Today is Write Hive’s #AskMentor which came with a host of questions on Twitter – but I wanted to extend that. I know not everyone is comfortable posting interest on social media so I thought I’d do something a little different, and tell you what leaps out to me as an intern editor looking at manuscripts coming to Literary Wanderlust, the indie press I work with. You can find the answers to the Write Hive’s #AskMentor on my Twitter page but here are some additions that don’t fit into a tweet;
- Good Stories
A hook, but more than that, an interesting enough premise that keeps me going. Some of my favourite books such as the Witching Hour by Anne Rice and Noble Dead series by JC & Barb Hendee have some of the slowest starts but once you get into it you can’t put it down. A lot of writing advice wants you to keep the reader engaged from line one and unable to put down the story. This is great for marketability; people are more likely to walk out of the store with the book – but that isn’t all that makes a good story. But how to engage the reader without that?
- Good Writing
Not perfect, not flawless. Good writing. What do I mean by that? I mean that the opening pages are polished, there is something interesting happening, and it’s clear the writer has reread over these pages to correct errors to the best of their ability. At Literary I’d expect to have a completely polished manuscript that has already had beta readers go over it. For Write Hive’s mentorship program, if you are the only person who’s read the story that is OK – but be open to feedback, especially if you’ve not worked with an editor before.
- Characters I love to hate
I’m a sucker for a villain. But I do love flawed characters too. As someone who’s deeply flawed, the ability to empathize with people who aren’t perfect is a key draw card for me. And they don’t have to have stereotyped flaws; like the bad guy who saves a puppy or the girl being bullied, and it turns out he has a soft side. I mean the people who are selfish, raw, and real. The ones that reflect the rest of us, and characters like this make your story more interesting because if you’ve done this, then you’ve got well developed characters.
- Plot Twists
There is nothing I love more (except for villains), than a great plot twist. When the world feels saturated with stories its hard to find the unexpected. Weaving that through the story is hard, and sometimes you might have a great idea, but the execution doesn’t quite pull it off. That’s what feedback is for and threading it through the novel is something I love to help with, and make sure carries across believability to a reader.
- Authors Willing to Work
When I’m looking at working with an author, I will often have a meeting with them first, so they understand what I want to do to a manuscript. But I’m also using this time to establish that they want the suggestions I am making because it’s work. Its unpaid hours upon hours of work for me. It’s a lot of extra work for you over a novel you’ve already poured more hours than you care to do again just writing and revising the damn thing. But I’m familiar enough with the process that I consider writing and editing two very different processes. Understanding that and being willing to do that work with me is a key part of the editing relationship.
Where do I fit in as an editor and mentor in all this?
I could tell you I’ve written over thirty novels but as I just said, there is a very different process from writing to editing.
I started to learn how to be a good editor from working with Scott Vandervalk when he helped me with my self published series The Last Prophecy, and I still work with Scott. He taught me so much about giving gentle feedback and constructive criticism, it meant when I started working with other editors I was ready for something stronger. Even with that, I’ve worked over two manuscripts with Sharon Salonen and Jennica Dotson at Literary Wanderlust. I’ve also worked with other editors, such as Meg Trast, on a book I was getting ready to query. I’ve worked with Marcus Vance and Jenn Jarrett on my self-published Queen of Spades series. My recent querying has engaged Natalie Crown and Jeni Chapelle on several story ideas to get manuscript critiques and feedback on strengthening my writing.
Each of these people have taught me more about writing and myself than I think a course has, and I am studying. I’m currently halfway through a Graduate Certificate for Creative Writing at Deakin University. I’m also a very self-motivated learner which means I’ve bought and studied Save the Cat writes a novel, I have a Chicago Manual on my desk, I have hosts of books on writing, the Emotional Thesaurus is one of my top reread books on my kindle.
But what I care about is the story. I will work hard for it, and for you, for it to be the best it can be, so that weird idea that wouldn’t leave you alone relays to another person an immersive experience they won’t forget.