Editor Interview

#PitchtoPublication is Samantha Fountain’s new contest which pairs writers with freelance editors before an agent round. I’ll be participating as an editor, and Samantha interviewed me on her blog. To find out more about the Pitch to Publication contest, check out sfountain.com.

Interview originally appeared on sfountain.com, along with interviews of the other participating editors.

Q. How did you become a freelance editor?

I was an English Department TA in high school and throughout college. Grammar has always interested me. In high school, everyone figured I’d either become a teacher or be an editor at a publishing house. As a writing coach and freelance editor, I get the best parts of both—teaching receptive, determined writers and editing without having to worry about sales.

I was one of the acquiring editors at my university literary magazine and loved it. Some of my peers went on to work in publishing, but I liked the flexibility of freelancing because I have two small children at home. 

Q. Do you have a general philosophy for how you approach your editing work?

I’m more of a literary editor than a commercial one. I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I love literature and writing. (Enough to pay a private university thousands of dollars to give me reading and writing assignments for four years!) Of course, this is my job, so I need to be paid for my work. I never overcharge or undercharge, and I base my rates on the EFA standards.

Editing is a collaboration between writer and editor. It’s a mutual partnership. It’s a conversation. I encourage my current and potential clients to ask questions and voice concerns. Some writers need more nurturing. Others want to improve at any cost. Either way, I give honest, encouraging feedback. I’m never harsh, but I do respectfully snark sometimes. Editors and agents are snarky creatures. It keeps us sane in the slush.

Q. What are the most common mistakes you see in new writers work?

Cliches: If you’ve seen a phrase on someone else’s page, it’s probably a cliche. If you’ve heard it in a movie trailer, it’s definitely a cliche. If you have body parts moving of their own accord—eyes shooting open, for example—it’s not only a cliche, it’s an awkward visual.

Telling rather than showing: Telling does have its place. For example, you can tell me that a character shut the door without describing her movement across the room, the sound of the door creaking. Unless shutting the door is somehow a plot device, it’s not important and can be summarized. Novels do require some telling, otherwise they’d be scripts. But readers want to experience the story, so include feelings and sensations to incorporate the reader.

Over description and underestimation of the reader: Pick a “divine detail” to set the scene. Describe that, then let the reader fill in the rest. Readers don’t want to be lectured; they want to participate in the story.

Q. What’s the one thing most novelists don’t understand about the art of revision?

The first draft is about exploration and expression. It’s about the writer. Revision is about creating experiences for the reader.

Most writers write for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if writers want to work with agents and acquisition editors, if they want their work read by thousands of people, they need to recognize that literature is collaborative. Just read the acknowledgements at the back of a novel! Writing is a solitary effort, but success and publishing are both team efforts.

Q. What’s one easy thing every writer can do right now to make themselves a better writer?

Nothing about writing is easy! But writers who are easy to work with will become better writers. Read a lot, be a good listener, be professional, respect your readers, and remember that agents and editors are readers, too.

Q. What kind of entries are you looking for in your Pitch to Publication query box?

I’m a very omnivorous reader, so genre doesn’t matter. I want a story I can escape into, with characters who are uniquely human, not underdeveloped stereotypes. I want subverted tropes. I want something that isn’t cookie-cutter. What makes your story different from everything else out there?

Note: I’m not going to assume that anyone has read the same books I have, so I’ll give TV and movie examples to illustrate. If you haven’t seen them, it only takes an hour or two to rectify.

Writers with a graphic novel script, good gracious, send that baby to ME. For novels, I want all the genre-illusive pieces (Princess Bride, Doctor Who, Galavant). All the bromances (Sherlock, Psych). All the will-they-won’t-they spy and crime-fighting duos (Chuck, Castle). Anything depressing yet hilarious or with a happy-for-now ending (500 Days of Summer, Casablanca). Adventure stories that pass the Mako Mori test (Firefly, Pacific Rim). Character-focused historical fiction with an interesting plot (Indiana Jones). And possibly guilty-pleasure thrillers (Pretty Little Liars).

I do have a couple rules: no erotica, sexual violence, violence against children, or misogynist or racist POVs. Those stories are not for me.

Q. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Minneapolis has too many creameries for me to ever just pick ONE favorite ice cream flavor. But I tend to gravitate toward complex flavors which combine textures. I like salted caramel pretzel. Grand Ole Creamery has Cookie Monster flavor, which is butter pecan with Oreo and cookie dough pieces and maybe M&Ms?—it’s amazing.

Q. How do you take your caffeine?

Chai Tea Latte, usually. Before 8pm or else I’m up all night! Also the chocolate I sneak while my kids are napping.

Now Accepting Summer Clients!

I’ve been on a short sabbatical from manuscript editing to get my household ready for the big move, but I’ll be open for business again in June, with the possibility of some openings in May! I’ve been missing all my clients and am very happy to get off the bench.

Seven Reasons to Make Me Your Editor

I’m taking reservations for the following services:

Manuscript Critiques

What you need to know:

  • This type of editing fills up the fastest, so don’t delay in reserving your spot!
  • I read the entire MS or short story and give overall comments and suggestions
  • I do not make in-text comments, but may highlight sections
  • Average cost is $8 per 1,000 words (a 75K manuscript = 75 x $8 = $600)

For more information, see my services page.

Substantive Line Edits or Copyedits

What you need to know:

  • Depending on the level of editing you need, I edit on the sentence level and give thorough feedback which has been praised by established literary agents, authors, and colleagues.
  • I use track changes for objective copyediting and leave comments for anything subjective.
  • Average cost for line edits is $27 per 1,000 words (I have a $40 special for the first 2,500 words and $160 special for the first 10,000 words)
  • Average cost for copyedits is $11 per 1,000 words ($7 for experienced authors)

For more information, see my services page.

Query Letter and Synopsis Edits

What you need to know:

  • I’m nearly always available for these edits, but they are done on a first-come, first-served basis. As soon as you pay, you get put on the waiting list, and I get to you as soon as I can. (I’ll let you know if the wait times exceed 3 business days in our first email.)
  • You get unlimited passes on these, but priority for full edits goes to new clients, who will need more attention. If you have a quick question, though, I often reply the same day!
  • For examples of my editing style, see my query workshops.
  • Cost is $35 for either, $60 for both.

For more information, see my query workshops.

I list my exceptions (the genres and content I will not edit) here and mention my favorite genres and subjects here.

If you think we’d be a good fit, send me your 1,000-word sample. I’ll read your sample, give you feedback, and quote you a price. To reserve a spot, you’ll need to pay a 20% deposit or $40—whichever is greater.

The deposit is refundable if you cancel before our scheduled date. If you cancel after that, I’ll keep the deposit.

For example, say that you want the first 10,000 words of your work-in-progress professionally edited. You pay $40 and we schedule you for the first two weeks of July. If you cancel before July 1, I’ll refund your $40. If you cancel after July 1, and I haven’t begun editing, I keep the $40 for loss of business. If I edited 5,000 words before you cancelled, I’ll keep your $40 but give you feedback on the first 2,500 words. You’d then have the option of paying for any feedback beyond that, using the price-per-word quote we agreed on.

Does that make sense? If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I look forward to reading your stories and pushing you toward publication!

2014 in review

12 posts and pages from 2014:

todaysworkChapter110 steps-01

1) PRIORITIES: Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix 2) Crafting Chapter One: Resources for Writers 3) 10 Steps to Finishing a Novel

Telling and Selling Stories the Video Game Way | Write Lara Writedialoguedashes

4) Telling and Selling Stories the Video Game Way 5) 7 Tips for Writing Realistic Dialogue 6) Quick & Easy Guide to Dashes


7) Formatting your Novel Manuscript (3 part series) 8) Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Sub-genres 9) Successful Twitter Pitches

MSFQueryquerylaraMs Edits

10) The Kinds of Queries that Work, from Query Shark 11) Query Workshops (ongoing series) 12) Editing Prices

Author Interviews:



Top archive posts of 2014:

  1. An Introduction to Characters: MBTI and Characters: MBTI continued
  2. Character Profile Worksheets
  3. Diction: Latinate versus Anglo-Saxon
  4. The 8 C’s of Plotting: Worksheets and Introduction
  5. Chapter Outlining like a Pantser
  6. POV Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3
  7. 7 Writing Maxims and What to Do with Them
  8. Quiz: How should you start your novel?
  9. Naming Characters: Charactonym
  10. Story Berg and Goal Boat: A Lesson in Backstory and Goals

10 Steps to Finishing a Novel

The great thing about blogging is that you can’t hear my maniacal laughter. Oh, I’ll give you ten steps all right. Just don’t think that those ten steps will be easy or even consecutive. Think of it more as a twisted game of Chutes and Ladders. You go up a few steps, slide back down to the bottom, go up a few more steps, slide back to the bottom again. You’re basically Sisyphus.

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

A nicer title for this article might be:

The Creative Process for Writing a Novel

except it also includes processes that are critical, not creative, so maybe:

The Ten-Step Program for Novelists

(Titles aren’t really my thing.)

If you follow me on Facebook, you might have seen a link I posted a while ago entitled “Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge: Unlocking Our Personas to Get Unstuck” from Ed Batista. In it, he quotes Betty Sue Flowers and her approach for getting unstuck as a writer. Now, I’ve already posted on The Myth of Writer’s Block, but there’s a difference between being “blocked” and being paralyzed by your inner critic.

Flowers’ essay is short, and you should read it. But I’ll sum it up for you anyway. She says that we all have conflicting energies. One, the madman, is the creative energy.

The judge is the critical energy: the internal editor, the voice that says, “That was the worst thing I’ve ever read” or “You are a ridiculous hack.” It’s the impetus to hold down the delete key.

So Flowers introduces two more personas, ones to act as mediators between the madman and the judge: the architect and the carpenter.

Basically these four personas represent 1) creativity, 2) logic, 3) craft, and 4) perfection. Separating these processes and letting them each have their turn will allow your work to grow and be refined from start to finish. You can even select one day for each persona. Monday = Madman. Tuesday I’ll organize his mess. Wednesday I work on syntax, style. Thursday I polish. Friday I submit the work.

Sounds really smart, right? It is!

But let’s look at the broader picture. How can we apply those four personas to writing out a novel-length work?

Steps 1–2: Experience

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

Source: Hey Kids, Comics!

#1: Feed your creativity.

Read good stories. Read like a writer. Watch movies known for their storytelling (See this and this for ideas). Watch Sherlock. Listen to people talking. Eavesdrop. People watch. Go make memories. Travel. Spend time outside.

#2: Feed your knowledge.

Research. Spend time world-building. Flesh out your characters, then get to know them inside and out. Need character worksheets or exercises? I’ve got them here.

This is where many creative people stop. But to actually get things finished, you’ll need to keep moving forward.

On to the next step!

Steps 3–4: Produce

This is where the madman comes in.

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

Source: Fanpop

#3: Brainstorm

No idea is off limits. Try to come up with some themes, pitches, or log lines so you have a bit of direction for the next step.

#4: Create

Be wild, reckless. Imagine your inner critic bound and gagged in the corner. Unleash your inner child and play. Write a paragraph or a scene. If you are a pantser, you might even complete a first draft before the next step. Just get words down.

When you are ready to plan, whether you’ve written a sentence or a full first draft, move on

Step #5: Plan

5–6 correspond to the Architect.

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

Source: National Archive

Plan. Plot.

Start sketching out a roadmap. You can drive with your headlights out, sure, but it’s good to have at least some idea of a destination or what’s coming up next. This plan can be as rough or as detailed as you want it to be. Just stay flexible. Related posts:

Repeat 1-5 until you have an idea of a destination and a route to get there.

Step #6: Harvest

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

Source: Smashing Picture

Curate. Organize.

Gather what you’ve generated. Organize it. Be selective with what you keep. Cut, rearrange, paste.

Repeat 1-6 until you have a complete manuscript. Celebrate. Then take a break to read a book or two about writing. Spend some time here on the blog. Ask questions

Step #7: Critique

7–8 correspond to the Carpenter

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

Source: National Galleries Scotland

NOW is the time to start critiquing. Look for lazy writing. Find cliches. Read out loud. Underline wordy or clunky writing. Use a highlighter, not a pen. This is a time to find problems, not fix them. If you try to fix everything now, you’ll overwhelm yourself!

Take a break. Read poetry, go for a walk, go on vacation. Give your ego some time to recover. Compile a list of people who might want to Beta Read for you.

Step #8: Progress

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

Refine: Library of Congress

8a: Rewrite

Take a scene or a chapter at a time. Look over critiques, then fix them. Be a writer. Be creative, be original. Fresh language. Specific details. Show, don’t tell.

8b: Proof

Inspect your writing for grammatical or logical errors. You can do this at the same time as #8a, but realize that one is about creating, and one is about judging. They are like twins with different personalities. You can take them as a set or separately.

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

Twins: Design for Mankind

Write, critique, refine, proof your query letter if you’re looking for agent representation. 

Step #9: Invite

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

Source: Australian War Memorial

Give your new draft to other readers. Listen to their feedback. Decide if you agree with them.

While you’re waiting for their feedback, read QueryShark. Refine your query letter.

Repeat 8 and 9 until you feel ready to submit or send your work to a professional. Note that if you already have an agent or editor, you’d likely submit your work to them very early on.

Step #10: Post

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write

Source: Smithsonian Apparently people mailed actual children via post. Seriously.

10a: Hire

Send your query letter and sample to a freelance editor for professional feedback. Alternatively, you could send your query to a critique group or published author friend. Consider anyone’s feedback critically, but also understand that sometimes your gut reaction is more of a defense mechanism. Don’t accept or reject changes without considering each one.

If self-publishing, you take on the financial risks of publishing rather than a publishing house or small press. Ideally you will hire at least one copy editor or line editor and one proofreader. I’ve seen multiple editors and proofreaders still miss typos!

Repeat 8.

10b: Query

If you are looking for representation, send your query letter to agents.

If no one requests a complete manuscript, repeat 8-10 until somebody does. A published writer is a writer who doesn’t give up. 

Nobody promised you a rose garden. This is a long, hard road. You will sacrifice much. But at the end, you will have learned and achieved much.

Then: Representation!

You did it! Plan on plenty more writing, rewriting, and marketing in the months and years following representation as your agent submits your book to publishers.


  1. Feed your creativity by experiencing life.
  2. Feed your knowledge gaining experience. Research facts. Fabricate the rest.
  3. Brainstorm like a mad scientist.
  4. Create with wild abandon. Repeat 1–4.
  5. Plan. Repeat 1–5 until you have a destination, an ending, a THEME.
  6. Curate, cut, and paste. Repeat 1–6 until you have a complete manuscript.
  7. NOW you can take the gag out of your internal editor’s mouth. Critique. Then take a vacation.
  8. Refine, fix, rewrite. Unleash the literary genius. Live up to your potential.
  9. Invite others to read your new draft. Welcome feedback. Write your query and summary. Repeat 8.
  10. Send your stuff to the professionals. Repeat 8–10 until you get representation.

An even briefer summary:

10 Steps to Finishing Your Novel | Write Lara Write


Note: My husband, a Captain in the Marine Corps (now Reserves), says he only needs 6 steps to accomplish anything: BAMCIS. I can see that being adapted for novel writing. Once he finishes a novel, I’ll let him write a guest post about it.