Ask the Editor: Editing What You Love...and What You Don't

I'm so excited to welcome Kimberly Blythe to my blog. Kim is head editor at Omnific Publishing, and I've had the pleasure of working with her on a few different projects. I'm unfailingly impressed by her professionalism, objectivity, and mastery of the English language, so I was very happy when she agreed to answer questions asked by some of you during this month's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Initially, I planned to post her responses to blogger questions in one shot, but as you'll see, her answers were so thoughtful and informative that I decided each one deserved it's own post---so I hereby declare this to be Kimberly Blythe Week! Each day this week, you'll get a new piece of her wisdom. At the end of this post you'll see her bio as well as links to find her on her social networks.

Today, Kim answers two questions at the opposite end of the spectrum. In tomorrow's post, she'll give great advice on the most common mistakes she sees and how to avoid them.

Q Alex: Do you ever get caught up in the story and forget you are supposed to be editing?

A Kim: This definitely happens, especially when the story is a compelling one. My time as a student and as a teacher has helped me develop a very active and conscious reading habit. As a voracious reader, I've also developed the ability to read very quickly. I have to be careful to keep a balance. I try to hear a book in my head as I read. This helps me with flow, dialogue, and with spotting little mistakes along the way. I also review an MS multiple times. If the story is one that keeps me really absorbed, I will go over a chapter a few times before moving on. That helps keep me from getting ten chapters on and realizing that I've only been reading for fun!

After years of editing, though, I find that rather than slipping past pages of work and not paying attention to editing, my problem goes the other way—I will read works that I'm not editing, and want to correct them or offer suggestions on how to make them better. I have to consciously turn off my editing like hitting a light switch!

Q Jennifer: I want to know how an editor deals emotionally with having to edit a manuscript that is in a hated genre or is written in a hated style. That would be tough for me!

A Kim: It is tough. I think that this is where years of teaching help me out. I'm used to reading and marking essays that are decidedly lackluster. When I edit a book that doesn't appeal to me as a reader, I have to be very careful to not push the story into what I want it to be, but instead to focus on helping the author's story be the best it can be. Also, having formal training in literature analysis, which included reading across a large variety of genres and styles, helps me be objective in offering constructive criticism regardless of how much I like or don't like a genre or plot line. I do try to actively question, though, whether something just isn't working at all, or just isn't working for me. That's one reason I'm very glad that the company I work with has multiple eyes on every MS. We can work together to balance each other out and give second opinions.

I frequently find myself surprised, though, about how little sales figures connect to my personal preferences. Sometimes a story that wasn't a personal favorite will do very well in sales, while at other times one I had a deep, personal investment in will languish. (And that is why I don't work in acquisitions!)

Kimberly Blythe, Head Editor Kim graduated with a B.A. in English where she focused on Regency and Victorian Literature. She followed that with an M.A. in Applied Linguistics, enjoying her study of the history of the English language, slang and dialects. For the last twelve years she has lived abroad, teaching classes on the English language, world literature and linguistics at the college level. Since she was one of the few native speakers of English available, by default she began editing grants and marketing materials from the universities she worked for and began to familiarize herself with the various style manuals. Her last job required her to guide thesis students in MLA documentation style and preventing unintentional plagiarism. She enjoys helping authors learn all of the little quirks of grammar and punctuation found in the English language.

Find Kim at TumblrGoodreads, and Twitter.

Today I also want to give a shout out to Cherie Colyer, a YA writer and wonderful person. The tantalizing cover for her upcoming novel, Challenging Destiny, was just revealed, and I get to show it to you. Please pay Cherie a visit to tell her how awesome it is.


Coming spring 2014 from the Wild Rose Press, Black Rose Imprint

Logan Ragsdale and his younger sister, Ariana, have been marked, chosen to be unwilling participants in a war between angels and demons.

Being Chosen is a terrible thing when there's no one you can trust


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for answering my question, Kim! Sorry the editing mode gets in the way of reading for fun sometimes.

Cherie Colyer said...

Great questions. I sometimes have to remind myself to turn off my writer's eye when I'm reading for pleasure. It's nice to know editors have a similar problem.

Thanks for the shout out!

Suze said...

'When I edit a book that doesn't appeal to me as a reader, I have to be very careful to not push the story into what I want it to be, but instead to focus on helping the author's story be the best it can be.'

Now, that is wisdom.

Briane P said...

I've often wondered if you had to edit books you didn't especially like. Now I know. That would be a part of the job I did NOT like. That, and editing. Which probably disqualifies me from ever working as an editor, as I'm pretty sure that editing is a significant part of the job.

Janie Junebug said...

I don't have any problem with editing books that I don't "like". I've expanded my interests by accepting jobs outside my usual favorite genres. And it helps that I like the authors.


Kittie Howard said...

Thanks, Kim, for sharing what swirls through an editor's mind. You also answered a couple of questions I would have asked.

Jennifer Lane said...

Yay! You answered my question, Kim--thank you. When I first served as a beta for fan fiction I made way too many changes, which was a freshman mistake. Seems like editors have to strike a balance between changing too little and too much. I agree that my tastes do not correlate with sales!

Liz Blocker said...

Love love love this series, and I'm so glad you made it a week-long affair. Thank you so much, Kimberly, for all of these thoughtful answers!