Interview with an Editor

Katie-bree Reeves is a freelance editor from Fair Crack of the Whip, proofreading and editing services, operating from her base in Ballarat, Australia.

With qualifications in professional proofreading and editing from the College of Journalism, she has worked with many writers over the years by both beta reading and professionally editing their manuscripts. A self-confessed book lover, Katie-bree loves to be a part of the writing process, talking characters and words with writers from all over the world.

Katie-bree has very kindly agreed to this interview, to discuss some challenges a writer can come across when choosing an editor, and the different editing options available.

Let us begin …

Katie-Bree, when someone says ‘You need to get an editor’ this can seem quite a frightening, or overwhelming advice to a lot of writers; especially those just starting out. What you say to help put them at ease?

Choosing an editor sounds frightening, but the reality is, a good editor is there to help, not to make things more challenging. While it may seem like there are so many options available and so many edits to choose from, there are a few things to know that will make the process smoother and easier 😁 Editors use the word ‘changes’ a lot-you’ll read it in their emails, on their websites, and even on Google when researching what in the world an editor actually does, but it’s important to remember you are, and always will be, in charge of your own story. I NEVER force someone to alter something. Editors are there to make suggestions, to recommend alternative options to you, and you should always be able to talk to your editor throughout the entire process. Editing isn’t scary; it’s a helping hand. They are there as a guide to read your work from a different perspective and to help you make it the best it can possibly be, polishing it to perfection.

There are so many different types of editing and editors out there. Are you able to explain what the different types are, and also what services you provide?

The different kinds of edits available can make things very confusing, especially when some people use the terms interchangeably, but they can generally be broken down into a few major categories:

Critiquing is usually the first stage of an edit and, to be honest, not always necessary. It is basically an intense beta read. Someone will read your work and highlight/flag areas of improvement, adding comments or making suggestions. It is broad based, and when I critique I tend to also add an overall analysis of what I thought of the novel from both a writer’s and a reader’s POV. This is meant to give you an idea of where to focus on your writing and what your strengths and weaknesses are before you pay the big money for a major edit. While I recommend a critique, if you were looking to save a little money, there are quite a few beta readers out there who will read your work for free and still give you decent advice, if you are willing to be patient in finding the right person. If building a house, this would be like choosing the plot of land on which to build.

Developmental edits are definitely the first point of call in the editing stage. This is the nuts and bolts of writing, the gritty stuff that gets to the core of your story. Here is where the editor works with you, improving the content, the plot line, checking for consistency, character flaws, continuity, and structural issues. Admittedly, these edits may be more expensive than some others, but they are incredibly important in fleshing out the story, and you will be amazed at the difference it makes. This is the part where we build the house, creating an architectural piece of art.

Copy Edits are often what most people think of when they hear the word ‘editing’. These edits focus on the grammar, punctuation, spelling, and finer sentence structure. This is what ensures everything flows smoothly. It is the second stage and as important as a developmental edit. This is where we create a home, designing and building the interior.

Proofreading is the final touch, the polish. After all the edits previously mentioned have been finalised, this ensures nothing is missed after all the alterations have been made. After all, we’re only human. There is nothing worse than missing out on this edit! Sometimes, the editor will perform all editing stages, however, at other times, it may be best to have a different editor with a fresh set of eyes proof the work. After the original editor has read the novel many times it may have by now become familiar. If sticking with the same editor, at least allow a gap in between edits to allow a fresh observer each time.

I provide all of these above edits, and I offer discounts for multiple packages although I admit my favourite is developmental edits as I love becoming involved in the story, discussing ideas and assisting in developing characters with the author.
Of course there are many edits out there, and there are other specific edits available also, such as fact checking, however these are only relevant if you are writing something specific to that area.

Is editing something that a writer can get away without having?

In my opinion, no. As a writer, you have written, re-read, pondered, and altered your words a million times (well, maybe not that many times, but you get the picture 😁). You have become close to your work and, naturally, can not always see it from a reader’s POV. The truth is many authors try to get away with non-professional editing, and it can result in messy work, which deters readers rather than encouraging them. Spell check fixes spelling; it doesn’t take into account the context the word is used in so it may become something like, ‘Lucy ran two the shops’. Readers are a demanding bunch, and they will not read work that causes them to hesitate or stumble over spelling mistakes. Also, with the birth of e-books there is so much content available, why should they have to settle for something second best when they can read something awesome!? An editor is just as important as a cover. A cover draws your readers like fishing bait; good writing holds onto them like the fishing line.

Aren’t editors expensive?

There are many editors out there, and they all charge differently. While it is true you don’t necessarily want to settle for the cheapest, you don’t have to pay thousands either. Many of the authors I work with are Indie or self-publishing writers who have a budget in mind, and I am happy to work with that as much as possible because I want to see those stories out there for all to read. I tend to charge per word, since the price is fair. There are also many payment plans available on offer. There is an editor for every writer.

How should new writers go about looking for an editor? And how soon in advance?

In my opinion, you should start looking for an editor when your book is completely finished, but possibly while it is still in the stages of beta reading or self-trimming. Keep in mind, an editor may be booked up for a couple of months, and it may take a few months to completely edit your work, so if you have a deadline in mind you will want to consider this. My most important advice is that when you shortlist some editors ensure they will provide you with a sample edit. I always offer a sample edit so my potential clients know exactly how I work, and so that I can see exactly how much work is required so I may quote accurately. It also allows us to ensure we are a good match. After all, an editor is a writer’s guide-they must understand each other’s styles in order to make the relationship work.

Are you able to give us some insight on how you operate and communicate with your clients?

I really do see the editing process as a relationship between the author and editor. I like to keep in touch with my client and encourage frequent correspondence. Usually I send chapters back in batches, so the writer can see where I am up to and we can address any questions as they occur. I also like to get the author involved in the process. There’s nothing more exciting than bouncing ideas between us, comparing sentences and seeing which option best suits the author’s style. After all, it is your baby! I often work on Word through Track Changes and try to explain why I make the alterations to the work, maintaining the writer’s style as I go.

Is there anything a writer can do as an alternative to hiring an editor to make sure their manuscript is the best it can be?

As I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t forgo an editor altogether, however there are a few things you can do to cut down the time and work load of an editor and therefore save some more money:

1. Have someone, or a few someones, beta read your work before you pay anyone. There are some great enthusiasts out there with advice a-plenty, and they may point out some things that make a lot of sense that you can change before hiring anyone.

2. Edit your own work-cliché I know, but even though there is no way you will pick up on everything (after all, why hire an editor if you could?) it pays not to just finish up and send it off. Take a break once you complete your work, even if it’s only a week, then read your work thoroughly, fixing obvious mistakes and errors. I have seen work where every second letter is spelt incorrectly and character names change frequently throughout the story. While I can fix this, it takes me three times as long, and the charges for a more complex edit are higher. This can save you sometimes as much as triple digits!!!

3. Spell check. I know, I said not to rely on it, but it does have its uses. It may only fix 6 words, but that’s less time the editor has to bill you for.

And always remember, many of us offer discounts for packages, payment plans and will attempt to work to a budget. I always encourage my authors to let me know if they have a budget to adhere to. If I can realistically meet it; I will!

What are a lot of the common issues/mistakes you come across when editing manuscripts?

Hmm, this is a tricky one because every author tends to have something that they are awesome at and some area that lacks so it varies from manuscript to manuscript. Believe it or not, spelling is probably not the most common mistake. I would have to say it would be sentence lengths- many authors use long, rambling sentences. Oh, and comma usage-those pesky little things can be hard to place.

Last of all, is there any further advice or guidance you are willing to share with either the novice and/or the more experienced writer?

I think the best piece of advice I can give you is to never give up or doubt yourself. It’s so easy to become disheartened when you’re stuck on a chapter, or when you read that dreaded one star review, but if you have a story to tell, then it’s worth telling, and no one should ever make you believe otherwise. Never be afraid to ask for help or accept guidance-that’s what your editor is there for, but in the end, this is your masterpiece, and no one can take that away from you.

Thank you for your time and advice, Katie-bree! 

Katie-Bree Reeves is an editor who offers a range of editing packages across many different genres for both fiction and non-fictional manuscripts, including short stories, essays, articles and the like. If you would like to contact her for further information, you can do so at:  dontgrumblegiveawhistle@gmail.com or via her Facebook Page.

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