Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Interview with Blueberry Books

I find it so easy to get lost in the finer details of editing. Typos, punctuation and formatting are my stock-in-trade. But sometimes I need help to see the bigger picture. That twist in Act 1 might not correspond with the pay-off in Act 3. That metaphor might not make sense outside of my head. And where did that plot device go?

That's where an editor comes in. Introducing Katie Wheeler, founder of Blueberry Books, whose insight, perspective and shrewd attention to detail have proved invaluable to my work.

Following a painstaking review process, (in which I imagine Katie curled up in a comfy chair with a hot drink and some snacks and elatedly read my masterpiece cover-to-cover), I received a huge list of pros, cons and questions to address in my final draft. I was impressed by the depth and breadth of these observations. Now it all looked so simple. 

So simple indeed.

"How do you make it look so simple?" I begged.

"We'll need to do this properly," came the reply.

And so we began.

"How do you tackle a gargantuan task like editing an entire novel?"

"With a lot of patience. I love editing, but it is a time-consuming process and there are always going to be scenes, characters and plotlines that take a while to get right."

"What’s the one piece of advice you would give someone starting to revise their manuscript? (Besides hiring you of course.)"

"Don’t try to do it all at once. A lot of writers try to edit their manuscripts in one revision, but if you’re trying to catch everything, you’ll miss most of it. The best way to edit is in stages, looking for different things to improve in each revision. First, I’d say you should try and get your plot right. Then, work on your characters. Next, your scenes – you’ll want to check each one is properly structured. Once you’re happy with those storytelling aspects, you can start on the prose (which you’ll want to divide further into descriptions and dialogue etc.)"

"Amazing ideas. I like to treat each scene like its own short story that must be able to stand on its own. But afterwards, what do you do to wind down, relax and take your mind off your manuscript?"
"I think it’s important to do something completely different when you’re trying to give your mind a rest, so I try to do something active – I usually need some exercise after sitting at my desk for too long. But, when I’m feeling lazy, it’s usually making a batch of flapjacks and settling down with a book or a boxset."

"What are you watching?"

"I [just] started watching True Blood again."

"One of my favourites!"

"I like anything that approaches vampires from a slightly different angle. And I think the characters are all very interesting. Sookie is active and full of personality from the start, which is a huge contrast to other series in the same genre."

"In your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake someone could make during the editing process?"

"Getting too attached to things, characters, scenes, concepts. You don’t want to keep something that adds nothing, or even detracts from the story, just because you like it. The editing process works best when a writer can detach themselves from the writing and work to make the story the best it can be."

"It's a difficult process, but totally worth it. And speaking of being detached, what was it like working with me? (Don’t hold back!)"

"Working with you is always a challenge (in a good way) because it generally involves multiple timelines, parallel universes or other complications, which makes it much harder to pick out plot holes and spot inconsistencies. But you were very responsive and willing to accept or discuss most of my edits and suggestions, which always makes the process more effective. And, of course, spending time with your (slightly odd) assortment of characters was great fun."

I always find that another reader's opinion is so, so important when looking for ways to edit and improve a work. Even writers who aren't prepared to hire professional editors can benefit so much from the advice of a friend they trust to be honest. After all, you can't write in a vacuum, and you can't write solely for yourself. Good writing deserves to be shared!

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