I met Kimberly on Twitter some time back, and I’m a member of her Facebook group, Revision Division. We’re also members of Romance Editor Q & A since I do a little editing myself and keep up the skill not only for my own books but for those I edit for on the side. I appreciate Kimberly’s time, and I hope you enjoy the answers to all the questions she so graciously filled out for me.
Introduce yourself! How did you get into editing and what are your qualifications? What genres do you enjoy editing most?
C.S. Lewis said “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” This is exactly what I did. After twenty years in the corporate world, I took a sabbatical and it shook my world to realize how amazing it is to fill my day with activities I’m passionate about. I have always enjoyed my work and the companies that employed me, so it was jarring to realize I could be happier. Before I set off on a vacation volunteering in Peru, a friend of the family asked if I’d read a novel he’d written. The story was amazing, but I couldn’t get past the number of errors. This was my inspiration to look into copyediting. My natural ability to spot punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling errors lent itself well to copyediting, so I took courses to start there. My education introduced trusted resources like dictionaries and style guides and working with publishers taught me how to create and maintain a style sheet for consistency. The more advanced courses I took revealed my true passion is earlier in the process, with developmental editing. I love assessing the big picture elements like structure, plot, pace, point of view, and character development to help writers improve their stories. I love editing romance the most but I also enjoy editing women’s fiction, mystery, and psychological thrillers. I’ve edited all heat levels and time periods but prefer steamy contemporary.
There’s the saying that a writer needs to write a million words before they can write something publishable. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
Whoa, that’s a loaded question without a simple answer! On one hand I don’t agree with the limitations of hitting an exact word count and refraining from sharing your work until it’s perfect. We grow and learn from making mistakes. I definitely don’t think writers should wait for an arbitrary milestone to publish. On the other hand, I agree with the sentiment of the saying where putting in the hours and the work makes for a better quality product in the end. Have you read Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers? He has a point about it taking 10,000 hours to become exceptional at something.
What is the biggest mistake you see indie writers making right now? (For example, info dumps at the beginning of their book, not enough conflict, too much tell vs. show, etc.)
I’ll admit I had to give this question some thought because I see such a wide variety of manuscripts with different issues. Considering both the unpublished manuscripts I edit and the completed books I read for pleasure, I’d say the biggest challenge seems to be related to pace because conflict is tricky. Many authors struggle to create believable conflict that escalates. Each chapter needs a purpose where the complications grow and the consequences are impactful. Many of my developmental editing projects require suggesting solutions for improving chapters without clear purpose. It’s hard to move the plot forward if the reader doesn’t know what the character wants, why they want it, or what stands in their way.
There’s a lot of talk about whether or not it’s necessary to have a manuscript edited before querying. What are your thoughts?
Most of my clients are independent authors, but I have helped several writers improve their story and polish with a copyedit prior to querying. I have more than one data point for authors gaining representation and eventually signing publishing contracts, but I can’t take credit for those achievements. Their storytelling talent far outshines my knowledge of where a comma goes. But as a businessperson who has reviewed cover letters and resumes before hiring someone, that first impression needs to be solid, so editing before querying could be beneficial even if it’s not required.
How do you keep the author’s voice intact while also guiding them with suggestions on how to make their book the best it can be?
Great question! My job is to point out both what works well and areas for improvement. I give suggested solutions in comments or in a revision letter for the more lengthy explanations. Changes made directly in the manuscript are usually corrections to indisputable errors. I reference Merriam-Webster dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style to support the corrections I propose. When line editing, I tread carefully to make sure I’m respecting the author’s voice while keeping concision and clarity a priority.
Is there ever a time when a book would require too much work? What do you tell a writer whose book isn’t ready for a professional edit? What resources do you refer them to?
This has happened a few times. Sometimes an eager writer finishes that first draft and jumps to the editing stage too soon. Revision and self-editing are recommended in these cases and I often provide resources for finding critique partners or offer to take on the project as a writing coach instead if the manuscript isn’t ready for editing yet.
What advice can you offer an author who can’t afford a professional edit? Are there things they can do to sharpen their own self-editing skills?
Definitely! These tips don’t replace the value of working with a professional editor, but they do offer some cost-savings if you can self-edit as much as possible first. I have a bunch of videos and blog posts on this subject on https://revisiondivision.com/tips but here is my best advice: read aloud to yourself, others, or have Word read it aloud to you. You’d be amazed by how much this trick catches. It will highlight awkward flow and bring attention to missed words and sneaky errors.
As an editor, it’s important you’re honest and give critical and actionable feedback. How do you offer this feedback so a writer doesn’t take it personally?
Diplomacy. I aim to provide valuable feedback through constructive criticism AND praise. By pointing out a writer’s strengths and showing in their manuscript where something works well, they learn and grow. On a scale of one to ten, with one being a Positive Pollyanna and ten being brutally honest, I’m probably a moderate four. I’m a professional and my training emphasized how to provide actionable feedback tactfully.
Are there any other tips or thoughts you would like to add about editing or publishing?
Adding on to that last question, I’d like to encourage writers to expect good and bad feedback. But they shouldn’t react right away in order to avoid an emotionally defensive response. Edits can be overwhelming. After initially receiving feedback, it’s a good idea to set it aside and digest. See what resonates and come back to it later to make a plan for revisions. Most importantly, do not give up.
Thank you for this opportunity to talk about something I’m so passionate about. 😊
Thank you, Kimberly, for your time!
How to find Kimberly: