Val Hughes, Editor - Behind the Scenes
This month we have editor, Val Hughes answering questions for us on editing. Val edited a couple of books for me through an old publishing house and I reached out to her to edit a couple of books I plan to re-release before the end of the year.
Most of us have a past prior to entering the publishing world. What did you do before your editing life kicked off?
I had my own dressmaking shop, I made all sort, from wedding dresses to putting new zippers in jeans. But when my dad got cancer for the third time, and my husband also fell seriously ill, I sold it all so I could care for them both. Once my dad died, I was at home caring for my hubby 24/7, and bored silly, so he suggested I enrolled at the Open University and did the degree in English Lit that I’d always wanted to do. The great thing about the Open Uni is you can do most of it from home. So that’s what I did, and I also incorporated creative writing and editing into my course. So suddenly I had the ability to edit, I loved it, and a few friends I had online let me practice my editing on them. They did all get publishing contracts by the time I had finished.
What made you decide to become an editor?
I sort of fell into it. It wasn’t my intention, I had wanted to write, but during my course at uni, I discovered that content editing is something I love, and just have a knack for doing. I was always one of those annoying readers that spotted every error, each plot hole, knew that was coming next and I could usually guess the ending. Over my 6 years at uni I learnt so much about different writing and editing methods, I never expected it would be editing that stole my attention.
Was your first editing job as a freelance editor or for a publishing house?
The first ‘paid’ editing job was for a publishing house, but by then I’d done quite a lot of editing for either free or returned favours and bartering of skills.
What are the most common mistakes you see in manuscripts coming across your desk?
The biggest one is not having a real beta reader check the manuscript. A beta reader may be your friend, but a friend that isn’t a beta reader is not going to know what to look for, and will be shy of being honest when they find something they don’t like.
Other things that stick out are name switching, characters suddenly swapping their name with another, it’s so easy to do, but can make a huge difference to the whole plot if the wrong name is used at a crucial point. Head hopping is another. Mixing one character’s words with another’s thoughts/actions, always separate them. Overusing the same words, often in the same sentence.
Not knowing how Word works is a huge problem. If you are an author, Word, or whichever program you use, is your tool for the trade. Google if you don’t know how to do something, ask your editor, but make sure you learn as it can do so much to help make your manuscript perfect. Personally, I don’t mind taking the time to show an author how Word works, but I know most editors expect you to already know this stuff.
I had one author that had installed Word on her laptop in 2007, and not once let it update. She then wondered why each time someone else sent her manuscripts back, all her spacing was missing, and other things would be wrong. I found her the updates she needed to make her 2007 version compatible with all the later versions that had come out since. Word is backwards compatible, but you HAVE to update to be able to work with someone using a newer version than you.
Do you currently work for a publishing house in addition to private editing?
Yes, I do. I work for Wilde City Publishing. I do also work with a couple of other publishing houses when I am requested by the authors. I seem to have acquired a few authors that will only work with me on edits.
How do you edit, or should I ask, what is your editing style? Do you use old school red pen or do you work with track changes in word documents?
I’m a firm believer in keeping the work totally in the author’s own voice. I’ll suggest changes, ways of making them, but I expect the wording to be the authors own when it is more than a word or two. I work with each author so the finished manuscript is the best it possibly can be, but no one could tell someone else had worked on it. I have always loathed it when you read something, and certain wording or phrases just stand out oddly, you know the author didn’t write that bit. We all have a unique voice; I try to make sure that is preserved.
I work mostly with track changes in Word documents, as I am usually emailed a manuscript. I am quite capable of whipping out the dreaded red pen when required though!
What is your approximate turnaround time on novel edits?
This depends on a few things. How long the manuscript is, how much editing it needs, when the author needs it for and what other work I have on at the time. However, once started, each round of edits is allowed one week, two if it’s a really long manuscript. The author can take longer to return their edits for me to tidy up if they wish, most do. I keep a diary and each manuscript is given a time slot for starting. The total time once started, if the author doesn’t take longer to return an edit, is about four weeks
Independent editors request total payment upfront for edits. Why is this necessary?
Because editing takes a lot of our time, when editing a manuscript, we can’t do anything else to bring in our income, so imagine the feeling when at the end of a long job, you never get paid. We’ve all had it happen to us at some point, even publishing houses have been known not to pay editors.
Do you specialize in a genre or do you edit various genres?
I edit just about any genre. My specialties are character and plot, scene and world building. Since every genre has these, it doesn’t matter what the genre is to me. I find it actually helps for me to switch genres quite a lot, that way I come to each new manuscript with a fresh approach, not thinking ‘Oh, this again?’ It keeps my attention focused, weird I know, but as a life-long avid reader I have always read a wide variety of genres. My brain is filled with tons of useless information I have picked up over the years reading anything and everything, and it’s amazing how often it comes in handy while editing. Lots of ‘I know this’ moments!
Which style guide do you use?
I use more than one, depending where the book is written and headed for publishing. US and UK style guides are different, so I use both. The Chicago Manual of Style for US and The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, and I also refer to Fowler's Modern English Usage and New Hart's Rules for UK.
Some editors have contacts and/or partners that can help with marketing/design/promotion/etc. they can refer an author to. Do you?
Yes, I do. My business partner is Zathyn Priest. He set up Scarlet Tie Designs in 2012, and Scarlet Tie Edits is a subsidiary of this. Zathyn and I decided to join forces after we kept collaborating on joint projects, with him doing the artwork/proofreading and me doing the content editing, layout and formatting. We also convert files, do formatting and have pre-made book covers for sale.
Depending on the genre, I also know several marketing/promotion companies that can help, and artists that do book covers, banners and promo materials.
Are you available for questions when you’re working with an author?
Absolutely. That is part of what they are paying me for, after all.
How can authors contact you to get information on your pricing or discuss potential edits?
The can email me, Val: Scarlet.Tie.Editing@outlook.com
Visit one of our two Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/ScarletTieEditing/
Our website will be back up soon, Zathyn is busy rebuilding it, the silly thing crashed.
Columnist Lizzie T. Leaf: Award winning author, Lizzie T. Leaf started life in Kansas, sprung to adulthood in North Carolina, and currently shivers through the winters in Colorado.
Since discovering the fun of writing paranormal, she plays with creating vampires, faeries and other immortals. When she needs a touch of reality, her Contemporary Erotic Romances come into play. Her most recent release is Nordic Heat, available at http://amzn.to/1owng5k
If she’s not creating mischief for paranormal beings, or getting under the covers with her erotic heroes, she can be found exploring the other genres she wants to write. She is a member of RWA and has served as President for the Heart of Denver Romance Writers and VP of Programs.
Lizzie loves to read, spend time with her family and travel with her best friend husband.