Monday, June 22, 2015

Confessions from the Editing Cave with Suzanne VanRooyen

Welcome back to yet another installment of Confessions from the Editing Cave. Today in the confessional -- young adult author, Suzanne van Rooyen!

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?
I am extremely lucky to have an editorial agent – the lovely Jordy Albert. What this means is that, when I submit a new work to my agent, she reads it and gives me detailed editing feedback on content. This level of editing doesn't look at line for line grammar, word echoes etc. but rather at the big picture. Will a reader connect with my characters? Is there a gaping plot hole? Does the story work?  My agent also makes suggestions based on her knowledge of what's selling and what might not work for the editors she has in mind for the work. It's only after revisions – which might go more than one round depending on how many changes are required – that we go on submission. Since I've had an editorial agent, I've found the number of first round edits from my publisher to be greatly reduced so Jordy clearly knows her stuff.

As a traditionally published author only working with the in-house editors of my publishers, I've never hired a freelance editor. As of writing this, I have worked with four different editors at four different publishing houses, some more awesome than others.

2. What was your overall relationship with your editor? Good? Bad? Indifferent?
In general, very good. Working with an editor can be tricky because there are so many things that are subjective. Perhaps I've just been lucky, but I have always had editors who are willing to discuss and compromise on proposed changes. Likewise, as an author you have to be willing to compromise as well and know when to pick your battles. Sometimes you really do need to kill your darlings in order to tighten up the narrative. I have been extremely lucky to work with editors who understood my vision for the story and who loved my story.

3. What was the best edit you’ve ever received from your editor?
Wow, tricky question. In one work I had used some pretty awful google translated Spanish, which thankfully my editor could correct (that was embarrassing! And an experience I have definitely learned from.) Jordy has also provided some excellent edits, helping me explore the emotional landscapes of my characters a lot more. Honestly, the best edits are the ones that make me go, 'damn, why didn't I see that?' and that with one simple change can make a previously dull sentence sparkle, can make a scene pack a punch, or elevate a character to greater heights.

4. What was the worst edit you’ve ever received from your editor?
Perhaps those that I felt were trying too hard to rewrite my story. I haven't received many of these, perhaps a couple of sentence suggestions at most, where I felt the suggested changes didn't suit my voice or character, but that's really minor.

5. What was your first, initial, gut-reaction to your edits?
I'm always nervous when I open up an editorial letter. It's hard to get past the thought that you're about to read a list of what you did wrong, when really it's a list of how to take the manuscript from good or great to incredible! I really thought I'd be devastated the first time I opened up an editorial letter, angry, defensive, insulted even, but I wasn't – I was excited! Since then, I've tried to view edits as an opportunity rather than a rap over the knuckles. It's not about fixing mistakes (well, sometimes) but rather about polishing the story until it shines. These days, I love edits and look forward to process – just as soon as I pluck up the courage to open the editorial letter ;)

6. Confession time! Share anything else you’d like to confess.
There are times when I find I don't agree with a suggestion and add a comment saying as much, only to come back to the same spot an hour, a day or even a week later and reluctantly admit that the editor was right. 


Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Sweden and is busy making friends with the ghosts of her Viking ancestors. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she grows up, she wants to be an elf – until then, she spends her time (when not writing) wall climbing, buying far too many books, and entertaining her shiba inu, Lego. Her books include The Other Me and I Heart Robot.

To connect with Suzanne, visit her on her websiteFacebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.