~Sometimes Dreams Really Do Come True~
KIM BUSSEY (Blogmother), PROFESSIONAL EDITOR
“Let your writing style show in your query letter. It’s surprising how often beautifully written manuscripts come with a query letter that reads like a junior high book report. These manuscripts go straight to the slush, or often, rejection pile.”
Professional editor, Kim Bussey, gives some tips on how to avoid the slush pile and about self-publishing and the importance of editing. Kim spent twenty years as a fact checker and editor for two of the top five publishing houses in the US and continues as an independent editor today.
ANISA: First, can you explain to us the different types of edits?
Substantive Edit: You might have also heard this called a comprehensive, developmental, structural or macro edit. The big picture of the manuscript is evaluated for story threads that dead-end, holes in your plot, main characters that fail to captivate, secondary characters that should be scrapped or given a larger role, decisions about POV, order of the scenes and flow of action and pacing.
If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford a substantive edit, then use beta readers to find these problems for you, but never skip this step.
Line Edit: A line edit will cover things like word choice, paragraph flow, smoothing out awkward or wordy sentences, eliminating repetition, catching clichés, and other style issues. Some editors will note POV errors or instances of showing vs. telling during a line edit, but not as in depth as a developmental editor does.
Copy Edit: The editor corrects problems of grammar, style, repetition, word usage, and jargon. Editors will also trim unnecessary words and change passive sentences to active ones. Usually they’ll correct your formatting.
Proofread: A proofreader corrects typos and overlooked errors in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.
The lines between each type of edit often cross. When you hire someone, you need to be clear on what that edit will include. Look for someone willing to combine a line and copy edit.
ANISA: As an editor, what is your number one pet peeve when it comes to submitted writing?
KIM: Manuscripts where it’s obvious the author didn’t bother to do any of their own editing before sending it to me. When working at a publishing house, this never happens, or the manuscript would have been rejected. But when authors hire an editor they often think that editor should do everything. What they don’t realize is that the extra time it takes me to note things like typos, missing words or spelling errors is time I have to subtract from doing more in depth things like substantive edits. Ultimately the author loses.
ANISA: What would be your number one piece of advice to writers who want to get their stories out of that dreaded slush pile?
KIM: Let your writing style show in your query letter. It’s surprising how often beautifully written manuscripts come with a query letter that reads like a junior high book report. These manuscripts go straight to the slush, or often, rejection pile.
I send all my clients to a site called Queryshark, (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/). It’s written by a literary agent and should be required reading for everyone before they send out that first query.
ANISA: What do you feel, personally, is overlooked a lot in the editing world that shouldn’t be?
KIM: That’s a tough one, because the purpose of editing is to correct what’s been overlooked. But I’m seeing a lot of self-published books edited by English majors with no publishing experience. They’re great at grammar and punctuation, but the problems that turn the written word to mundane are being missed. English majors don’t know words ending in ing or ly should be kept to a minimum, or that you shouldn’t use has, had, was, were more than two or three times per page. Last month I read a blog where the author said she used her mother, an English professor, as her free editor. I went to Amazon and read the free sample of her book, and it was terrible. Almost every sentence was written in passive and too many paragraphs started with I, but her grammar was perfect.
ANISA: At what point did you realise you were an incredible writer?
The first time I won a contest and the judges told me I made them cry.
ANISA: If someone wants to self-publish, would you say that it is of the utmost importance to seek some kind of professional or, at the very least, basic editing services?
KIM: That’s a big YES! Most writers who are serious about being published know that a traditional house will take a minimum of a year to get a manuscript out. That’s because they generally go through five different edits. And remember, manuscripts usually aren’t accepted unless they were well edited before being submitted. I recommend hiring both a substantive and copy editor.
ANISA: You, personally, are one of a few people who are responsible for keeping me on the writing road. The day we met, I was on the verge of giving up, but you inspired me to keep at it. I know you inspire a lot of people and I know you’re not done surprising us yet. Are you working on a project right now? If so, when should we expect to see it on bookshelves?
KIM: I can’t help trying to spur talented writers on; maybe it’s the mother in me. But I’m so glad I inspired you to continue with your writing.
I’m hoping to have my first novel, a contemporary romance, out for Christmas, but something happened that required a huge rewrite. One of the main relationships in the story is between the heroine and an orphaned coyote pup. The coyote was suppose to be one of those characters on the outside edges of the story to provide secondary conflict between the heroine and the hero, who raises sheep and wants all coyotes shot. But then I wrote a scene where the pup gets inside the heroine’s cabin and pees on a table leg. After that the coyote insisted on becoming a major character.
ANISA: Thanks, Kim, for doing this interview! The information you provided is invaluable. Again, you’re an inspiring woman and I’m glad you’re around.
Interested in learning from Kim?
Checkout the classes she teaches in on Writer’s Carnival by clicking HERE.
Send her a friend request on her Writer’s Carnival profile: @Blogmother – Kim Bussey