Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guest blog-- editor becomes writer

From Alicia: Nancy Reinhardt has had a varied and intriguing career in writing and editing! I knew her many years ago in my RWA chapter, and she suggested I apply for a free-lance job that ended up being quite lucrative for me. She's a generous member of the writer community, as you can see from her website! A couple years ago-- small world-- a California publisher hired her to copy edit my husband's book. And we're in the same town! Small world, huh? Anyway, she's got a book coming out, and I wanted to ask her about the experience of publication after copy editing. I really am wondering if she can copy edit her own work! :)

1. Nancy, can you tell us a little about your career as an editor and writer?

I’ve always been a writer—as long as I can remember. I wrote my first novel at age 10. It filled up three composition notebooks and was about my older sister, who was in high school falling in love with a member of the rock band, Herman’s Hermits. From that point on, I was completely hooked on writing happily-ever-after kinds of stories. I’ve been journaling and writing ever since. Life kind of got in the way, but in 1984, I took a story I’d written to the RWA National Conference and showed it to an editor from Silhouette. She was so kind and told me that I needed to take some classes and keep working at it. I was completely deflated and put the story away.

At about the same time, a friend from a writer’s group I belonged to needed someone to help her with her communications business, so I worked with her and that’s where I learned how to be a proofreader and copyeditor. I discovered I really have a gift for it. About sixteen years ago, I went to IDG Books (now Wiley Publishing) and took their For Dummies series proofreading test, passed it, and took a project home with me that day. I’m still working with Wiley as a proofreader and copyeditor. In the ensuing years, I’ve built up a client list for nonfiction copyediting by cold-calling publishers, being willing to take tests, and doing the work. I’ve taken several classes and seminars about editing and I read voraciously on the topic. The industry has moved from paper to electronic editing, so I’ve had to pick up new skills along the way. I do think that people underestimate the work an editor does. I’m not sitting on the sofa in my jammies with a box of chocolates, a paperback, and a highlighter and red pen. It’s focused work where you are in front of a computer screen often trying to make sense of material that you know absolutely nothing about. Frequently, the authors I edit aren’t writers per se—they’re experts in their fields—so my job is help make them sound as smart as they really are by tweaking language, maintaining consistency, and fixing grammar and punctuation.

The novel writing came back into my life after my son left the nest. The characters started stepping out of my imagination again and I wrote. New life experiences and travel and just being braver gave me the courage to send my first complete novel to an agent in New York. She loved it, signed me as a client, and is now shopping it to publishers while I continue writing more books.

2. What is the difference in tasks between the different types of editing?

Great question. I am a copyeditor, also known as a line editor, which means I come in about midway through the publishing process, after the development editor has worked with the author to refine content and make any substantive changes to how it is being presented. I read every word of a manuscript to make sure it flows and makes sense. Then I get busy with the mechanics of the work—grammar, punctuation, structure, making sure authors are staying active and maintaining a consistent voice. I also verify that headings and references are correct and consistent. The manuscript goes back to the author after that, then sometimes back to me or sometimes back to the project editor (who more or less shepherds the whole process from start to finish), and then on to layout before going to a proofreader. Basically—very basically—the development editor is the “big picture” person and the copyeditor is into the details.

3. How has your editing background helped you as a writer?

Frankly, it’s helped and hindered me. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer (a pantser) which means I don’t make outlines or particularly know everything that’s going to happen in my stories until I write them. But, the editor in me can’t resist going back over everything I write and tweaking it and tweaking it...so I sometimes slow myself down because I get caught up in editing instead of simply telling the story and then going back to polish it. The editor knows the grammar rules, how to spell, and has a good vocabulary—all things that help the writer be more creative and ultimately send out a polished professional manuscript.

4. Tell us about how you submitted and sold your book?

I have my critique partner to thank for this first sale—she sent me to BookStrand Publishing, a romance e-publisher. I went to their web page, followed the submission guidelines, and sent in the manuscript. About three weeks later, I got an offer to publish RULE NUMBER ONE.

5.  What's the best piece of advice you can give writers about revising their book?

First, find a critique partner and work with that person. Listen to what they have to say. Find beta readers and listen to what they have to say. Then don’t think that your words are golden; be willing to change them if you need to. I’m not saying that you have to destroy your story or write to a formula, although with category romance there is an expectation of a certain kind of story. But writers who refuse to change anything at all won’t sell their books. Be ready to rewrite if you need to. Take criticism well—and find people who will be honest with you. There’s a difference between honest and hurtful—you’ll figure out fast who really wants to help you, so stick with those people.

The flip side of this is that you have to trust your own instincts, too. Otherwise, you’ll always be editing and polishing. At some point, you have to step away from the keyboard, pronounce the work done, and move on to the next one.

6. What's the best piece of advice about working with an editor?

Trust them. Most editors just want to help you make your story or manuscript better, and really good editors are very conscious of your voice—they don’t want to change your story just for the sake of changing it. They want to help you create the best work you can. And edits aren’t personal—most of the time, I’ve never met my authors, I know only what I read in their bios in the Preface of the book. My job is to make you sound as smart as I’m sure you are—that’s all. Work with your editors, don’t fight them on everything, and know that they’re trying to help you.

7. Can you give us a description of your story?

How about if I give you the blurb for the book?

Decorator and home stager Katy Ruth Gilligan has sworn off men. She’s been married to two no-good cheating weasels, so when handsome book publisher Jack Walsh shows up on her doorstep and pretends to be her hired escort, she’s not one bit amused. Jack’s back home from traveling the world as a journalist, ready to take over as CEO of his family’s publishing business. Not only does he want to hire Katy’s firm to renovate his family’s historic building, he’s also very interested in exploring the attraction between them. At first, she’s humiliated and furious, but the job will put her on a fast track to success. Despite the fact that she’s drawn to her new client, Katy’s determined to protect her heart. Can Jack convince her that the third time’s a charm? 
Here's the "buy link:"  http://www.bookstrand.com/rule-number-one


Anonymous said...

Alicia, Thanks for the intro to Nan. I popped over to her website, laughed out loud at her stretch pants post, and added her to my daily read list. Nan, good luck with your new release!

Nan said...

Joan, thanks so much! I'm pleased as punch that you're following my blog!

Robena Grant said...

Nan, I'm so happy for you. Read your news on sales. Yay!
Also, I must say that I'm loving the book and can't wait to get back to what Kate and Jack are up to. : )
These are great interview questions. It's interesting to hear about your experience as an editor and how that works, or doesn't work for you, as the writer.

Liz Flaherty said...

I'm happy for you, too, and so glad we "found" each other! Great interview, and anyone who's written for any length of time at all appreciates editors at all the different steps. (Well, most of the time. You know.)

Sandy James said...

Congratulations on the new book, Nan!! And thanks for the great interview, Alicia!! :D

Nan said...

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by!
Roben--so glad you're enjoying the book!
Liz--right back atcha! I know sometimes it's tough to be edited--being on the other side of the manuscript was a little weird for me, but your book was wonderful. The author and the editor both did a great job!
Sandy--you're the best as always--I couldn't have done it without you, partner!