An editor on being edited

I wanted to introduce you all to Amy McCulloch for several reasons. She has a special perspective from being an editor who is about to also become an author (at a different publisher). Also, her book sounds amazing. And we share some countries in common -- I've had some of my best travel adventures in Africa and New Zealand. I hope to meet her in person someday, but for now, I'm enjoying her words of wisdom here. – Lissa


I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, and for all that time, that title has had to fit in around other aspects of my life. I’ve been a writer-and-student, a-writer-and-waitress, a writer-and-gap-year-traveller, and now I’m a writer-and-editor.

It was while working in my current job (as a commissioning editor of SF/F for a major London house) that I announced my book deal for the debut YA fantasy I’ve been toiling away at since university. Naturally, the first question that I’m asked now is: What’s it like to be edited, when your day job is editing other people’s work?

When I first got the deal, I had to keep the answer fairly non-committal. I would say, “Oh yeah, it will be fine... editing is great!” But since going through structural and line edits over the summer with my brilliant Random House editor, Lauren Buckland, I can now answer that question for real: It is really, really hard – but that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m an editor!

The funniest thing is most people’s assumption that because I’m an editor, my work won’t need editing. Shouldn’t I be able to do that sort of thing myself? That being my job and all... but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

In other people’s work, I’m always looking for key things: character development, plot continuity, world-building... But for some reason, when I’m looking at my own work, the blinkers go on and I have trouble seeing the forest for the trees.

I always think that if an editor has done their job well, almost everything they say, the author will already know (even if that’s way deep down inside). That is exactly what my editor did for me: her notes drew out all the elements of the book that I knew needed work, and told me to focus on them. That was the hard part. Coming out of a long day job (and that goes for anyone who works and writes!) and engaging that problem-solving side of the brain, which is different from the purely creative side, was definitely a strain. And also making sure that the logic of the world still makes sense after changing, adding or adjusting sentences is a particular peril when writing anything with fantastical or magical elements! The experience also put things in perspective for me as an editor too: sometimes a little comment that can seem like an aside – like “how did these two characters meet?” – can start a chain reaction in an author’s brain about how to further develop the story! The trick is to figure out the balance between addressing the problem and creating a whole slew of new ones.

Yet ultimately, I know I’m lucky. Every day I get to be immersed in story – whether it’s my own, or somebody else’s – and that’s been my dream from the moment I fell in love with reading. Writers-with-day-jobs out there: how has your day job impacted your writing, if at all?

BIO

Amy McCulloch is a girl of many publishing hats: author, editor, and reader. Originally from Ottawa, Canada, she currently lives in London, UK. Other than books, she is addicted to travelling, running and Starbucks coffee.

Her debut novel THE OATHBREAKER'S SHADOW is due June 6 2013 from Random House Children's Publishers. Find out more on her blog or feel free to say hello on Twitter

The Oathbreaker’s Shadow SYNOPSIS

Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world where you tie a knot for every promise that you make. Break that promise and you are scarred for life, and cast out into the desert.

Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one knows where it came from, and which promise of his it symbolises, but he barely thinks about it at all - not since becoming the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the most important day of his life, when he binds his life to his best friend (and future king) Khareh, the string bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin.

Scarred now as an oath-breaker, Raim has two options: run, or be killed.

A gripping YA action-adventure fantasy, the first part of a planned duology.


1 comment:

Kate said...

What a fascinating insight - and I love the concept of Amy's book - one to watch out for!