I'm very pleased to have CA Marshall, editor, writer, lit agent intern and blogger answer a few questions about being an editor, the good the bad and the cliched!
1. Other than the obvious reason of loving books, what made you want to become an editor?
This may sound odd, but I never actually planned or wanted to be an editor. I knew I liked books and words, but up until I got my MA, I had planned on being a midnight poet and working some other “normal” day job. During the last few years of undergrad though, I started editing papers for friends with Dyslexia and other writers who wanted a second set of eyes before turning something in. Those friends recommended me to their friends and so on until I had strangers asking me for help. When I learned that I could actually make a living as a freelance editor, it was like a light bulb clicked on. It was the perfect job for me and it just sort of fell into my lap. I’ve ever so grateful to those friends who recommended me way back when and set the whole thing in motion.
2. Being an editor, what is your #1 biggest pet peeve when reading a published book?
Endings. I hate being sucked into a really awesome book only to find out that it’s just a really long prologue for a second book or a series. It’s really, really annoying when that first book doesn’t do well (because the ending sucks) and then a second is never released. Be sure to wrap things up at the end, and make this book count.
3. What is your favourite part of the job? What is your least favourite?
Favorite: Spending all day in bed with my dog Mollie reading books and seeing those books go on to find agents and publishing contracts. Happy dancing is a favorite pastime.
Least favorite: Seeing a writer so clueless about everything in this business and having to sit down with them and basically destroy their world. I’m a teaching editor, not just a fixer, and it just kills me to have to give bad news but it’s got to be done.
But then another favorite is when those writers come back after revisions and research and learning and their work is phenomenally better. It might’ve stung at the time, but seeing writers grow and become better is amazing.
4. Approximately how many books/ms are you able to edit in a year?
This year I’ve tried to balance writing two books of my own, editing, and living a life, so I only did about twenty-five. I could do a few more next year now that I’ve found a good rhythm. I don’t like to schedule more than two edits at a time so that I can give the proper amount of attention to each though, so it won’t be a major jump in numbers.
5. As a writer and an editor, does this job leave you much time for your own writing?
If I make time for it, yes. Being an editor takes just as much time as any other full time job. Sometimes I have to say no to things in order to have time to do what I want. I don’t have a TV, so that helps. It’s all about deciding what is worth your time and what you’re willing to give up in order to do those things you love. For me, I want time to edit and work on my own stuff, and play with Mollie. That means giving up TV marathons and nights out and sometimes sleep to get things done. But it’s worth it.
6. Favourite all time book and character?
Oooh, that’s way hard… Um… Can I make a list instead?
Harry Potter series
Anything by Jane Austen
Terry Prachett’s Tiffany Aching series
Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers series
CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia
Beth Revis’ Across The Universe
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
Fiver (Watership Down)
Catherine Moreland (Northanger Abbey)
Rob Anybody (Wee Free Men)
Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle)
[I seem to like the sidekicks!]
7. How long did it take you to become an editor between any schooling and apprenticeship time?
My training happened over the last five years or so, in classes at college and university. Last February though, I decided to make it official and got a paypal address and a website and put that training to use as a freelancer. All of my clients this year have come through word of mouth, I’ve been really lucky there.
8. What are the one (or two) cliches you see over and over in books, either ones you edit or ones you read?
Cliches, like overused plot devices? I see a lot of "locking eyes with hot boy and am instantly in love." There's a lot of strange goings-on, like sometimes the book doesn't match its description; a romance with too much action and not enough relationship building, etc. Audience expectations and what your book delivers can make or break you. It's important to take a step back and make sure that the story as a whole fits together.
9. What is your best piece of advice for those looking to find an editor?
Ask around before Googling. There are a lot of websites with flashy promises and very little feedback. Ask your writing friends if they’ve used an editor and how their experiences were. After you’ve rounded up a few names with good reputations, then Google them. Find others who praise them or give questionable reviews. Ask for sample edits. Ask them how they work (teaching, fix only, one-time contact, available afterwards for questions, etc) and make sure they are a good fit for you. Ask for CV’s and references. If you’re going to drop $500-$1000+ you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best value and that the two of you are going to work well together.
C.A. Marshall is a freelance editor, lit agent intern, YA writer, and loves to play with her dog Mollie. She dreams of one day owning a small house near the water, preferably in England, with a shelf full of books she has written and has helped others to write. She can be found in Emmett, MI and at camarshall.com