Tag Archives: editing

Paying for Our Passion – Amanda J Spedding

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know. Our next guest is the incredibly hard working Amanda J Spedding.

Paying for my passion; let’s take a look at what that could mean. How do I support myself as a writer? Can I support myself and my family with my passion for writing? What non-monetary price do I ‘pay’ for following my passion to write? What price does my family ‘pay’? What sacrifices must be made so I can follow my passion?

Sounds incredibly self-centred when you break it down, and for me there’s always been an element of guilt associated with what I do, justified or not. I’m an author, editor, mother and partner. I run my own business from home, and the way that all came about has a lot to do with the choices my husband and I made when our children rocked into our world; the decisions we both made as to how we wanted to raise these amazing tiny humans.

I’m a journalist by trade—I worked incredibly long and sometimes stressful hours but loved every minute of it. Once our kids were born, however, well…tiny humans! Our income halved and our expenses increased, but my husband and I went into the decision with our eyes and hearts open and our pockets somewhat lighter.

I still had the hours and deadlines with my adorable little dictator, who was joined three years later by her sergeant at arms. The sacrifices we made during this time were materialistic—we didn’t go out for dinner or to the movies; we rarely holidayed, and leisure activities revolved around anything that was cheap or free. It was hard and it was beautiful.

Writing time was pretty much catch-can—a half hour here, twenty minutes there. But it was sleep I chose to sacrifice. Once the kids were in bed, dogs walked, laundry done…I’d write ‘til midnight or later—it was my time. I treasured it, and if it meant I lost a few hours of sleep, I was more than willing to do so.

But as the kids grew, I began to receive an abundance of “input” as to when I would be returning to work to make a “valuable contribution” to society. When I said I was a writer, it was often met with “no, I mean work-work”. How do you answer that? Identity; I’m not ashamed to admit I lost it for a while. It’s a shitty, shitty feeling, not having a sense of worth. And let me be clear—this was never ever condoned or said by partner, he’s amazing—but it came that I would dread the question: “what do you do?” There was an enormous amount of guilt, too—my “contribution to society” couldn’t be monetarily measured; what did I give back to society?

Apart from raising two awesome kids that would make up part of society, I wrote. When the kids were napping, when they were at pre-school, when they’d been put down for the night. I’d grab time between washing clothes, playing with the kids, doing dishes, picking up after our ever-growing menagerie. So it was sleep I sacrificed during that time. Instead of going to bed, I’d sit up and write, hone my craft. Learn. Write. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. Rewrite.

Rinse, repeat.

My husband does shift work, so returning to the workforce posed a whole set of different problems for us. Finding a job outside the home and within school hours was so incredibly difficult, and we did the sums—if I went back to journalism, almost 90% of my pay would be spent on childcare and we’d lose time with the kids. It made absolutely no sense to us, and defeated the purpose of our initial decision to always have one of us home when they went to school and when they returned.

So I went back to school. My journalism credentials were…well, they were old. I studied hard, but I loved it, and earned a Diploma of Publishing (Professional Book Editing, Publishing and Proofreading) and a certificate in Editing. I would work from home.

It hasn’t been easy. Getting the business off the ground took a while. During this time, my husband was the ‘breadwinner’, but he had been for the last ten years—that hadn’t changed. Nor had the guilt, mind. What had changed was my desire to contribute financially to our lifestyle, to improve it for our children and to give my husband back some time. Time for himself, more time with the kids, and time for him to sleep.

We’re at that point where my business is doing well and my husband doesn’t have to work the hours he used to. My contribution isn’t to society as most people believed it should be—it was to him. For supporting my desire to be the writer I’ve always wanted to be. You see he never saw his work as ‘paying’ for my passion, he saw it as a way as giving back to me for all I did for him and the kids.

Now? Well now, I have to be far more structured in my time management. I still sacrifice sleep for my writing as my days are filled with editing others’ work between running the kids to and from school, helping with homework and all the other things needed to keep the house somewhat presentable… well, keeping the kids fed, clothed and clean.

There’s still the guilt, only now it’s based around me sometimes having to sacrifice time with the kids to edit another’s work. My kids are 14 and 11, and pretty self-sufficient (both know how to make me coffee—have I told you how amazing they are?), they have their own social lives, things they enjoy doing, but still there’s the guilt. I don’t know whether that will ever go away.

I don’t have as much time to write now as I’d like (goodbye sleep). A lot of my time is spent editing, and don’t get me wrong, I love working with other authors and helping them with their stories—it really is an amazing job. Writing, however, is what drives me. The editing helps me “justify” my writing time—and as weird as some people may think that is, it’s my truth. There are times when I sit down to write and the guilt rises because I haven’t done the dishes or folded the three baskets of laundry, or that I should be gaming with my kids or the like. There really aren’t enough hours in the day to assuage the guilt.

I’d love to be able to write full-time, to earn a living from writing alone. Thing is, I’d find it pretty difficult to give up the editing side of who I am. If it came right down it, storytelling is always going to win out, and maybe, just maybe, one of these days that will happen. Until then, I ‘pay’ for my passion by working hard and giving back to my family as they give back to me.

Amanda J SpeddingAmanda J Spedding is an award-winning author whose stories have been published in local and international markets earning honourable mentions and recommended reads. She won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award (short fiction) for her steampunk-horror, Shovel-Man Joe. Amanda is the owner of Phoenix Editing and Proofreading, and between bouts of editing, she is writing (and rewriting) her first novel. In June, her horror comic, The Road, will be launched at ComicCon in Melbourne. Amanda lives in Sydney with her sarcastically-gifted husband and two very cool kids.

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.

Wednesday Writers: Zoë Sumra

Long before I started taking my writing seriously I was a member of the Brotherhood Without Banners, the George RR Martin fan group. Our online home was a place called Westeros.org, and it was my first real taste of the joys of online community. The people I met there were some of the most generous and genuine folk you could imagine and, while I have scaled back my posting, I still keep in touch with many of them and consider them a big part of my life.

This generosity of spirit was demonstrated a few weeks ago when I was moaning on Twitter about how much I hate proofreading. It’s something I suck at, I am a big picture sort of guy, rather than being gifted with a great attention to detail (or, to put it another way – I am lazy). Zoë was kind enough to offer me some tips and I was so impressed that I rewarded her kindness by asking her if she would like to write a post on the subject, knowing it would be of great interest to the many other writers who struggle in this area.

Instead of stabbing me in the eye for presuming on our somewhat limited acquaintance in such a way, Zoë immediately agreed and produced a truly exceptional article which I am sure will be a great help to this blog’s readers. Any proofing errors below are, of course, mine!

When David first asked me to contribute to Wednesday Writers, I was pretty daunted, given the extensive writing credits of so many of the other contributors.  I have never had a novel picked up and have never submitted a short story.  I do have professional publishing experience, though, but from the other direction.

I started proofreading at an early age.  I was the annoying little oik who wrote a letter to Corgi about the typos in my edition of Dragonflight when I was nine, although, owing to the practicalities of obtaining stamps, I never posted it.  When I started writing novels a few years later, I absorbed as much as I could from as many different sources as possible about editing, and carried that on as a saleable talent as well as for the pleasure of improving my writing.

Proofreading and Editing: In The Beginning

So.  Your completed first draft is staring at you.  Well done: it takes a lot of work to get this far.  You’ve heard of editing, but don’t know where to start…

Novels require three types of editing: structural editing, which addresses issues of story structure, character development, plot progression, flow etc., line editing, which is nitpicking each individual word independent of the plot, and proofreading.  “Copy editing” may refer to either line editing or proofreading depending on which country you are in.

Holly Lisle has perfected and promoted her One-Pass Revision technique where she tackles structure, line editing and proofreading in one large revision phase.  I typically proofread while I am editing my novels, though I do structural edits and line edits separately.  Once you are confident with structural editing, line editing and proofreading, you will find yourself doing all of them at once, but they are different skills.

Structural editing is beyond the scope of this article, so from now on I will assume that the draft you proofread is structurally sound.  You should have already cut out extraneous scenes, rearranged dialogue and action to improve the book’s flow, deleted unnecessary conversations where characters discuss their plans for the next chapter, riffled two characters into one, changed three characters’ gender, and knocked the book down to its approximate final shape.

Line by Line

No matter how tight you thought your first draft prose was, it will invariably be less concise than it could be.  Now, consider your working genre carefully.  In literary fiction, prose is critical, whereas in SF, fantasy, horror, romance, crime, thriller or any of their subgenres, the author’s usual aim is to stop the prose from getting in the way of the plot.

We genre authors therefore have a great opportunity to remove 10% of a book, or anywhere up to twenty thousand words, at the line edit stage.  (This is habit-forming.  I line-edited down this article by 10%.)  Did you say something in nineteen words where you could have used twelve?  In twelve words where you could have used seven?  Knocking out extra words will knock down a wall between the story and the reader.  Adverbs are a big pitfall: most of them are unnecessary.  It’s more effective to delete the adverb and use a more precise verb.  English has rather a lot of them.

During a line edit, ask yourself whether each word is in its correct place.  Sometimes you will want to use a coruscation of purplish, perfect prose: keep these patches to a minimum.  Over-wordiness is off-putting to readers.  If you are writing a pure romance novel the mileage will be slightly different, particularly on sensual topics such as sex and food, but on the whole, you will still need to pare down the book.

Other things to spot while line editing include unintentional rhyming and rhythm repetition (intentional is great: unintentional isn’t), overuse of the definite article, overuse of the construction “the pen of my aunt” (what’s wrong with “my aunt’s pen” unless you are writing dialogue for a character whose first language has no possessive?), inappropriate variations in each character’s dialect/register, repeated use of the same word in any given four or five lines of text, starting successive paragraphs with the same word even if this word is a character’s name or “the” (in general, twice in succession is OK but three times in succession is not), repeated use of the same punctuation marks and sentence structure, unintentional double entendres, and unintentional use of phrasing that could cause confusion.

Line editing will alter your prose, but this is a necessary component of polishing your style, which will change every year you write.  As you grow as an author, focus on creating a pleasant environment for your reader.  In genre fiction, the story is important.  Pare out those words that are getting in the way of the story.

(For pointers on line editing literary fiction, please contact a specialist.)

Whither Proofing?

Proofreading is line editing’s analytic companion, complete with librarian-glasses and a disapproving expression.  Line editing is a craft with more than a little art in it.  To proofread is to correct your mistakes.

This includes mistakes in typography and in content.  If a character is called Maria 95% of the time and Mariah 5% of the time, proofreading is the process that picks up that discrepancy.

Before you start proofreading you should create relevant lists of character names and titles (especially if complicated), fictional place names, relative distances between plot locations, time taken to travel between those locations etc., so that you can check during the proofing step that they are correct.  Even if you are certain of your facts, keep appropriate reference material close at hand, just in case a fantasy country moves position on the map while you aren’t looking.

Pay particular attention to technical terminology – make sure you aren’t constructing cutlery from silicon and circuits from silicone.  In my day job I once printed a finance industry textbook that lauded the delights of pubic accounting in a chapter that should have been about public accounting.  (I didn’t proofread that one.)  More relevant to most here will be my mistake while writing an SF novel of putting a decimal point in the wrong place, overstating the speed of light by a factor of ten, and factoring that error into my spaceplanes’ speed and the distances between my space stations.  That one took a while to fix.

The Art of Proofreading

Your right brain may be rebelling at this point.  On the face of it, originating and proofreading are two diametrically opposite skills.  The one requires creativity and spontaneity: the other is an exercise in concentration.

You need to learn to take off one hat and put on the other.  Just as with synopsis creation, something else that differs from writing fiction, proofreading is a necessary part of the strong writer’s skill set.

In order to proofread you need a high standard of English spelling, punctuation and grammar, and the discretion to know when to use misspellings, variant grammar and creative punctuation.  If you know your English is faulty for any reason, including dyslexia, someone else needs to proofread your work.  This may have the side effect of correcting things you did not want to be corrected, such as appropriate misuse of language according to context and character.

How Not To Edit

Editing requires concentration.  If you corrected obvious proof mistakes while you were working through your structural edits, and if you are not combining a proofread and a line edit, you may find yourself proofreading a pretty clean copy.  It is quite difficult under these circumstances to maintain concentration.  Make sure you do so.  The moment you lose concentration, your eyes will slide past a mistake.  That said…

Editing is a marathon, not a sprint.  Studies of schoolchildren and university students show that neurotypical humans have a concentration span of around twenty to thirty minutes.  Every half an hour, stop and look at pictures of kittens (or supercars, or My Little Ponies, or mediaeval Welsh castles, etc.).  If you persist for too much longer than this your concentration level will drop and your work’s quality will suffer.

It will take you a long time to edit a book properly.  Don’t become discouraged when you realise you have been working for hours and are still only on chapter 6.  This is the step where a book becomes finalised: you can’t skimp on it.

Electronic v. Paper Editing

Modern editing professionals work on screen ninety percent of the time.  There is a specific drawback to doing this for one’s own writing – even if you handwrite your first drafts, the version you line edit and proofread will be a Word, OpenOffice, Indesign or other DTP document that you have seen several dozen times before.

The notorious difficulty of proofreading one’s own work stems from this familiarity: as authors we become too used to each sentence’s visual appearance.  I therefore suggest that before attempting to proofread, you change either the font, or the font size, or both.  One of my sentences spent nine months missing a “was” before I read it in Palatino instead of my usual draft font, Times New Roman.

As an alternative, you can print out your book and proofread it on paper.  This has three down sides: it is expensive in terms of paper and ink unless you work for a very understanding (or oblivious) manager, the results will take up space on your shelves, and you have to make each change twice – once on paper and once when typing it up.

Despite this, I normally line edit and proofread on paper after my major structural work is done.  I find it helps me to focus on just the errors in the text rather than on the story structure.

Nitpicking on Screen – Markup Functions and Not Using Them

Microsoft Word has a markup version whereby you can enter changes for later approval.  If editing someone else’s work, use this.  If working on your own, just put through everything you can at once, and create a separate document for noting serious inconsistencies.  You know when you’ve missed out a punctuation mark rather than leaving it out for dramatic effect, you don’t need to ask which of two spellings of a character’s name is correct, and if you notice a discrepancy in the current-year income of Fantasy Country W, maximum acceleration in a gravity well of SF Spaceship X, scholastic history of Fictional Character Y or lethal dose of Genuine Poison Z, make an entry on your problems list and work out later which is correct.  (You do not have permission to ignore the problems list.)

Nitpicking on Paper – Proofreading Marks

In order to line edit or proofread your work on paper, you need to use proofreading marks.  Learning the BSI Standard marks, or equivalent, will be useful for the future if you ascend the ladder far enough to sign with a publishing house.

Even if you normally single-space your drafts to read on screen, double-space or 1.5x space your final draft before printing it out to edit.  You need room to mark it up more than you need to save paper.  If you are concerned about the number of trees you are killing, reduce the font size and narrow one margin, preferably the left (you need one wide margin).

The usual method of marking a page is:

Left margin                                          In the text                                       Right margin

X (denotes there is an error)               Textual mark                                  Marginal mark

The most basic BSI proofreading mark, the insert mark, looks like the foot of a Hangman tree: image002

If you have missed out a word or punctuation mark, put this symbol in the missing item’s space.  Note the missing item in the right margin.  If you can’t fit it in, for instance if you have left out a fantasy nobleman’s full title, an SF IT technician’s whole shopping list, or most of a paragraph because you leant on the DELETE key while doing the structural edit, put a capital letter (for reference) in the right margin and write out the missing text on the reverse of your current sheet.

If the missing item is any punctuation mark other than an apostrophe, circle it for added visibility.  Don’t circle missing apostrophes, in order to distinguish them from commas.

Score through text to be deleted.  Underline text that should go in italics.  If text is in italics incorrectly, underline the affected text and score through said underline.  Double underline denotes a change to small capitals, and triple underline denotes a change to large capitals.

The BSI mark for inserting a paragraph break looks like this:  image004

Underline the last word you want to put in the shortened paragraph, put a vertical line in the break place, and add a line over the first word in the new paragraph.

If you have been overenthusiastic and marked up something that does not need correcting, “stet” means “leave this the way it was”.

These marks and others are online at http://www.lancingpress.co.uk/factsheets/images/proofmarks1.png.  There is much more to learn about proofreading marks, including the minutiae of when to use a blue pen and when to use a red pen (really), but this will get you started in on-paper editing.

Twice to Tango?

Should an author line edit just once?  Extra passes are likely to give diminishing returns, partly because you will have picked up most errors on the first pass, partly because of enervation.  I prefer to read through the book as a book once I have edited it, and to try to experience it from the reader’s perspective.  If I’ve missed any proofreading errors, or if my prose isn’t tight, I’ll notice.  Proofreading twice is an option you should certainly take if your “final” read reveals a lot of errors.

When Enough is Too Much

A famous author once observed that when a book is finished, the author should stop writing it and step away.  The same goes for editing.  You can’t keep reworking that one scene again and again, and neither can you keep on editing its every sentence into perfection and checking it for punctuation errors.

Your novel will never be perfect.  Your goal is to make it as good as you possibly can, and release it into the wild.  The search for perfection will carry on, into your next novel.

Zoë Sumra started writing fantasy novels at the age of twelve, because she lived in the countryside and there was nothing else to do.  Twenty years on, her working credits include typesetter, proofreader, print controller and stock controller, sometimes all at once, in two branches of non-fiction publishing.  None of her fantasy or SF novels have been published, though not for want of trying.  She cherishes the moment when Alastair Reynolds opined that her most recent novel’s opening was “pretty good”.  She is an associate member of the Society for Editors & Proofreaders.  Away from the written word, she is an enthusiastic amateur fencer, currently ranked inside the British top forty at women’s sabre.  Her knees hate fencing and are plotting a rebellion.  She lives in London with her husband. You can find her online at http://zoeiona.livejournal.com

zoe in wedding dress

Wednesday Writers: Edwina Harvey

Edwina Harvey is someone who wears many hats – and wears them very well indeed. Not content to be a wonderful writer in her own right and a talented artist, she is also the editor of (amongst many other things) one of the coolest anthologies that has come out in a long time! I’m delighted to have Edwina along today to talk about editing – and about one of Australian spec fic’s institutions.

I didn’t consciously get into editing. It sort of snuck up on me.

Early forays included editing fanzines, and editing the Australian Science Fiction Bullsheet (a job I inherited from Marc Ortlieb and worked on with Ted Scribner from 2002 until 2010).

Within a few months of tripping into the Bullsheet, I was immersed in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, where I was surprisingly reluctant to be an editor, though keen to help the magazine flourish in other ways. I subedited for Sally Beasley on her first issue, which gave me confidence to edit ASIM 12. By then there were plenty of other editors in the ASIM co-op who could help me out if I needed it.

I’ve always felt one of ASIM’s strong points is that there’s “safety in numbers”. You’ve got that ‘brains trust’ to call on, and once “your” issue of ASIM is published, you can have a rest if you want, safe in the knowledge that the next 5-12 issues are being capably edited by your colleagues.

The rotating editorship of issues of Andromeda Spaceways is a two-edged sword. While some people feel it’s difficult to write for a magazine that doesn’t have the same editor selecting stories for every issue, I’ve always maintained it enhances the chances of a story getting selected. Editors of forthcoming issues, all with their own tastes, can be looking at your story, and what might not suit one editor is often taken by another.

Andromeda Spaceways was born out of a desire to see more “light” SF and fantasy published in Australia. While authors such as Robert Rankin, Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt write and sell great light-hearted novels, there are very few markets open to “funny” SF, (which is *very* difficult to write well, let alone sell,)  which we wanted to address. But that’s not all we are about. While we have a reputation for “feel good” SF and fantasy, we’re also willing to publish the grittier, darker edge of the genre as well. We’ve published some whacky, off-beat horror stories in our time – dead people being dug up so they can go vote in a presidential election for example – but we’ve also published and will continue to publish dark, scary horror where the after-images stay with you forever. Lyn Battersby’s story, “The Memory of Breathing” is a good example of this. Subtly constructed, I can still remember it years after I first read it.

So ASIM is a bit like a smorgasboard – there’s a lot on offer, and hopefully readers can find something to suit their tastes. Carrying the smorgasboard analogy a little further, it’s all about getting the balance right. For instance, we love publishing fantasy, and experimented with an “all fantasy” edition very early on, but we got letters of complaint from our readers. Likewise, we went through a run of editors in quick succession who were very keen on publishing noir horror stories, and we got complaints about that as well.

Submissions to Andromeda Spaceways are all read “blind”. Stories are sent out to one of our “slush readers “ chosen at random with no indication of who wrote it. This way the reader is gauging the written piece, not getting distracted by who wrote it (be it a Big Name Author, or someone in their  critique group as the reader. And we have had Big Name Authors submit work to ASIM who have  been knocked out of the slushpool in the first round, so while fair, the system is not infallible.)  If a story makes it past the first reader – who grades it from 1-5, one being the highest ranking – it is given to two other readers to assess. If its total marks are above a certain point, it goes to “the slush pool”  where it languishes in the hope that an editor will give it a home in their issue.

Occasionally I hear writers say, “My story got rejected by ASIM” so I ask them if they made it to Round 2 of our slushing process. If they did, I try to console them by assuring them we didn’t “reject” their story. It was likely good enough to be published, only no editor picked it for their issue.

Sometimes not picking a story for an issue has *nothing* to do with the story, and everything to do with the issue. Frequently editors will find a story in slush that they’d just love to use in their issue, but they’ve already selected a similar story, or their word count has blown out. (When you’ve got three pages to fill in your issue, and you really want to publish the 12k novella you’ve just read in slush, forget it! It’s just not going to fit! And we have editors who try to shoe-horn in as much as they can to every issue, then keep finding *more*).

There *is* some horse-trading that goes on behind the scenes. An editor who is deeply impressed with a story but can’t put it in their issue for any reason, will often ask another editor to consider it for their issue.

And we’re always delighted when we discover a story we’ve picked has given a fledgling author their first break – their first paid story. Some of our editors (I consider myself among them) can see the spark – the potential in a story – and are willing to work with the author  to make that spark glow, while others are looking for an “off the rack” model. When deadlines are looming, an editor often can’t invest the time to bring a story to its full potential. That’s why it’s so important for authors to polish their stories to the best of their abilities *before* submitting it – not only to ASIM, but to any market!

We get some very high quality stories submitted to Andromeda Spaceways, but unfortunately, we get more good stories than we could ever publish. As many of us are also writers, we appreciate the goal of any author is to see their story published, so we try to release stories back to authors in a reasonable space of time (anything from a few weeks to a few months)  rather than hang on to them indefinitely.  That doesn’t always work in our favour, as we often see stories we haven’t been able to publish go on and achieve acclaim with other publications, but that’s one of the pitfalls of publishing  – always has and always will be in my opinion.

While editing is something that snuck up on me, I decided I want to pursue it professionally. I finally got my editor qualifications last year, and have embarked on a new career as a writer/editor. While it’s still very early days for me, it’s gratifying to have authors I’ve edited short stories for through Andromeda Spaceways contact me and ask if I’d consider editing their novels.

Edwina was one of the founding members of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. She has been primarily a spec-fic writer for decades, and has been editing for more than a decade now (which only proves that she’s old. : – ) Having recently received her editing qualifications, she is now pursuing  what started as a hobby as a full time career. Edwina’s YA novel, The Whale’s Tale  was published by Peggy Bright Books, (peggybrightbooks.com) as was the highly acclaimed anthology, “Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear” , which she co-edited with Simon Petrie.

If you’re interested in engaging Edwina was an editor, she will edit 2,500 of your words for $25 as an introductory offer. You can view Edwina’s recent editing CV at edwinaharvey.wordpress.com

Edwina is also a silk and ceramic artist. Go to celestialcobbler.com to see samples of her artistic endeavours.     

Under no circumstances engage her in conversation about cetaceans, or equines (including mammoth donkeys) if you want to escape with your ears intact. : -)


Wednesday Writers: Abigail Nathan

As I have mentioned before, one of my favourite things about going to Conflux was the chance to meet so many amazing people who share my love of the written word, and learn more about how the industry works. Something that that has become increasingly clear to me as I continue on the writing journey is how vital editors are to the process and how a good editor is a writer’s best friend. Here, Abigail Nathan gives us a fascinating insight into some of the work that is involved, and dispels some of the myths about the freelance lifestyle.

David has asked me to write about being a freelance editor. Now usually I would point out that this is Top Secret Business not to be shared with the Uninitiated… but I have agreed in the interests of laying some myths to rest about the Rockstar Freelance Lifestyle (™ In Association with Kylie Mason). Here are just a few things that have come up in the past few weeks:

Freelance editors:

Choose their own hours. This is… only sort of true. Freelancing = running your own business. If you’re not working, you’re not getting paid. And freelancing is a notoriously feast or famine scenario so there’s always The Fear (always capped) that if you say no to any job offer you will Never Work Again (capped at will). Sure, it’s a nice idea that you can take a day off whenever you like, and there are countless articles about time management for freelancers, but the reality is that you’re probably managing multiple deadlines for different clients. It’s far more likely that you grab free time or jobs when you can.

All work in their pyjamas. You can. I am sure we all have done more than once. And when you work from home and you’re on a particularly tight deadline, it can be very easy to lose track of the day. However, everyone has their caught-out-by-the-courier limit. Or the shock of an author showing up on the doorstep “to go through some edits”. (In my case said author was a High Court Judge.) Continue reading

Wednesday Writers: Tehani Wessely

This week’s Wednesday Writer is a regular on my blog, through her involvement with the ongoing Conversations in New Who series of reviews. But that is only one of the multitude of hats that Tehani wears, because not only is she one of the nicest people in Australian Spec Fic, she is one of the hardest working. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing how she goes about her role as editor, both with a rejected piece and in the upcoming anthology Epilogue (*does excited Snoopy dance*), and I am delighted to have her here to share, amongst other gems, some tips that any author would do well to heed.

My story in the Australian speculative fiction scene started in 2001, when I joined the Eidolist. Not long after I got there, the long-running magazine Aurealis was up for sale, and a group of enthusiasts began to discuss the option of forming a group to take it on, rather than the single or two-person helmed job it had previously been. After a while, some bright spark suggested that instead of taking on the existing magazine, it might be a cool idea to start a NEW one, with a new vision and new way of operating. It didn’t take very much convincing for a bunch of us to splinter off onto a new mailing list, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine was born.
Continue reading

Wednesday Writers: Lincoln Crisler

Writer, editor and combat veteran, Lincoln Crisler is truly a man of many talents! As someone who has sat on both sides of the slush pile divide, Lincoln is well qualified to talk about what lessons he has taken from his stints as an editor and how he has applied it to his own writing. Oh, and buy his anthology – it looks AWESOME!

The Author as Editor, and Vice-versa

Cover by Jessy Lucero

As some of you may know (and if not a single one of you, David’s readers, knows, I really need to stop charging people for my mad marketing skillz), I have an anthology coming out on March 1st. It’s a collection of dark stories about people with superpowers. It’s the second anthology I’ve edited (and you can read more about that here). I learned some stuff in the process. Editing’s made me a better author, and quite possibly, a better human. Continue reading