Monday, February 23, 2009

Meet the Editor - Marvin D Wilson

Meet the Editor, Marvin D Wilson

Marvin is the author of three books, I Romanced the Stone, Owen Fiddler, and the just-released Between the Storm and the Rainbow. He is a prolific blogger, with an internationally popular and award-winning blog at Free Spirit ( Marvin is a full time writer, is on staff at All Things That Matter Press as an editor, and also does freelance editing.

When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?
In college, in an English composition class. My instructor had a hissy fit if we students handed in anything with a typo in it. And back then, they were “type”-ohs – we were still using typewriters, remember those? It was so tempting to leave a “little” mistake in the last paragraph on a page rather than try and go through the pain of fixing it, or even worse re-type the entire doggone page. She would mark us down a whole grade for each and every typo. And nowadays, with the word processor and all the marvelous Word editing tools, a typo (we should really start calling it a “keyo”) is even more inexcusable.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
You have to love it. If you don’t have the patience to re-read a manuscript carefully and critically three (or more) times over and the driving urge to craft it into the best it can be, it can be a laborious, time-consuming job. You need the patience and love for the art of a sculptor. Beyond the necessary passion, you also have to be a student, a scholar of the art. Study the tutorials and textbooks on all aspects of grammar, punctuation and composition, and be constantly updating your knowledge. While certain fundamentals remain constant, trends do change based on current popular interpretations of the fundamentals.

What's the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
Write what you know, write honestly, and when you write, just write. Try not to think too much. When the inspiration hits, go with it and let it flow. Do your self-editing later – it’s an entire different state of mind and set of skills. Other than fixing the obvious glaring blunders as you go, take your editor’s cap off when you write because it can inhibit your creativity.

What's the best advice you've given a writer?
Do not over-write. Oftentimes novice writers (and I have been guilty of this) tend to use way too many exclamation points, far too many adjectives and adverbs, and they want to show off their vocabulary. Less is more. Stick to the meat of the story. Understatement is powerful.

Think of it like a mother who is constantly yelling at her kids. After a while they get numb to the decibel level and intense emotional ranting all the time and she has to practically hit them over the head with a wok to get their undivided attention. But the parent who speaks softly most of the time only has to raise her voice a little bit and the kids are like, “Woa – what’d we do now? Mom never uses that tone of voice unless something is serious.”

In your opinion, what makes an editor great?
Two things. Well there are more, but two very important things. One, a precise, exacting attention to detail; and two, a circumspect capacity to see the whole picture. A great editor has both of these functions operating simultaneously.

What's the one misconception about editors you want to clear up?
Sometimes editors are considered rude and unfeeling by the authors whom they are slashing and cutting and hacking away at the manuscripts of. And it is incumbent upon an editor to have some tact and diplomacy about the whole process. Good editors want just as badly as the author for the book to wind up as the best it can possibly be. Sometimes the process is painful if an author is thin-skinned or overly in love with his or her “babies.” Don’t take it personally. We’re people too.

This is really more an answer to the previous question, but an editor has to be like a good athletic coach. A skilled coach learns the team members and their personalities. Some kids need a good kick in the arse when they screw up. Others need a pat on the back to get motivated to do better. So after the first “back-and-forth” between the editor and the author over the manuscript, a seasoned editor will know what kind of psychological makeup the author has and adjusts the coaching accordingly. Doesn’t mean you let them get away with any bad or less-than-their best play, it just means you use skillful means to bring the finest out of them, knowing what kind of person you are dealing with.

Why should a writer choose to work with you?
I’m passionate about the skill of crafting good prose. I’m good at what I do, and you’d better grab me now while I’m still relatively inexpensive.

What genres do you focus on? Why?
Most fiction genres are fine with me. Historical fiction is not my favorite bag to edit, because I’m not a learned historian and one extremely important key to a well written historical fiction is how accurate the facts of the times, places, events and characters involved are. I will edit historical fiction if the author is previously published and I can read the reviews and be assured he or she knows their stuff.

As for non-fiction, I like autobiographies and memoirs, and I also like theological (of any religion or spiritual path, even agnosticism and atheism), social science, and psychological book-length dissertations as well as self-help books, especially books on the Law of Attraction.
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  1. Oh, yes, the good old days with typewriters and carbon paper. If you made a typo, you had to correct the carbon copy as well.

    Of course, I was never perfect.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. Loved the reminder of the typewriter days, Marvin. I was such a terrible typist, I paid a lady to type my final drafts of short stories. Couldn't afford to pay her to type my first book, so I slogged through that myself. What a chore.

    Then I got a computer. One of the first PCs made -- a Kaypro that was hooked up to this gigantic dot matrix printer. Took all afternoon to print 400 pages, but at least I wasn't typing and making mistakes. :-)

  3. Enjoyed the interview!

    Jane Kennedy Sutton
    Author of The Ride

  4. Great interview.

    Wow...the flashbacks, LOL Remember taking typing class in high school. Got knuckles rapped if our fingers than hover over the keys just so. A hand on the back if our posture wasn't perfect. Here I sit now, slouching, laptop half on table, half on my lap, LOL

  5. I'll try to eliminate keyos from this note. Great word, Marv. Sounds like a song in the making.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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