Ep 7 Julia Gillard on GOT, Real Housewives, "American Blogger" doco, blog to book successes and Writer in Residence Kylie Mason

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In Episode 7 of So you want to be a writer, We talk about Julia Gillard’s obsession with Game of Thrones, the train wreck that is the Real Housewives of Melbourne, the new documentary “American Blogger”, more blog to book successes and our Writer in Residence Kylie Mason.

Click play below to listen to the podcast. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher Radio. Or add the podcast RSS feed manually to your favourite podcast app.

Episode-7-

Show Notes

Game of Thrones has parallels with Julia Gillard’s time as Australian prime minister
http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2014/apr/07/game-of-thrones-parallels-prime-minister

All of Shakespeare’s plays converted into web comics
http://io9.com/all-of-shakespeares-plays-converted-to-3-panel-webcom-1559458973

BeaconReader – a new style of writing funding
http://www.beaconreader.com/

The Real Housewives of Melbourne
http://www.mamamia.com.au/rogue/real-housewives-of-melbourne-7/

American Blogger – the documentary

A documentary called ‘American Blogger’ is really only about white lady bloggers
http://www.dailydot.com/entertainment/american-blogger-white-lady-bloggers/

Blog to book successes
Humans of New York: blog / book
http://www.free-range-humans.com/resilience/7-lessons-from-the-success-of-humans-of-new-york/ 

Pen and Ink: blog / book

Styling You: blog / book

Reservoir Dad: blog / book

Cook Republic: blog / book

Underwater Dogs: blog / book

Kylie Mason HeadshotWriter in Residence
Kylie Mason – Freelance Editor
http://kyliemmason.com/

Our web picks
Portent’s Content Idea Generator
http://www.portent.com/tools/title-maker/

Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator
http://www.hubspot.com/blog-topic-generator#/book/writer

 

Writer’s Tip
Do you pitch an idea without all your case studies lined up? What happens if you can’t deliver?

You’ll find your hosts at:
Allison Tait
http://www.allisontait.com/

Valerie Khoo
http://valeriekhoo.com/

Australian Writers’ Centre
https://www.writerscentre.com.au/

Transcript

Allison 

Today I’m talking to Kylie Mason, a Sydney-based freelance editor with a long history of working with Australian publishers, both on staff and on a freelance basis.

Hi, Kylie!

Kylie
Hi, Allison. How are you doing?

Allison
I’m very well. Great to have you here.

Maybe we could start our interview with just a bit of an overview as to how you became a book editor, because I think it’s something that a lot of people are probably quite interested in.

Kylie
Sure. Well, I did a degree, I did a bachelor of arts and I majored in communications and creative writing. After I graduated I did a master’s in creative writing. And then kind of thought, “What do I do now?” So, I became a bookseller. I did that for a long time. I was a bookseller for five years, and then I thought, “I want to know a bit more about publishing,” and I was very lucky to get a job with Harper Collins publishers as a fiction department assistant, and it just snowballed from there. They were wonderful, they trained me up. I worked with some lovely authors and some lovely editors, and I did that for six years. I moved to Pan Macmillan after a few years at Harper Collins, and they trained me very well in different aspects of publishing, and here I am.

Allison
Wow, OK. So you’ve done the master’s in creative writing, do you write as well?

Kylie
I don’t write at the moment.

Allison
OK.

Kylie
However, if I did have a dollar for every time someone asked me that I would wouldn’t need to be an editor.

Allison
I was going to say — yeah, that’s interesting. Obviously, it’s the editing side of it is what really interests you at the moment.

Kylie
It is. I love getting involved with stories, and I love getting involved with writers, and I love the way writers think. I think having the background with the master’s gives me a bit more of an insight and gives me the ability to be sensitive to the way writers work and how they feel. It’s incredibly intrusive to have a stranger read your book and then offer comments on it and solutions, if they think there’s a problem. So, I hope that influences the way I work.

Allison
OK, great. All right, let’s talk a little bit about what a book editor does. What’s your role with the novel?

Kylie
It depends on what the writer or the publishing company who has hired me wants me to do. I can structurally edit a novel, which means I go in and look at the big picture and I make sure that the book makes sense, that there’s proper narrative, that the voice works, the characters have good motivation and are well-rounded and not two-dimensional. And if there are problems, then I think about ways the writer might address those problems, and suggest them. I don’t ever say, “You must fix this, and fix it this way,” because it’s not my book and that’s the golden rule. I don’t read a book and take it over.

Allison
Right.

Kylie
The writer has worked so hard to get it right, I’m just there to kind of nudge and encourage solutions for parts that might be troublesome. And there are sometimes manuscripts that don’t have very many problems, you might just have one tiny issue, but that’s pretty rare.

Allison
Oh, OK. As a writer I just sit back, every time I send it off and think, “This is the one that’s going to come back and they’re going to say ‘this is so perfect, we don’t need to do anything…’” it hasn’t happened yet, just quietly.

Kylie
Yeah, no. It doesn’t happen very often.

Allison
All right, so there’s the structural edit and then what are the other processes that you might be called upon to be involved in?

Kylie
In Australian publishing we have structural editing and we have copy editing, and they’re the two main procedures. I do mainly copy editing as a freelance editor, so I look really closely at manuscripts, line by line, I look at spelling and grammar and punctuation, but I also keep a close eye on anything that might pull a reader out of the story, so if there’s inconsistencies, or if there are anomalies, or continuity problems, like an eye color changes, or things like that, where you kind of go, “Oh, I’m not involved in this story anymore and I’m distracted by that.” That’s where I want to draw to the author’s attention and ask them to consider fixing.

Allison
Which of those procedures do you like the best? Like, from your perspective? Do you enjoy that big picture that character wouldn’t do that sort of stuff? Or do you like the detail, the eye color’s changed stuff?

Kylie
Yeah, I kind of flip between the two. I really do like structural edits, but I don’t do them as often as I do copy edits.

Allison
OK.

Kylie
I like copy edits because I’m such a huge know-it-all that I like to research stuff, so if there’s a particular detail mentioned, then I go off and Google it and make sure that’s OK, or if there’s a detailed mentioned that I know is wrong, then I get to kind of put a comment in and go, “My research tells me that this doesn’t happen at this time,” or, “This is impossible.” So, I like to use all of this strange knowledge that I have in my head and bring it to the edit.

Allison
OK.

Kylie
I really hope it doesn’t annoy the writer, but —

Allison
Are you a nightmare in trivia competitions? That’s really nice.

Kylie
I am.

Allison
Are you one of those? Oh, god. OK.

How long does an edit — let’s talk about them as two separate things, but how long does an edit take? Like, if it’s a structural edit versus a copy edit, is it about the same length of time for each one?

Kylie
It is about the same length of time, because with a structural edit although you’re not looking line-by-line at it, you do have to read it closely to make sure you’re not missing a crucial element that might confuse you and it transfers into your report to the author, and the author reads it and goes, “But, they didn’t read it closely enough, because it clearly says on this page that what they’re questioning didn’t happen.” So, they do take about the same amount of time. And, roughly 15-20 hours, depending on the word length to read a book for the first time.

Allison
OK.

Kylie
It’s a big job.

Allison
Yeah, no. It is a big job.

This is a question that with self publishing everybody says, “You must get an editor, you have to get an the book editor before you just fling it out there onto Amazon and into the world.” You know, if an author is looking at paying for a process like this, what kind of budget do they need to have in their head?

Kylie
It’s a pretty big amount of money. It’s more than $1,000, everything depends on the length of the book and also it can depend on the quality of the manuscript. If it needs a huge structural overhaul and then a copy edit, you’re probably looking at $2,500-$3,000. If it’s structurally sound and it just needs a good copy edit, you’re probably looking at $1,500-$2,000. It does vary between editors, and it will vary depending on what kind of hourly rate they charge, and the experience they have. Less experienced editors are probably just as good as a more experienced editor, but might not charge as much, but if they don’t have a lot of experience then you’re risking maybe they’ll miss some things that a more experienced editor wouldn’t miss.

Allison
What’s the best way to find an editor? Should I be looking at sort of asking around my network? Like, is word of mouth a good way? If I need an editor how do I find one?

Kylie
Sure. Word of mouth is really good. If you’ve got a writers’ group that you go to and people who have used editors before and trust them, that is an excellent way to find an editor, because how do you judge whether someone is good editor just from a website or a CV?

If you don’t have a writers’ group, then the next best way is to go to the Society of Editors in your state, and I think every state and territory, except the Northern Territory has a Society of Editors, and you just have to Google ‘Society of Editors’ and up they’ll pop.

Allison
Right.

Kylie
They all have a directory of freelance editors, and usually they will also have a listing of their specialties, so if you’ve written a specific genre you can find someone who has worked on that genre and approach them.

Allison
That’s actually a really good question, because one of the questions that I would have to ask you is do you have to like a manuscript to sort of do a good structural edit or something like that? I mean you obviously would have genres and styles of fiction that you prefer, is that what you prefer to read, or what you prefer to editor, or how does that work?

Kylie
I don’t think you have to like a manuscript to do a good job on it, but having said that I haven’t met a manuscript yet that I couldn’t find something to like about it. You know, there might be wonderful characters, there might be a wonderful story, the writer might have a fabulous turn of phrase, even if the manuscript as a whole isn’t to my taste I can always say, “You did this really well.” Dialogue might be great, something like that.

I kind of hesitate to edit stuff that I really love to read for myself, because it can be hard to turn off the editing mind when you’re reading for pleasure.

Allison
Oh, of course. Yeah.

Kylie
I love historical fiction, I love literary fiction, I love romances and fantasies, and crime — I pretty much love all kinds of fiction.

Allison
I was going to say, you pretty much covered it all off there.

Kylie
Yeah, that’s pretty much everything. So, having said I don’t like working on stuff that I like to read, that’s untrue.

Allison
We need to edit that statement, I think, just quietly.

Kylie
I think we need to — yeah.

I mean working on any type of fiction — I’m incredibly lucky as an editor to get to work on any type of fiction, because it’s hard to get established in the industry as an editor of fiction, and that people appreciate the work I do and keep giving me fiction to edit is amazing.

Allison
Fantastic. So, that’s my next question, how do you get your projects? Do most of them come through publishers or are they through authors direct? Where do they come from? Do they fall out of the sky?

Kylie
They are pretty even split between publishers and private clients. When I started as a freelancer most of my work came through publishers, because that’s where my contacts were, people I had worked with in-house, or people who had asked for recommendations, and, you know, nowadays I just get emails saying, “Are you available for a copy edit on this book?” And if it’s in my schedule I say, “Of course.”

I also have a website, and I get private clients contacting me through the website.

Allison
We’ll put your website address into the show notes, of course. Is it kyliemason dot com?

Kylie
It’s kyliemmason.com because the other one was already gone.

So, yeah, I get private clients and I email back and forth with them about what they’re looking for, whether they want a structural edit or report, if they’re planning on submitting to publishers or agents, or if they want a copy edit because they want to self-publish, and I give them quotes based on what they want and how long their manuscript is.

Allison
What does a typical day look like for you? Do you sort of sit down at like nine o’clock in the morning and start reading? Is that how it works? If that’s the case, I want your job.

Kylie
That’s how it works on the perfect day. Yeah. I get up and do a morning routine and then I sit down at nine o’clock and I start working, and I work through until lunch and have a little bit of a break, and then I work through until however long it takes me to finish that day’s deadline. I set deadlines for myself everyday, because otherwise I fall behind and I don’t want to let any of my clients down. If they expect a book on Friday, then they’re going to get the edit back on Friday, I don’t want to mess anyone around like that.

But, a typical day is really boring, because all it is reading, and there are no distractions, I don’t have any colleagues emailing me, or stepping into my office or anything like that. The only distractions I have are the ones that I make for myself.

Allison
Right, I was going to say, because one of the biggest difficulties with freelance anything are the distractions that you make for yourself. So, obviously, you’ve been doing it for a while now, you’ve got the sort of discipline aspect of it down pat.

Kylie
Yes. Number one is always get dressed, don’t work in your pajamas.

Allison
I have to drop my kids at school, so I have to get dressed, it’s probably a good thing I have them because otherwise I would still be sitting here in my dressing gown — yes.

Kylie
I know there are freelancers who like to work in their pajamas, I am not criticizing them, but, for me, I have to get dressed. It makes that difference from getting up and staying at home to read for fun and getting up, staying at home and working. Yeah, so I get up, I get dressed, I start to read, and if my mind starts to wander I take a break, because I know I’m not doing my best work. So, taking a break means going on Twitter or checking my email, or going on Tumblr and just seeing what’s happening in the world, and maybe having a bit of a conversation, and then coming back to the job, so my mind is refreshed.

Allison
Yeah, OK. Yeah, that would be the difficulty, would be — because you have to see every word, and if you get to the point where your eyes are gazing over, that’s not going to work for you, right?

Kylie
Absolutely, and that’s why you read things more than once, because you never pick up anything on the first pass anyway.

Allison
Right.

Kylie
If you happen to have had one of those mind-wandering, eye-glazing moments at a really crucial spot, the second read through you can see that you’ve missed maybe it says ‘it’ rather than ‘if’, you know? Just little typos like that that your eyes glance across.

Allison
Are you seeing similar problems over and over with manuscripts? Like, when you are doing a structural edit or even a copy edit are you seeing — are there a couple of things that you see all the time?

Kylie
There are. One of the things that I see the most that I hate the most is point of view switches, like head-hopping is what we call it. It depends on the kind of book you’re writing and the point of view that you’re writing in, but a lot of people go from third person narratives and don’t stick with one point of view for a long enough time for readers to get used to it.

Allison
Right.

Kylie
This happens quite a lot in romances, where we’re getting both the hero and the heroine’s point of view and you’re switching between them, and it can be quite disorientating and quite confusing, and I really like sticking with one character and seeing them through until a conclusion of that part of the novel for them.

Allison
Right, so not within the middle of a scene? You need a good break.

Kylie
Yeah, exactly. Don’t switch heads in the middle of a scene or in the middle of a paragraph, it’s really discombobulating.

So, that’s one thing that I see a lot. I understand that there are people who can write who do that and they can do it really well, but it’s tough to do without being confusing. So, that’s something that I try to address when I copy edit books, and when I structurally edit as well, and kind of bring it to the writer’s attention and see if they can fix it without losing what they want to say.

Allison
The momentum.

Kylie
The momentum — yeah.

The other thing I see is overwriting, that writers don’t trust readers to see where they’re going and what they’re saying.

Allison
Right.

Kylie
Lots and lots of adjectives and strings of descriptive prose, and it kind of slows down the narrative and it doesn’t give readers a chance to build up the image in their heads. I find myself so distracted by things that are overwritten and taken out of the story and that’s the one thing that you want to avoid.

Allison
OK, so people need to leave space for the reader to do some work?

Kylie
Absolutely.

Allison
OK. All right, so last question, what are your sort of top tips for authors to get the most out of working with an editor, because I know a lot of people think, “Oh, editors… they’re just going to make a mess of it…and they make changes and they don’t like this…” But, like, for me, I love working with an editor, I think editors are great because they bring to a manuscript a point of view that you get too close to stuff and you can’t see it yourself. So, you need that second pair of eyes to go, “You know what? That totally would not happen, that character would not do that.” So, for me, it’s a really positive thing, but I know a lot of people find it a bit scary. So, what are your tips for authors to get the most out of working with an editor?

Kylie
I’m so glad to hear you say that you like working with an editor, it’s really rare to hear authors say that they like it.

But, we are scary, we’re strangers to reading something close to a writer’s heart, and we are critical and that’s our job. We judge people for a living, basically.

Allison
How does that make you feel?

Kylie
It makes you feel really powerful.

But, because we know we’re judging people for a living we try to do it sensitively and with an eye on people’s feelings, because, again, it’s not my book. I’m an editor, I didn’t write it, I didn’t put my blood, sweat and tears into this book. So, I think what authors need to keep in mind is, or maybe bring an open mind to an edit and trust that the editor is on their side. We don’t want to take over your work, it’s not our name that’s going to be on the cover of your book, we just want you to shine, and we want your book to be the best it can be.

Don’t be scared of editors, and don’t assume that they’re going to rip your book apart, because we won’t, we might have questions about some of the choices that you’ve made, and we might have suggestions about how to address those choices, but we’re always going to take time to understand what you’re trying to do with the story, and we’ll use that understanding to help you improve the book.

Allison
Fantastic. So, we can just go into it with a positive mindset that it’s going to be wonderful and any minute now I’m going to get that, “Allison, this is so perfect, we need to do nothing review.”

Kylie
Absolutely. Yep, it will be the very next manuscript you send out, I’m sure.

Allison
All right, Kylie. Thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Kylie
Thanks for calling me, Allison.


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