Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Meet the Editor: Shon Bacon

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.
See what Shon dishes out about editing with our Meet the Editor column.
When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?
I think I've always been hung-up on typos; however, it became an obsession about eight years ago when I pursued my MFA/MA in creative writing and English. As a graduate teacher, I had to instruct students on how to write effective essays, and grammar, mechanics, sentence structure, and cohesion became paramount components in those instructions, not only for the students but also for me.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
Have a love for the WORD - meaning all words, what they look like, what they sound like, what they mean.

Have a love for the STORY - meaning all facets of the story, character, plot, conflict, setting, dialogue, etc.

Have a love for the TECHNICAL - meaning all that fun stuff, grammar, mechanics, etc.

What's the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
Keep doing what you're doing and charge more - you're worth it.

What's the best advice you've given a writer?
If you don't love what you write, most readers won't love it either.

In your opinion, what makes an editor great?
Great editors give care and attention to the story, first and foremost.
Great editors make sure the story stays true to the writer's intention and not the editor's intention for the story.

What's the one misperception about editors you want to clear up? Two things - not everyone can be an editor and editing is easy.
Just because a person loves to read does not make him/her the perfect choice for an editor. And no, one doesn't have to have several degrees to be an editor either - though it can help. Editors need to love to read, and they also need to know when what's written is not good and know how to fix it or offer suggestions so that the writer can learn, grow, and fix his/her issues within the story.

Though, it might appear that editing is easy to do, it isn't. Some might say, "Well, you're just reading, right?" No, not just reading - that's called LEISURE. What we do is work - hours of reading a single manuscript and analyzing it for its technical issues as well as story prowess. We evaluate said manuscript in a way that we can communicate to our client so that he/she can not only understand today but can apply it tomorrow on the next manuscript.

Why should a writer choose to work with you?
I love stories.
I love words.
I love grammar and mechanics - yes, I AM a geek and proud of it.
I love the light bulb moment that occurs when a writer "gets it."
Even more, I love when I edit the writer's next manuscript and can see the growth in his/her writing because he/she has LEARNED.

What genres do you focus on? Why?
I actually edit in a wide range of genres. In the past, I've edited romance, horror, fantasy, vampiric, urban/street, mystery, erotica, women's fiction, and memoirs. For me, it's all about helping to develop a good story - no matter the genre. In addition, I love to learn. Sometimes, I'm doing as much research on a subject as I am editing so that I can make sure the client is factual in his/her work. What I learn carries over into future projects I edit--and even into those projects I write.

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  1. Excellent advice. What's your advice to self-publishing writers?

  2. Shon, you are so right- not everyone is an editor! Last year, I was asked by my publisher to edit a collection of short stories for him. Yes, it's easy to pick up grammar errors but it was impossible for me to leave the writing alone. I've realized now that I should never be allowed to edit fiction - ever. I'm far too invasive. My writing partner, fortunately, is used to my bullying and ignores me when she can.

    Love your website BTW!

  3. I agreed. Editing is not easy. It takes a lot of attention to detail.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. One misconception is that editing is easy. An editor has to be detail oriented and willing to spend hours reading and re-reading someone else's work.

  5. How many of you can stand to read a book three times in a row within a short period of time? That'll tell you right there if you're cut out to be an editor. Each time you read that book, it's with a different focus. Here's my system today:

    1. Read as a fan, with the obvious errors slapping me in the face. Relaxed and with anticipation.
    2. Read line-by-line and nitpick to death. Up close and personal. Inserting Changes and Comments/Notes as I progress. This is the time-consuming pass-through. Usually it goes back to the author at this stage for changes.
    3. Read the corrected manuscript from the author, mindmapping for pace, plot solidity, and paying close attention to errors that might occur because of changes. Also, a third glance at grammar and punctuation.

    That's it for me, and the sytem works very well with manuscripts that are pretty solid when they land in my mailbox. I don't feel much need to substantially rewrite a plot or to recharacterize when I read - perhaps because I read so much? I dunno...


  6. Hey there, Emmanuel - now what specifically are you asking about self-published writers? Always willing to answer a question or two, :-)

    And Lauri, I can be a bit invasive, too, as an editor, but I always let the writer know when my opinion is my "opinion" - take it or leave it.

    Dani, LOVE your system - I follow something like that, too.

  7. Oh; it's a topic under discussion on my blog currently, about editing & self-publishing. What advice would you give those planning to publish their own books, in terms of what they must invest (time, money, etc) in the editing process.

  8. Emmanuel, there is still a negative stigma to self-publishing, and so it's extremely important that self-pubbed writers (I prefer calling them indie writers/publishers) get quality editing. It pays to research several editors for their prices, their clients, and their mission.

  9. Self-publishing authors probably benefit more than any other writers in hiring an independent editor for their books. Other authors get some editing through the submission and publishing process, but the self-published do all the jobs themselves - or skip the important steps. You need fresh eyes on your manuscript to make sure you're not missing the obvious. I think this is part of the reason self-published books have a "lesser" reputation; often, they just aren't as good as they could have been because some of the improvement steps have been missed.


  10. Shon sounds like an editor I'd like to work with. Very insightful editor's perspective.

  11. Thanks for the comment, Sharon, :-) It's appreciated!


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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