Today I welcome author Diana Waters to the blog to talking about the editing process.
1) Tell us a bit about you and your writing
My name is Diana and I’m a New Zealander currently living in rural Japan, where I’ve mostly been based since 2012. I devour novels of all kinds but have a particular love for fantasy, historical fiction, and M/M romance – hence my first published work of fiction, Wild Magics #1: A Trust to Follow, is a historical-fantasy novella centered around two male characters who are very much in love with one another. A Trust to Follow was originally published with Wayward Ink Publishing in May 2016, and then re-edited, re-covered and re-homed in May 2018 with eXtasy Books. The full-size novel sequel, Wild Magics #2: Kaidyn’s Courage, is set a decade or so later in a neighbouring kingdom. As of this writing, it’s either due to be released very shortly or has very recently been released, also with eXtasy Books. Wild Magics #3 (as yet untitled), the final planned book in the series, is in its final drafting stages. Once this is submitted for publication, I have several new ideas I’m playing around with and am very much looking forward to getting properly stuck into.
2) What do you enjoy most about the editing process?
Quite simply, I enjoy transforming a (hopefully) already good story into an even better one. It’s not that I have an abiding love for correcting dangling participles or anything, but aside from amending any glaring technical mistakes I would certainly have made while drafting, I also like seeing how initial story ideas can be harnessed to their full potential. I sometimes have a flash of inspiration and am so focused on getting an idea down on paper before it disappears that by the time I’m done, I’ve forgotten a lot of what I’ve just written. Going back however long afterwards – sometimes days or weeks later – I’m frequently surprised by what I read, usually in a good way. Being able to then whip those ideas into better shape is therefore often a joy just as much as it is a necessity.
3) What do you find hardest about the editing process?
I sometimes miss stupidly obvious problems with the story and need a second party to point them out to me. In large part this is because, I assume like most writers, I’m too close to my work to catch every single mistake or flaw, even sometimes the embarrassingly major ones. I’m not just talking in terms of grammar, either. Problems can range from specific word choice or phrasing to entire plot issues – and there’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve completed a wonderfully solid piece of writing only to realise that actually, you’re going to have to rewrite a major chunk of it because you were an idiot and completely overlooked/screwed up a crucial aspect of your storytelling. Then there’s of course editing burnout, when you’ve read and re-read your story so many times that you’re no longer sure if it’s any good at all. Alas, this does not do wonders for any writer’s psyche, which is why I think having a different person to act as editor – preferably one who’s had little or nothing at all to do with the story up until that point – is so essential.
4) What are your general thoughts on editing as part of the overall publishing process?
It’s important. Like, really, really important. Bless anyone prepared to take on fiction editing as a full-time profession – to say nothing of anyone prepared to take on fiction editing just as a friendly favour. I certainly wouldn’t have been published without having both of these to whip my writing into much-needed shape. And yes, even the most perfect book you can possibly envision yourself writing will still need to be whipped into shape. If you don’t think editing is all that important in the grand scheme of things, try beta reading a novel for someone else someday. In fact, I suggest every writer, already published or not, do this sometime regardless. Not only will you probably come up with an entire checklist of what not to do in your own writing, you’ll probably also realise that you’ve in fact committed some of those exact same sins in the past. I’m not suggesting this is anything to be ashamed of, but it’s certainly something you can and hopefully will learn from.
5) What are your top editing-related tips for authors?
Aside from what I’ve already mentioned, one tip during the editing stage is to read your story to yourself aloud. The whole thing, beginning to end, no matter the length. It’s a good bet you’ll pick up on some things that you likely would have glanced right over if you were only reading silently. Another tip is to laugh at yourself. Really – do it. Writing can be pretty serious business, but I’ve noticed that taking myself or my stories too seriously doesn’t generally result in top-notch work. Came across a scene during editing that didn’t turn out so well? Awesome – make it even dumber by turning it into an entire parody sequence, just for shits and giggles. It’s a great way to burn off some frustration when you’ve been working too long on a particular scene that just isn’t coming together, and it can do wonders for your creativity in the process. Plus, you then have an outtake you can publish as a blog post or whatever after the book has been published, sort of a reader bonus feature. A third and final tip: if you’re in the process of writing or especially editing any kind of historical fiction whatsoever, even if it’s fantastical in nature, I highly suggest giving Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders by Susanne Alleyn a look. In fact, it should probably be mandatory reading for all historical fiction writers and editors, or anyone even thinking about writing or editing historical fiction. (And no, I don’t stand to gain anything by promoting this book – it’s just a really helpful, not to mention rather entertaining, read.)
About the Author
Diana is a New Zealander currently living in rural Japan. She has no idea where in the world she’ll be this time next year and is pretty okay with that. Other than reading and writing, her main passions include travel, amateur photography, and competitive swimming.