A writer’s relationship with an editor is special. It requires a lot of trust and respect on both sides. It also helps if the writer-editor team can share a laugh over the hard stuff, grab a virtual hand in bad times, and once in a while, actually meet for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Nan Swanson, who edits the Vintage line for The Wild Rose Press, has been my editor for more than five years. She meets every standard for professionalism and I love working with her. I am so grateful that she agreed to share some time with our Authors By Moonlight readers today.
You and I have worked with five-going-on-six books, but if I tried to describe what an editor does, I don’t think I would do it very well. Would you explain how an editor takes a promising manuscript and turns it into a publishable book?
Oh, gee, I don’t know. I just read the book and automatically correct the grammar—syntax and punctuation—as I go, catch inconsistencies when they hit me in the face, such as a character’s name changing midstream or the time frame being out of kilter (i.e., earlier the wedding was set for Sunday and now here it’s supposed to be on Saturday, so did it get switched somewhere and I missed that, or is this a misstep on the author’s part?). That kind of thing. The “flow” has to be there, as well as the technical correctness, with variety in the sentence structure to keep it interesting. I urge authors to read their work out loud before sending it anywhere. That helps catch things that aren’t evident otherwise. As I read a submission, it’s “out loud” in my head, as well as playing like a movie — I have to be able to “see” the action and have it make sense. Otherwise I’ll question it, as in, “If he’s facing the door, how can he see out the window?” That kind of thing.
How did you become an editor? Did you have a background in editing or did you come to it from another field?
It started in eighth grade, when our teacher required a weekly essay or story from each of us, at least a page long, handwritten. Everybody would say, “Hey, Nancy , you’re good at English, will you look at my story and tell me if I need to fix anything?” So I did, and it’s been something I like to do ever since. My college major was English (member of P.O.E.M., by the way—Professional Organization of English Majors) and I also took a course from Wisconsin State on editing, but otherwise it’s been a freelance, on-my-own job until I joined The Wild Rose Press.
Did you ever want to write books rather than edit them?
When I was about 10 I thought I could probably write something equivalent to The Bobbsey Twins, only about my family. I outlined all the chapters. And that was as far as that went. When I was forty-something, I thought I could probably write something in the romance line, and I have the first few paragraphs, at least, of about a dozen books, with sketchy outlines of the remainder of the plot for each. And that’s all. There’s nothing pushing me, saying I MUST WRITE OR ELSE, and editing is so much more fun…
What is the most satisfying aspect of editing? The most challenging? The most stressful?
Most satisfying would be seeing it published and knowing both the author and I did our very best to prepare it for its readers. Most challenging? Hard to say. Maybe when an unfamiliar time or setting is involved, so I have to verify details as well as ask the author more about them. I can’t think of anything really stressful about editing. Not for me, anyway.
What was the very first book you edited? What was it about that book that caught your interest?
Not sure I can give you the title, as it may have changed after leaving TWRP, but it was a contemporary Western, set in Montana , with a bit of mystery involved and a lot of romance. Still one of my favorites. I’m always ready for a good story.
What keeps you up at night? Deadlines or worrying with a story that just won’t come right? Something else?
Deadlines, if they must! Most often, tho, something will bother me as I’m editing but I can’t quite put a finger on what it is or why or what to say to the author about it. If I leave it till the next day, often the answer(s) will occur to me in the middle of the night when my brain has relaxed a bit.
Though you are the editor of the‘Vintage line, do you work with manuscripts in other genres? Do you have a favorite time period or setting?
My favorite is the Vintage time period, the 20th century, but I do work with other lines and other time periods and settings. I love variety, from a good Western, whether historical or contemporary, to Rome of the Caesars to South Africa to the Philippines … Everything’s interesting when well written.
I know a few of the other Vintage authors you work with and all of us think we are the luckiest writers alive because we have you. How many authors do you work with? Do you have crossover authors who write in more than one genre?
You know, I’ve never counted them up. Maybe if I were on Facebook it would count them for me, since they’re all “friends”? All I know is they are all lovely to work with and it’s wonderful when I have the chance to meet them in person. And yes, more and more of them are crossing over into other lines here at The Wild Rose Press, and that’s fun, too, because I get to go with them over there to other parts of our Garden.
In your spare time—and I know you don’t have much—what do you do?
LOL. I love to read, despite reading a lot as an editor. I sew (often quilts) and watch TV, especially NCIS and Person of Interest and several PBS whodunits. My mother lives with me, which is a fulltime job in itself, but an enjoyable one. She loves to play Boggle and once in a while gets me to play a game or two.
Is there any advice you would give an aspiring author trying to find a publisher?
Sure. If you’ve polished to perfection (not just in your opinion but that of several others, also), then submit your ms to The Wild Rose Press, Inc. We publish quality women’s fiction as well as romance these days — possibly a few other genres, not everything and anything, but it doesn’t hurt to run it by us if you think it might fit. (See our website for particulars.)
Recently I saw a blog the editors of TWRP did about pet peeves and ‘don’t ever do this’ comments. Do you have a few special ‘fatal errors’ you’d like to discuss?
Hmmm. Just ran across another “He dropped his eyes.” Between that and the rolling eyes in so many manuscripts, all I can think is, “Heaven forbid anyone should happen to step on any of those dropped eyes as they roll around on the floor….”
But what really bugs me is that authors happily use lots of -ing words without realizing that either (1) that has to be happening at the same time as the other verb in the sentence, or (2) if it’s starting a phrase at the beginning of a sentence, it has to be describing the noun (person, place or thing) that comes right after the phrase. Examples? Here ya go:
Unlocking the door, he removed the candle from the kitchen and wandered to the hall.
Huh-uh. He can’t be unlocking the door at the same time he removes the candle and wanders on from there. It could be he does all three: He unlocked the door, removed…and wandered…. There are other possibilities too, of course.
Unlocking the door, his suitcase fell at his feet.
Again, huh-uh. The suitcase didn’t unlock the door. And again, it needs to be revised.
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to mention?
What? You think I haven’t said enough already?! I’d just like to say Thank You for letting me ramble on a bit here, Fleeta! And now I’ll get back to my editing desk…
Thank you, Nan, for letting our readers see this writing business from your side of the desk. I loved having the chance to visit again.
SANTA RITA SERIES
Don’t Call Me Darlin’
Black Rain Rising
Elopement for One
Half Past Mourning
Cry Against the Wind
CONFRONTING DESTINY SERIES
Bal Masque (forthcoming)