Ask The #Editor: Advice from Charmaine M. Young

 While I’m high-fiving my co-authors over Masters of Time breaking the Top 100 in Sci-fi/Fantasy Anthologies and Magical Realism yesterday, I know that we couldn’t have done it without the hard work and no-nonsense feedback from our editor, Charmaine Young.

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Our stories are our darlings, but it’s our editor’s job to tell us when we’re spoiling our darlings rotten and need to shape up. Yet, Charmaine was also there to give us insight, encouragement, and clever suggestions. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process, is that we needed her.

So, do you need one?

For those of us with English or English Writing backgrounds, it’s tempting to say, “Meh. I’ll manage.” But, oh no, you NEED that second pair of (professional) eyes, and you need someone to honestly and brutally show you where things have gone off track–and I’m not just talking spell check or a missing word.

But let Charmaine tell you in her own words about it. Here’s what she had to say when I caught up with her:

Interview With Charmaine Young

ALESHA: Thanks so much for agreeing to share your thoughts and advice with us! How did you get involved in editing, and what types of books/genres have you worked with (are there any preferences)?

CHARMAINE: I became involved in the field in my early twenties helping friends with continuity and overall flow on their screenplays. While my first love is books, my initial forays into the field were for the entertainment industry. This became a blend of editing, rewriting, ghostwriting and creating paper pitches over the years.

Then in 2009, I was asked if I’d consider bidding on the edit of a book by a friend of mine for one of her authors. Since then, I’ve edited several non-fiction and fiction books for publication. Genres include theology, current affairs, self-help, management, internet blogs, sci-fi, and fantasy.

I love what I do. Each story, whether fiction or non-fiction, takes me on a different journey. This is the magic of writing and I find it an honor to help these authors clarify their vision for their audiences.

ALESHA: What do you look for when evaluating a manuscript?

CHARMAINE: When evaluating a manuscript I look at story and character development, continuity issues, and overall flow. Is the story complete? What stage is the author at in the writing process? How do I see myself able to help on this particular project?

ALESHA: List three things that can make a manuscript stand out.

Triangulation: ethos, pathos, logos. Does the story hit you in all three areas? Not many will, but the stories that do stand out.

ALESHA: List three common mistakes that you find, which writers can avoid.

CHARMAINE:

  1. Spellcheck is not an editor.
  2. Passive vs. Active Voice (you’ll hear this from every editor). Try this: Read a page of your manuscript out loud, only add intonation as punctuated. Do you feel involved, or is it flat?
  3. Family and friends can be a wonderful source of support in the writing process, but they generally make terrible beta-readers. There are many ways to find other authors you can exchange with who aren’t going to worry their input will hurt your feelings.

ALESHA: Why is it important for a writer to have an editor in the writing process?

CHARMAINE: See above: the word processing software you use for your writing has wonderful features. Look at the squiggly lines recommended and use them to make corrections.

However, word processing software won’t tell you things like these examples from actual books I’ve edited: In chapter three there are two minor characters introduced with names so similar you, the writer, even muddled them up a bit – let’s clean this up and rename one of them. Or, is basic logic defied in a fantasy story making the suspension of belief for the extraordinary things you’re writing about seem impossible unnecessarily? An editor can help you work out these kinks without interfering with your voice. Software can’t.

ALESHA: How do we choose a good or reputable editor?

CHARMAINE: I’d start with recommendations from other writers or your publisher. Then interview the editor you’re considering and see if he or she seems like an individual you could work well with and a reputable editor will be doing the same to you. If it appears this may be a good match for both writer and editor, then I usually test things out by going through a small portion of the writing. Remember, you ideally want to find the person you feel best working with beyond the project immediately in front of you.

ALESHA: Do you see or notice any trends for this year and beyond (such as, an uptick in sci-fi stories, vampires, or zombies)?

CHARMAINE: There are always trends, but I don’t recommend anyone write a word based on where they think the market’s moving. Write the story you see, not the one you think everyone else is looking for. By the time a trend is identifiable, it’s generally in decline.

Find Charmaine at Creative Alchemy (Publisher)

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