Q&A with my editor

While I was Writer in Residence over at Inside A Dog last month, my wonderful Text Publishing editor Alison Arnold and I had this genius idea for a post in which I  would ask her a few questions about editing.

We didn’t quite get organised in time to run it on Inside A Dog, but I think it works just as well here. And thanks again Ali – these answers are great. 🙂

What do you look for when considering YA manuscripts?
Books that make me miss my train stop. (Awkward, since I take a V-line home.) Books that feel fresh and unforced. Books where at the start I notice how gorgeous the writing is and at the end I barely notice it at all because I’m so engrossed in the story. Books that tells stories. Books with crush-worthy characters. Like Rafa (Gaby’s love-interest in the
Rephaim), or Wolfboy (Nia’s love-interest in Leanne Hall’s This Is Shyness and Queen of the Night). There were quite a few people who read Shadows before it went to press and without exception they all emailed me to tell
me they’d fallen for Rafa. My favourite email was two words long: Rafa. Swoon. The best writing going on at the moment is in the YA field. I just love it.

What is your favourite part of the editing process?
I love the beginnings when I don’t have to make hair-tearing-out decisions about persnickety things like styles and whether hell-beast is one word, two or hyphenated. I love helping an author to dream big across their story. After that, I next love continuity. I know this is weird, but I enjoy figuring out that the thing a character said happened on a Monday actually happened on a Wednesday and pulling that little thread that threatens to pull the book’s timeline apart. I love the very hilarious conversations that end up happening with my authors and I quite enjoy emailing back and forth about a thousand times a day. ‘So, in the email you sent at ten with the subject line “I can’t believe this one got
through”, I’m not quite sure what you meant about my comment on page 43, para two.’ Oh, okay. I don’t love that quite so much.

As an editor, do you focus on one thing at a time?
I don’t work very rigidly when I edit, as in I don’t organise my time into a structural edit, a copy edit, a line edit. At the beginning you are mainly working on structure, but whatever you see on the line you pick up. At the end you are mainly working on the line. Finding major plot-holes shortly before press always makes you feel like vomiting. Often not knowing whether hell-beast is one word or two makes you feel like vomiting too.

Can you read a book without wearing your editor’s hat.
Yes! Or I would have to quit my job.

What happens if an author or editor disagree on revisions?
It doesn’t happen as often as you might think. Editing is more of a conversation than I imagine aspiring writers think it might be. It’s not so much a red pen ‘do this, do that’ type process, but a long, ongoing discussion. I would always plead my case, but I also pick my battles. Some things are more important than others and, when the book is out, my name is not on the cover.

What is your all-time favourite book?
My all-time favourite kids book is Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. Lately I have been inhaling anything written by Maggie Stiefvater. The first character I fell in love with was Lord Peter Wimsey in Dorothy L. Sayers 1920s detective books. I was thirteen. He was forty-five and ugly. I didn’t care. The last character I fell in love with was Rafa in the Rephaim series. I am also a huge fan of Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell, Kelly Link, Leanne Hall, Vikki Wakefield. (Ali reserves the right to add to this list when she thinks of writers she’s missed!)

Ali and me (at the launch of Shadows in Brisbane, July 2012)

50,000 words in a month – are you joking? (Musings about #NaNo)

You’ve possibly heard there’s a little thing happening around the world in November called National Novel Writing Month (referred to in Twitterverse as #NaNoWriMo or just #NaNo).

It’s when writers commit to pumping out 50,000 words in a month. They join up, find buddies, write their butts off and encourage each other.  (Here’s the website: http://www.nanowrimo.org) It’s all about getting writers motivated to find time to do what they love: write.

Last year, I joined in the inaugural Queensland Writers’ Centre Rabbit Hole weekend (where the challenge is 30,000 words in three days), which really helped kick along the first draft of Haze (Rephaim #2). I got down 15,000 words and was pretty happy with that. In the last week, I’ve started to really hit my stride with Rephaim #3 and all the chatter online about NaNo got me thinking it could be just the thing to motivate me to get a huge chunk of the first rough draft done.

I mused about this Twitter, thinking 50,000 words was probably unrealistic – for me anyway, if I wanted them to meaningful in the context of my plot and character arcs.  And then the lovely Mia, blogger at Mia K Rose, called me on it and pointed out that I didn’t have to write 50,000 words, just as many as I could in the month. It was a fair call.

I should probably point out that edits are progressing nicely with Haze and I have a window of time where I can focus on Rephaim #3 (I finally have a working title I like, I’m just not quite ready to share yet in case I change my mind) so the idea getting down even 25,000 words in a month is hugely appealing.

I’m not saying those 25,000 words will be spun gold, but they’ll help me see if the plot is working and give me time to play with characters and scenes. Like many writers, I find the most satisfying part of writing is actually re-writing, so the sooner I get that first rough draft down, the sooner the “real” work can begin.

So, I’ve signed up, got my buddies (Mia, and the wonderful Nomes from Inkcrush) and already had a couple of productive days. My pace will slow as work for the day job demands – my business partner Heather is a huge supporter of my writing, but I’m sure she’ll still be happy to hear I’ll fit in our projects as well. 🙂 But it will be interesting to see how much I can achieve in a month now I’ve made myself publicly accountable.

There have been some great blogs giving advice on how to get the most out of NaNo, one my favourites being from Charmaine Clancy (My Zombie Dog) over at Wagging Tales (although I’ve sort of broke rule #7 by writing this post…).

Right then. Time to get to the day job, so I can then get back to Gaby and Rafa and boost that word count.

To all my fellow NaNo writers: may the muse be with you!

Another reveal – UK cover for Haze

It’s a big week of reveals!

After being able to show you the gorgeous Australian/NZ cover for Haze (from Text Publishing), I’ve also been given the nod from the kind folk at Orion/Indigo to reveal the wonderfully atmospheric cover concept for the UK version:


The above cover is the companion to the previously revealed UK cover for Shadows:

Shadows (UK version - Indigo/Orion)

Needless to say, I’m deliriously happy with the two collections of covers for the Rephaim series so far. :)

To clarify:
– Shadows (Rephaim #1) is now available in Australia and New Zealand, and will be released in the UK in January, and Canada/US in Fall 2013.
– Haze (Rephaim #2) is due out in Australia, New Zealand and the UK in June 2013, with the Canada/US release date to be confirmed.