Monday, April 13, 2015

Confessions from the Editing Cave with Lisa Dunn

Welcome back to another installment of Confessions from the Editing Cave. I'm thrilled to welcome young adult fantasy author, Lisa Dunn!

1. Tell us a bit about your background working with editor(s). Did you hire a freelance editor? Work with an editor at a publishing house? Work with an agent in the capacity of an editor? All of the above or some other combination?  

My first official editing experience was with Laura Maisano of Anaiah Press, who has seen me through the first two books of a YA Fantasy trilogy. Prior to that, my manuscript was subjected to the close scrutiny of my sister, my critique group, and a handful of literary agents who were kind enough to offer feedback.

2. What was your overall relationship with your editor? Good? Bad? Indifferent? 

From the start, Laura felt like a friend - a friend who would kick my butt if I gave less than 1000%. The same goes for my sister, whom I call my unofficial editor. Both of them challenged and encouraged me more than words can tell. 

3. What was the best edit you’ve ever received from your editor?   

So, I had this tree in my head - a coastal sort of tree with a twisting trunk that ran parallel to the ground before curving upright. I described it as “a low vertical trunk.” Laura had been pushing me to simplify my language, and her comment ran something like, “Um… wouldn’t that be a STUMP? This is what I’m talking about… SIMPLIFY!!!!” I laugh whenever I think of it, but this is a prime example of why authors need editors. Sometimes we just don’t see how far what we write is from what we meant to write.

4. What was the worst edit you’ve ever received from your editor?  

Two things come to mind. The first is a general issue of working through personal preferences where proper grammar and punctuation aren’t immediately clear.  Sometimes, I decided it didn’t matter and threw out my personal preferences. Other times, I discussed it with my editor, giving clear reasons to reject a suggested edit. (We’ll see who won in the final product!)  The other situation was a self-imposed edit based on feedback from a literary agent who loved my main character, but didn’t appreciate the direction in which I’d taken the story. It amounted to two months of revision during which I cut and pasted, added and deleted characters and scenes, and basically murdered several darlings in ice cold blood. I list this as a “worst edit,” but in fact, it was one of the best things that happened to my manuscript. It was hard. Probably the last thing you want someone to tell you is that you need to rewrite half your book. But it was so worth it. Generally speaking, the more sweat and tears an edit requires, the better your story will be.

5. What was your first, initial, gut-reaction to your edits? 

Gut indeed. You know that stomach-churn you get when an email from an agent or publisher you’ve queried pops up in your inbox? That doesn’t go away. You’re eager and giddy and terrified all at the same time, and the turmoil doesn’t abate until you’ve read through all the edits. Then, after you’ve taken a deep breath, you can return to life as a supposedly sane human being. 

6. Confession time! Share anything else you’d like to confess.  

This may make me sound like a nerdy goody-two-shoes, but I LOVE editing. I love the vulnerability of having every flaw and inconsistency exposed. I love the emotional sweat of digging deep to make the story that much better. I love the positive comments, too, those places where Laura took off her editor hat to gush over a line or call a character a “jerkwad.” On a more confessional note, I can be a bit obsessive when I’m writing or editing. Being in the zone is a fantastic rush, but sometimes I have to force myself out of the zone because, well, life. I’m very thankful for a husband and children who grant me space and grace to do this job. Finally, I’m kind of, sort of really looking forward to writing a standalone instead of a trilogy! Maybe it will be like parenting a singleton after triplets Heres hoping, anyway!

All about Lisa:
Lisa lives in a small Southern town with her husband and four children. Having found school incredibly dull, she teaches her children at home, where backyard forts, imaginary worlds, and a Great Dane puppy make things like Latin and long division bearable. She works with middle school youth at her church and is actively involved in her local chapter of South Carolina Writers Workshop.