Guest Post: Amanda Pillar on Editing and Writing

I was very excited to hear that Amanda was releasing a novel. As well as being one of the best editors going around, she is a very talented writer and her novel sounds fascinating! Amanda has also been very generous in sharing her editing experience with writers and helping them improve their stories–you can read some excellent advice here and I’d highly recommend following Amanda on Twitter where she often talks about writing–and I am delighted to welcome her here today to share some thoughts on being a writer and an editor.

I’d like to thank the wonderful David McDonald for asking me to guest post. I have been really enjoying the ‘Paying for Our Passion’ blog series lately, so I thought I would post something slightly related to the theme: on the sometimes conflicting goals of being an editor and a writer.

Recently, my debut novel, Graced, was released by Momentum. It’s available as an ebook, and I hope people will love it as much as I do! I guess that is the difficulty of every writer’s life – we dedicate ourselves to creating something we love, only to throw it out into the world and wait to discover if anyone else actually likes it.

But in addition to being a writer, I’m also an editor. Originally, I started as a writer in this crazy industry, trying to find markets and learning my craft (which I am still doing). After publishing one of my first stories (I think it was the third?) I was asked to provide a crit by my then-editor, Mark Deniz. I sent his story back with my thoughts and comments, and he asked if I was interested in co-editing an anthology he was thinking of calling Voices.

And so began my anthology career: Voices was the first, and the eighth, Bloodlines, is currently ‘under construction’. The early days of my career was an interesting time, as I was also completing my undergraduate degree, and one of my majors was English and creative writing. While it didn’t really help my writing at all, it did help me approach stories with a critical eye. I like to think that this tactic has aided me in encouraging authors to bring out the best in their stories.

Graced-Ebook-High-Res1I have to admit, it’s difficult to find time to write and edit simultaneously. I often say I need to wear different ‘hats’ when doing both. Both writing and editing are time-consuming. I will often read a story that I’m to edit twice before I sink my teeth into its contents. Then I will edit a story until both I and the author think it’s perfect. This may take one or 10 rounds of edits; each story is truly unique.

While writing helps my editing, in understanding the processes behind the craft, editing has certainly helped my writing more. Certain traits I notice in the stories I edit—like repetition, strange use of capitalisation, tautologies, whether physical actions make sense, etc—make me review my writing more critically. It is difficult for me to stop reviewing everything I write as I write it, and just get the words on the paper. The first draft for me is the hardest, so I have to constantly push myself to just keep writing, rather than editing as I go.

On the upside, however, I love to be edited. I’ve experienced both sides of the proverbial coin. I know every writer has had that gut-reaction to a strong edit at least once—they think what now?—but I can really recommend the following advice: set it aside and come back to it in a few days. I know when I edit someone’s work, I don’t expect people to take every comment and suggestion on board, but I expect the author to think about them. And so I try and do the same. After all, an editor just wants your work to be the best it can.

Amanda_small-1Saying that, there is a difference in editing and re-writing. If you feel someone wants to rewrite your story to fit their ideal, rather than yours, you don’t have to take those ideas on board. Don’t just agree to a re-write to get your story published for the sake of it; make sure you’re happy with it.

I know every author approaches how they write differently; the only advice I can really provide is to do what works best for you. If that is to edit as you go, then do that. If it is to ‘purge’ yourself then come back and edit later, do that. The only really important part is to just write.

Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith.

Amanda has had numerous short stories published and has co-edited the fiction anthologies Voices (2008), Grants Pass (2009), The Phantom Queen Awakes (2010), Scenes from the Second Storey (2010), Ishtar (2011) and Damnation and Dames (2012). Her first solo anthology, Bloodstones (2012), was published by Ticonderoga Publications. Amanda is currently working on the sequel, Bloodlines, due for publication in 2015.

Amanda’s first novel, Graced, was published by Momentum in 2015.

In her day job, she works as an archaeologist.

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