Pen Friends ~ We are super excited to hear from PRO EDITOR and Historical Fiction author extraordinaire, Heather Webb as she shares her editing and writing tips. Also check out her latest book, Last Christmas in Paris It’s out now! See below!!
Hi Heather! Thanks for joining us. Since you are both an author and an editor, we are seriously eager to pick your brain. But first, please tell us who are you and how long have you have been writing?
Hi all! I’ve been writing since 2008, so about 9 years or so. I can’t even believe that! Sometimes I feel like a newbie with so much to learn.
SP: First love– writing or editing? Which came first career wise? Bonus: How long did it take for you to write your first book?
Oh, definitely writing on both counts—my favorite, and it came first. As for my first book, it took me about two and a half years to complete.
SP: Mistakes, faux pas, cliches and the like–AS an editor, which do you see in debut authors and what tip can you give them to fix it before querying?
It really depends on the writer. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and if you’re doing it right, you will continue to learn and grow the whole of your writing life. Mistakes I see most often include too much “telling” or explaining what’s happening instead of putting the reader directly into the character’s head; too many verbs of being that water down the prose and give it a passive feel; stage directions in which there are too many prepositional phrases explaining direction or location; also, awkward and unnatural dialogue.
In terms of a tip, I’d advise writers to streamline their editing process. Your first few drafts should be all big picture edits for story arc and character arcs, as well as story structure. The following several drafts should be layering, deepening, and polishing. If you haven’t done at least five drafts, your novel shouldn’t be sitting in an agent’s inbox yet.
SP: What are the most important elements of story that you look for?
I’m a sucker for great characters with distinct voices. When I walk away from a novel, what I always remember most is a well-drawn character. Plot is second for me, followed by world-building in third place, though sometimes it’s a tie for second place. I really like to be transported while reading.
SP: How does being an editor influence your own writing?
Editing for others has helped me grow tremendously. I’ve trained myself to have an eagle eye, and I’ve become very meticulous with my own writing. I’ve been told this by all of my editors and my agent so something must be working. It can hinder me at times, too. I’m a lean writer so while drafting, I tend to despair over how thin it is, and I get in my own way sometimes. I have to talk myself through a first draft just to get to the end. That’s when the fun begins and I can start developing the manuscript into an actual book.
SP: When do you know that a writer is not ready to publish?
This is fairly easy to spot, after seven years of editing, nine years of writing, and a lifetime of reading voraciously. Craft issues, uneven pacing, unbelievable plotlines or thin characters—they all jump out at you after so much time and practice.
SP: Which genres do you love editing?
Historical fiction, any category of young adult, romance, literary, speculative fiction. Honestly, though, I enjoy working on anything that’s got a great hook.
SP: What is the hardest part about being an Editor?
Delivering difficult feedback. I always hold my breath when I send off the editorial letter and a manuscript that’s bleeding with red ink. I never want to crush someone’s dreams, or make them feel bad about themselves or their talents, but I do think honesty is a form of tough love that is absolutely pertinent to growth. I struggle with it as a writer myself, still. Receiving feedback is part of the process. I think my clients understand that I have their best interests at heart and tend to be open, for the most part, to thoughtful criticism. I truly want to see them succeed so I push them hard to go to the next level. That’s what it’s all about. Can you tell I used to teach high school? J
SP: What important changes/trends do you see happening in writing right now?
The advent of cell phones and internet and all that is high speed means the average attention span has shortened considerably. I think it’s important for writers to keep this in mind while crafting their stories. They need to be instantly gripping, compelling, and well-paced, regardless of genre or category. I’ve noticed a huge increase in audiobooks as well (including on my end! I love them!).
SP: Where can we learn more about you, your books, and editing?
Please read my bio below for more information and links! Thank you for having me on this wonderful site!
Heather Webb is the author of historical novels Becoming Josephine, Rodin’s Lover, and the newly released Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of WWI, which have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Elle, France Magazine, and more, as well as received national starred reviews. Rodin’s Lover was a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015. Up and coming, The Phantom’s Apprentice, a Gothic retelling of Phantom of the Opera from Christine Daaé’s point of view will release February 6, 2018. To date, Heather’s novels have sold in multiple countries worldwide. She is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend.
Last Christmas in Paris Blurb:
August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.
But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…
Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?
Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…
SP: What fantastic advice and congratulations on your new book! Thanks so much for joining us!
Nova, signing off