Earlier this week I shared my Q&A for Pitch to Publication 2016. Well, two more of my MS Editors are participating as well! I wanted to feature them both here, too, so you can get to know them a bit better. First up is Elizabeth Buege.
Elizabeth Buege is a Midwestern girl with a lifelong love of words. She graduated from the University of Northwestern—St. Paul with a B.A. in English writing and internship experience in nonprofit writing and book editing. She now teaches secondary writing classes for homeschool students through a local co-op, where her job is to help teens fall in love with words and learn to express critical thought clearly. Elizabeth also loves helping authors become better writers, so she offers book critiques and editing services at elizabethbuege.com, where she blogs writing tips and related topics to help authors grow in their craft. When she’s not editing books or grading research papers, she’s probably reading, writing, or enjoying the world around her.
What is your writing and editing background?
I’ve been writing since I was six years old. I jumped at the chance to major in English Writing in college, but when I left with degree in hand, I was burned out on technique lessons and needed quite a bit of time to find my own sense of story again. Taking on the “those who can’t, teach” mindset, I went into editing (first internships, then freelance) instead of keeping up writing at first. I have absolutely loved working with other people’s stories, and I wouldn’t choose any other job! Thankfully, though, time and space have helped me rediscover a love for my own writing, so I’m working more and more of that into my life, too.
What are your major editing accomplishments?
First of all, being here right now! My college adviser told me that I would never be assertive enough to run a freelance business, so my greatest accomplishment is proving her wrong. In the work itself, I get a real sense of accomplishment when I see what a client does with their book after receiving a manuscript critique. I know that’s mostly thanks to the authors’ own talents, but it feels good to look and think, “Hey, my knowledge, skills, and suggestions helped them get there!”
Do you have a general philosophy for how you approach your editing work?
I always ask myself, “What does this book need?” Sometimes, that looks like changing up my normal manuscript critique format to something better suited to an author’s questions, goals, and struggles. Other times, that looks like letting go of my ideas of what would work best and helping an author make their way work, even if I don’t agree with it. It always involves understanding what the author is trying to accomplish and getting behind them. If my goals aren’t the same as theirs, then I’m doing something wrong.
What types of books do you enjoy working with?
I love books where I can really get into the main character’s head and heart and connect with them. I don’t necessarily need to be able to relate to their lives. In fact, most of the characters I work with live lives totally different from mine, but there’s something about being human that comes through in all the best books. There are certain genres I get sent more than others, especially science fiction and fantasy, but I’m always getting excited when I find the humanity in genres and subgenres that are new to me.
What are the most common mistakes you see in new writers work?
The two biggest mistakes I see are (a) copying other simple writing styles without knowing why and (b) getting sloppy with point of view. I’m always questioning writers: Why did you choose this tense? Why did you choose this way of describing things? I often hear “I’m not sure” in response. Know what your tools are and how you can them–don’t copy the people around you, because they might not know what they’re doing either. Also, use just one viewpoint at a time, and don’t share information the POV character wouldn’t know. They’re your filter between story and reader; make good use of them.
What’s the one thing most novelists don’t understand about the art of revision?
Making major revisions isn’t a sign of bad writing; it’s a necessity of good writing. You can’t just throw out a draft and then proofread it; you have to revise on the structure, scene, and sentence levels in individual drafts–sometimes, even more than once per level.
What’s one easy thing every writer can do right now to make themselves a better writer?
Read books from different eras. I can tell when writers haven’t read widely–they start to sound like everyone else who is writing right now. Pay attention to how story works and how language works, and then practice writing. Get good feedback from an editor or qualified beta reader/critique partner and then accept it. There is always room to grow, and it’s better to ask for help than to get offended by it.
What is the most important consideration in selecting a book editor?
Are you comfortable with each other? This will look different for everyone, but it’s important. Communication-wise, I’m a good fit for people who like things in writing, but I was a bad fit for a client who was uncomfortable with long messages and wanted phone conversations. What I include in a manuscript critique will look different from what another editor includes. Likewise, my style suggestions on a line edit will look quite different from those of another editor. Communicate with multiple editors and get samples. Read their websites. Who do you feel most comfortable with? Work with that one (after making sure they own and use The Chicago Manual of Style, of course!).
Why would a writer need a book editor?
A writer, no matter how skilled, isn’t going to catch every plot hole or awkward sentence in their writing. You need an outside eye. Qualified critique partners and beta readers can do a lot, but an editor will have the education and experience necessary to give your book a stronger read-through. They’re being paid a lot to do what they do, too, so it’s in their best interest to give it their full attention.
What do you do for fun that does not deal with the literary scene?
It feels like I don’t have a ton of time for things that aren’t reading, writing, editing, and grading papers. When I can, though, I try to make room in life for cooking, gardening, photography, playing games, and exploring parks. I love to experience the world around me!
Seriously, we need to know your favorite meal and why?
I’m in a weird transition period right now as I deal with my lactose intolerance. I think my favorite nondairy meal right now might be salmon with rice and salad, but that might change by tomorrow. My favorite non-meal food is fresh-popped popcorn. I could eat it every day and never get sick of it–salt, not sugar, is my food weakness.
MOST IMPORTANTLY What kind of entries are you looking for in your Pitch to Publication query box? Please bullet point your wish list.
- Age category doesn’t matter–MG, YA, or Adult entries are fine!
- Speculative fiction, especially fantasy, science fiction, and magic realism.
- Genre-benders–I want stories that don’t fit in a box.
- Character, character, character! I want to love them and care about their needs.
- NONE of these, please: horror, erotica, or paranormal (some urban/contemporary fantasy can be okay, but I’m not particularly interested in zombies, demons, vampires, and the like).
- I’m NOT the best fit for stories whose intent is to address hot social issues like gender, race, orientation, or specific political issues. There are editors who are much better than I am at bringing these stories to life! I tend to stay away from stories that are also causes; the fine line between the two is hard to walk.