Pen Friends ~ Today we have more insightful Editor Talk with professional editor Tara Creel, as she shares her insight into editing, publishing, and getting it right!
SP: Welcome Tara! Can you tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you worked as an editor?
I’m Tara Creel. I’ve worked as an editor for Month9Books/Tantrum Books for almost four years now. I have also been doing freelance editing on the side, but have recently launched a freelance editing business with Michelle Millet called Write On Editing.
SP: First love– writing or editing? Which books made you fall in love with the publishing industry?
My first love is reading, and then writing, then editing … but it’s a really close race! I’ve been reading since I was four, writing since I was six, and doing some form of editing since college. I worked as an English teacher so essentially I was editing essays all the time. All three of these things would make me ridiculously happy to do for the rest of my life. I do think I use different parts of my brain for all three and have to be in the right mindset for each of them.
There are so many books that made me fall in love with the industry, everyone can remember those books that make us wish we wrote them, lived in them, or could read them over and over again. There are a lot of recent authors whose books I love, including anything by Natalie Lloyd, Lauren Oliver, Shannon Messenger, and Rebecca Stead. The specific book I was reading when I realized I wanted to write/edit for a career: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.
SP: Mistakes, faux pas, cliches and the like–which do you see in debut authors and what tip can you give them to fix it before querying?
It’s all things writers hear all the time … but they’re said because they happen so often. Most times, stories start in the wrong place. Writers are so focused on getting an amazing first sentence, that the rest of the first chapter falls flat. It’s hard work getting the right balance of introducing the character/s, divulging the necessary amount of information, and starting the voice off strong. I also see a lot of stilted dialogue or repetitive sentences with either the dialogue or first showing something, and then telling about it. My number one advice I give for most items in a manuscript that need to be tweaked is to read it out loud. This can solve so many problems in a manuscript and help your story unfold naturally.
SP: Which genres do you love editing?
I love editing middle grade. I do like young adult as well, but middle grade is where my heart lies. From contemporary to fantasy, I read/edit it all. I so vividly remember the important role books played in my life during middle school and I love being an advocate for books that will be that for some other child. My partner, Michelle, is all about young adult and adult genres, especially the lovely words and the swoony scenes. She’s also got a knack for world-building in sci-fi/fantasy.
Just a side note, when looking for an editor, you’ll want to pick someone who reads widely in your genre, they will have the best eye for how to help your manuscript succeed. Between Michelle and I, we read across all genres.
SP: What are editors looking for? What stands out?
It’s an answer that no writer loves hearing, but this business is so subjective and editors are looking for stories that hook them and won’t let go. Sometimes we have a list of things we are looking for in particular, something we’d love to see, but really, it comes down to putting the work in so your story is the best it can be, and finding the person who will love your story as much as you, and champion it toward success. I go into some stories not expecting to love them, but the writing is strong and the characters are irresistible so I can’t help but fall for them. Likewise, sometimes a story description will wow me, but then the writing doesn’t match up and I wish I could love it, but it just isn’t for me.
SP: When do you know that a writer is not ready to publish?
The preface to publishing is time. You need to write your story and then you need to send it out to a round of CP’s. When you get that back, you need to revise, and then send out again. I think it takes at least three rounds of readers until your story is ready to query. And even then, I’ve seen manuscripts go through another round or two with an agent, and three or four with the publishing house. As many eyes and opinions you can get on a manuscript the better because you will start to see trends in what needs to be fixed and what is an outside opinion. You don’t want your reader noticing these things after the book is published. So, to answer the question, I know a writer is not ready to publish if they’re not willing to put in the work/time to get their manuscript in shape.
SP: As an editor in a publishing house, what is your favorite role?
My favorite role at Month9Books is working closely with the authors from submission to publication. I am a book champion at heart, so to play a role in making the book the best it can be, and forming a relationship with the author so I can truly know what’s best for them and their story, there’s nothing like it.
SP: Are there any upcoming books that would you like to tell our readers about?
I think my TBR list will always have the best of me, and I will never catch up on all the books I am excited about. This year from Month9Books and Tantrum Books, I am particularly excited for the stories I’ve worked on including THE TICK TOCK MAN, ROGER MANTIS, THE MAGNIFICENT GLASS GLOBE, and POPPY MAYBERRY
SP: Is there anything that has surprised you about editing?
It’s not really a surprise about editing, but the magnitude of the idea maybe was, is that there is always something to learn and improve on. I’m always studying grammar guides and editing manuals, trying to get that one more trick or tip to help the writing process. It’s such a satisfying feeling to know there is no ceiling on knowledge or growth and that I can keep getting better and better for as long as I put in the work.
SP: On the flip side of things, say I wanted to become an editor. What advice would you give me?
There seems to be a theme to my answers today, and it’s hard work and time. If you want to be an editor, you need to be willing to put in the time to learn what it takes and then establish the skills and clientele to make it happen. Not everyone enjoys editing, so if you’re someone who has fun with editing, then you’re already ahead of the crowd. Talk to other editors, network with people in the industry, and figure out what your strengths are and how you can use them to help writers. Be willing to be flexible and patient … publishing is not an overnight business, regardless of how it may sometimes look from the outside. If anyone has any questions, I’m happy to help so reach out to me any time!
SP: Thanks Tara for your awesome insight!
Check out Write On Editing’s amazing service — seriously, what they offer cannot be beat!!! (PS: When Write On Editing had a look at my synopsis and query, I was blown away at their insight and ability to see exactly what it needed to move out of ordinary and into extraordinary.)
Connect with Tara on Twitter here.
Nova, signing off