consistency, tenses, word choice, rhythm, repetition, and all those small, silly things that keep your work from reading smoothly.
Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t? I love the first read-through of a manuscript, especially when I get a ripping good story from an experienced author. I don’t particularly like giving an author—especially a beginning author who has never been edited before—a marked-up manuscript so full of comments the Word file keeps crashing. I know it’s part of the process, but I empathize with how the author might feel seeing all those suggestions. Especially if it could involve cutting large sections or plot points going awry.
Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? What genre do you enjoy the most? I adore reading. It’s a daily habit. I like to read a little bit of everything, but I really love to dive into some thick, tasty prose: general fiction, literary fiction, historical…in fact, most genres, as long as they’re well written with good character development.
If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?” If I’m reading for pleasure, I have to consciously switch off or else I’ll be bothering myself about semicolon usage and word choices.
What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? Just as I’d tell a beginning writer, reading and understanding the craft of the English language is your base. Each genre has its own flavor; for instance, if you only read romance, you might not serve a mystery author as well as an editor who knows what a red herring is. Get some training. Buy a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style or subscribe online. If you’re just starting out, offer to do a few jobs for free to build up references and experience. Starting with proofreading jobs can give you a great foundation and experience—proofreaders often move into copyediting. If you’re freelancing, learn about the business side: good communication skills go a long way.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit? It’s in an author’s best interest to do as much self-editing as possible before submitting a manuscript to a publisher. These days, agents and publishers expect a more polished submission. If you’re publishing independently, a good self-edit can save you time and money when and if you choose to hire a professional editor. Some authors can self-edit well enough to publish without an editor, although I would recommend one. There are a lot of tricks to help with the self-editing, but it’s tough to get perspective when you’ve read the same manuscript seventeen times.
Tell us a silly fact about yourself. Okay, this is weird, but I collect nineteenth-century etiquette books. Sometimes I can find them in small antique or used bookstores. They’re not that expensive—the last one I found was seven bucks—and they’re amusing, from a cultural perspective. One of my favorite passages involves how to help a lady down from a horse.
Please add any links to your blog/website etc. Thank you for letting me visit. I’d love to hear from you.
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon/author/laurieboris