Life's Not Always Sunshine and Roses

Sometimes it's sunflowers!

It's been soooo gray and dreary here in San Antonio most of the winter, I decided to provide my own little bit of sunshine. Enjoy!

The title of this post is a metaphor, too, I think. I'm bad with those. My editor will tell you. And guess what? She just happens to be my special guest this month.

Some of you may recall my search for her a couple of years ago. Of course I didn't know who it would be at that time.

Anyway, I'm happy to introduce you to the editor I chose for The Amazing Gracie Trilogy - Susan Helene Gottfried at West of Mars.

Susan is amazing in her own right. She gets what I write. She knows her stuff. She makes me think. And she's fast. Or should that be quick? LOL!

Today she's talking about one of the things she sees a lot of from writers. And I'm certain she could make that sentence much better :)

She also makes me sound a lot cooler than I really am. I'll try to use her words as inspiration.

Here's Susan.

~ ~ ~

   Let me start off my visit Under the Tiki Hut today by thanking Carol for hosting me. She and I have become friendly over the past few years, and I’ve become a huge fan. Being associated with someone as much fun, as professional, and as kind and friendly as Carol has been a very healing balm in my life. I hope some of you reading this will cross the interwebs and hang around my place, too; after all, like attracts like, right? And Carol’s attracted us both.

   But as much as I’d like to, I’m not here to gush about my awesome friend. I’m here to talk a little bit about editing, because that’s how I make my way through this world: I’m a freelance editor to authors of fiction.

   Good editing is expensive. We all know this, and if you don’t agree, or haven’t encountered it, I do hope you’re getting excellent work from whoever you’ve chosen to partner with.

   However, a number of authors I’ve been meeting of late have been using online forums as a means of subverting the editing experience.

   I have at times dabbled in these online forums, but I’ve found I’ve had to limit my time there. I’ve found it too frustrating to try to be a crowd-sourced editor.
What’s happening is that authors are posting snippets and hoping for feedback. But without the continuity of the rest of the work, many of their questions are impossible to answer. I can’t tell you if it’s better to say Papa, Father, or Daddy if I don’t know anything about the character who’ll be using those words.

   That’s because too often—which is another way of saying almost every single time—my reply to the author reads: It depends on the context, the voice of the character, the narrative flow, and other factors.

   Likewise, I can’t tell you if you should describe certain details without knowing if the narrator is the type of character—and yes, the narrator IS a character!—who will pay attention. It may seem inconsequential right now, but when a reader sits down with your book, they need for all the voices to be consistent. It doesn’t matter if five people on Facebook prefer using Dad to the other choices. It matters if the character or narrator—whoever will be using the word—sounds like him or herself when they utter that word.

   Fiction is intricate stuff. It doesn’t seem like it, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of revising and working with a really good editor, you want someone who will pay attention to these issues. You need to make sure that if you’re writing in the first person, the narrative voice matches the character’s dialogue, since the same person is speaking. You want to make sure they are acting consistently within themselves even though human beings are an inconsistent lot. There’s a line to toe here, and if you need help not teetering one way or the other, you need to know that the people you’ve lined up to work with you can handle what you’re going to throw at them.  

   So that’s why I’ve stopped hanging around the online groups. My problem isn’t that the writers are bad, it’s that I always want to see more so I can give the best answer for the author’s needs. On the surface, that’s what authors want, right? They’ve joined a group to get help, so what’s the problem?

   In many of these groups, doing so would be viewed as making an offer to work for the author, and self-promotion like this isn’t allowed. It’s almost a catch-22. Authors want the information to help them make the best book possible, but us editors? We’re not allowed to ask for a wider context, lest we be seen as soliciting clients unfairly, even when that’s not our intent. Personally, I think that a more in-depth back and forth with the author benefits not only the author but the editor as well, because it lets us see what people who aren’t our clients are struggling with.

   So I’ve had to walk away. I’m sad to have to, as I enjoy interacting with writers of all sorts, and that means my clients and those who aren’t. As much as I’d love to, I can’t edit the entire world of writers, after all.

   But for those of you who find that these online groups are working for you, keep in mind that maybe you can take your writing up another level by finding an editor who’ll help you understand the fine nuance that emerges when context is considered.

   Good luck and I hope you make smart decisions. If you need help or advice as you try to do so, don’t hesitate to reach out. Sometimes, being the best editor means knowing when to let an author hire someone else. 

~ ~ ~

OK, I'm back again. A few more items to share.

In Name Only will be on sale for 99 cents February 19-25.
Please share with your friends and readers.

I'll be back here on Monday, March 5.

Happy Valentine's Day  


I know Susan!
It would be hard to judge just a small part of the work, even for a writer who isn't an editor.
I know you, too, Alex! How are you?
You could end up a little *too* busy with everyone in online groups looking for feedback! Smart of you to step back.
L. Diane Wolfe said…
If you're a paid editor, you wouldn't want to be loaded with people wanting free advice anyway.
Diane, that is an issue, yes... on the one hand, it's a good way to get your name out, but not at the expense of missing a mortgage payment!
Elizabeth, it certainly can be a time suck if you let it. While I miss interacting with writers, I have some awesome clients like Carol who like to chat, and that fills the void.
Carol Kilgore said…
Alex - I think you know everyone!

Elizabeth - It's so easy to get overwhelmed with online anything. I often step back and reassess. For me it's an ongoing process.

Diane - I know people (not just writers) who will wait in line for anything free and then complain because it's not what they expected or wanted. That's why writing is so much fun - all of us are weird in some way :)

Hi, Susan! Hope you're having fun. Margaritas on the patio at six :)

Jan Christensen said…
What a great idea to have your editor as a guest, Carol. I was fascinated by what Susan said about on-line groups. It's been years since I belonged to any, either on- or off- line. I found them more helpful with short stories than novels,for exactly the same reasons Susan mentioned. It's hard to edit just snippets of a story or novel. Have a wonderful February, both of you!
A thought-provoking post...
For me, I'd rather pay an editor for the one-on-one connection. That means I need to win the lotto! LOL (But I'm not really a gambler... LOL)
*waving* Hope you're well, Carol!
Now off to my writing balloon..
Michelle -- drop me a note if you need an editor and we can work something out, price-wise. I'm not the cheapest, but I think you'll get more than you pay for. At least, that's what I try to give my clients!
Hi, Jan! I love meeting short story writers -- I actually have one in an anthology that comes out next month. Do you submit? Got any favorite markets?
Carol --

Hope those margaritas are virgin. Sigh. No, I don't. How about margaritas at six and a half hour bike ride at eight?
Carol Kilgore said…
Jan - You're the short story queen! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Michelle - Have fun in your writing balloon! I'm doing great, thank you. So thankful.

Susan, if we're going bike riding, we better go before margarita time :)
Mason Canyon said…
Great post Susan and Carol. Lots of good advice. Now both of you can go for that bike ride and I'll "watch over" the margaritas. :)
DMS said…
Nice to meet you, Susan! How wonderful that Carol found you and that you have such a great working relationship. :)

I am out of the loop with online forums. I didn't even realize authors were posting to them and hoping for some crowd source editing help. I can see how it would be difficult to give advice without a bit more context.

Editing is so important and I am thankful to editors every day.

Have a great week!
Pbbbbbt, Carol! Don't worry about the dreary weather. Make your own sunshine. (So to speak...)

Interesting post. I'm so glad you two "found" each other. A good working relationship between writer and editor is very important, and it sounds like you guys have it. I totally agree with Susan (such a lovely name!) about online "crowd editing." It's impossible to judge content based on a snippet. Grammar and spelling, yes, but to get the big picture, you need to see the... big picture!
Jan Christensen said…
Susan, to answer your questions--yes I submit--I've had over 70 short stories published, most of them mysteries. I really don't have a favorite market. One problem is that over the years, makets have folded, so writers are always searching for new ones. I do love Mysterical-E--they've published a lot of my stories over the years. And Untreed Reads has published a series of five shorts called "The Artie Crimes," capers about a harried burglar who is always interested in helping women out of difficulties, which always gets him into his own difficulties. Thanks for asking!
Carol Kilgore said…
Mason - Thank you for making sure the margaritas don't get lonely :)

Jess - I'm certainly thankful for Susan!

Susan S. - Perhaps I should invent a sunshine machine. Like one of those SAD lights, except one that can shine through a window and light up a room :)

Jan - Hi again!

Susan - Jan and I first met in the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Her stories are always fun. Except for the noir ones. They're deliciously dark.
Yeah, I don't touch those online forums. I imagine there is a LOT of bad advice in them. A good editor is hard to find. Yay for word of mouth.
Jemi Fraser said…
Context is everything! I can't even imagine trying to work with such a small snippet of words
Carol Kilgore said…
Lynda - My luck with editors hasn't been that good. I've had a couple of good ones in the past, but one stopped editing and one went on to edit for a major publisher. One I thought was good. Maybe she was, but not for me.

Jemi - Yes!
Hi, guys! Sorry to abandon you -- the snow day turned into a sick day for me.

Ms. Flett Swiderski: You have a GORGEOUS first name. Can I use it in my own fiction sometime?

Jan: I'm impressed. One of my good friends publishes in Mysterical-E, as well.

Mason: You can have my margarita. Since my bike accident, I can't drink anymore. This is possibly the hardest thing I've ever done. You don't realize what a drinking society we are until you can't join in.
Crystal Collier said…
Excellent thoughts. I've always felt like writing is part acting. You have to get into the role of your characters in order to accurately portray the story... Unless it's in 3rd person. And in that instance, it's all about the voice of the narrative--which can take on its own character.
Carol Kilgore said…
Crystal - I mostly write in close third. So true.
Crystal, YES! The narrator can be (and often is) a character in a novel. Good call; a lot of writers look at me funny when I say that. And there's also a difference between narrative voice and authorial voice, too. I also get funny looks when I say that.
Jennifer Shirk said…
Nice to meet you, Susan!

It's SO nice when a writer and editor can gel like you two obviously have. It really can make such a difference in the final book. Can't wait to finally read it when it's published!
Carol Kilgore said…
Jennifer - So true. I totally agree.
Gina Gao said…
This is a really excellent post! Thank you so much for sharing this.
Carol Kilgore said…
Gina - Thanks, Gina. I'm glad you commented so I knew you were here. Great meeting you. I hope you'll visit again.