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Featured Author: Janine Southard

    Last month, we started a new type of post here on the Touchstone Editing blog: guest posts by featured authors! We've worked with some amazing authors over the years, so we've invited some of them to provide additional perspective on both the editing process and publishing in general.
    I am probably Janine Southard's biggest fan. She and I first worked together in 2010 when she submitted a short story for a call for submissions I had out for my Circlet Press anthology Masked Pleasures. (Her story, "Heir Apparent," is one I still remember vividly, all these years later.) It's strange, looking back now, to think that hers was a name I once didn't know, that at one time she was just another name in the slush pile. Since then we've worked on a handful of projects together, each one more fun than the last -- I remember, while editing one of her books, when I had to stop reading because I was laughing so hard at a tongue-in-cheek comment one of her characters had made. (That book became Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story, which you should definitely check out if you like to laugh.) Not every writer can successfully pull off comedy, but Janine does it, amidst her talents of writing science fiction, fantasy, erotica, and more. 
    I could go on and on talking about how much I love Janine's books -- and I do, frequently, to anyone willing to listen -- but for now I'll let you hear from her in her own words: 

The Editing Process: A Writer’s POV
By Janine A. Southard

Yay! The first draft is finished! For many writers, this is the hardest part. But that draft isn’t ready for general human consumption yet. So: what next?

Everyone has a different editing process (usually rooted in their drafting method), but here’s how it looks for me.
  1. Put the draft away and don’t look at it for a while. (Steven King recommends 6 weeks. Sometimes I’m too impatient—or get too distracted—to make the exact 6 week mark, but I try.)
  2. Re-read it myself and make changes like I would if it were someone else’s. Usually, this is just line editing stuff (i.e., making the words more prettier), but sometimes it turns into a huge plot upheaval.
  3. Send this neatened draft to my critique group... or force my spouse to read it first.
  4. Whichever didn’t happen in step 3.
  5. Make necessary changes and send it off to my developmental editor. What? You don’t have an editor? Have you thought about Touchstone Editing? (Yes, I’m shilling. Because Jen Levine has been a wonderful editor for me. One book she helped me with won a Cygnus Award in 2016.)
  6. Wait impatiently for notes from the editor.
  7. Receive notes from the editor and be too scared to open them because what if it’s horrible and I don’t know what to do?
  8. Actually open the notes. Freak out because I don’t know what to do. (8.5 Get over the freak out and start brainstorming fixes.)
  9. Spend two weeks adding and subtracting scenes. Every song on the radio is about my manuscript. Every moment is thinking about how I could fix things. Every podcast contains some little nugget that would make the book so much better.
  10. Send it back to the editor. Sometimes, it doesn’t need a second developmental look and is ready for line editing. Sometimes, we repeat steps 6-9.
  11. Receive notes to make the words read more smoothly, or where to maybe reorder things. Try to take all the notes, but sometimes they’re just wrong. For instance, I once had an editor who was brilliant at story, but didn’t do science fiction. She didn’t think “Terran” clearly meant “from Earth.” I ignored that note after polling my friends/family/mailing list, but that was the only note I tossed. Most of the time, though, the editor is definitely right. Remember, you picked the one you’re working with for a reason. Take the advice. (Unless it really bothers you. Because, in the end, it’s your manuscript.)
  12. At this point, I’m sick of my book. I’ve read it too many times. Made too many tweaks. Even reading it to my cat has lost appeal. I am relieved when I send it to the copyeditor/proofreader. (This is usually a different person than the developmental editor, who may or may not have been different from the line editor.)
  13. Get the proofed version back. Slog through it in one night. Even if it takes 6 hours to go over every misplaced comma and consistency check. It’s painful to read at this point, so getting it done fastest is best. (Lucky for me, my spouse recognizes this activity and makes me dinner while I moan about how awful this whole book is. Why did I write it in the first place? Waaaaah.)
  14. Finish! At this point, I’m formatting and self-publishing. You may be choosing to send it off to agents and publishing houses. The point is: the manuscript is as ready as it’s going to be. You’re as ready as you’re going to be.
There you go. That’s my whole editing process. Hating the book is actually helpful at the end, by the way, because it helps me accept editorial notes on tiny things that make the piece better. Like, all I want to do is make the manuscript go away, and that’ll happen faster if I don’t fight for obsolete comma rules.
Remember that you trust your editor. Your next book will have different problems after all you’ve learned.

Photo by Jeremy Barton

Janine A. Southard writes speculative fiction from coffee shops in Seattle, WA. All her books so far have been possible because of crowdsourced funds via Kickstarter. She owes great thanks to her many patrons of the arts who love a good science fiction adventure and believe in her ability to make that happen.

Get a free piece of fiction when you sign up for Janine A. Southard's newsletter. The newsletter will keep you current on things like her latest release dates approximately once a month. Your address will never be shared, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Plus: free ebook!

Dos and Don’ts for Interacting with Editors at Conferences

Photo credit:
Later this month I’ll be attending Balticon, a science fiction and fantasy convention in Baltimore, Maryland, for the second time. Over the past decade, I’ve attended a number of conventions geared toward readers and writers, and I’ve had my share of both good and bad interactions with people who found out I’m an editor.

It can be hard to approach someone in any social situation, even more so when you’re an author who has poured your heart into your work and now fears rejection and/or harsh criticism. I get it—I’ve been on that side of the exchange before. In case you’re like me and worried about putting your foot in your mouth, here are some easy dos and don’ts for approaching an editor in person (at conventions or elsewhere).

  • “My name is Author McAuthor. I write magical realism about blood-thirsty unicorns. Nice to meet you!”
      Introduce yourself. Even if you have nothing particular to say, putting a face to a name is always nice, and if we end up working together later—or when sending a query—you can say, “We met at that unicorn convention in Pittsburgh in 2017!” Bonus points for being specific about what kinds of things you write, because that will make you stand out. (Extra bonus points if you really do write magical realism about blood-thirsty unicorns.)
  • “Do you have a minute to chat? I’m working on a romance novel that I’d like to have edited, and I’d love to know what to do next.”
      You don’t have to commit to working with someone, but after introductions, you can still pick their brain about next steps and ask them for advice. This is also a good way to find out what their schedule looks like if they are someone you want to work with in the future.
  • “Hi, I saw you on a panel earlier and would love to chat more about the serial comma while we both enjoy our piña coladas!”
      Don’t be afraid to approach us in social situations, like at a bar or at lunch. Most often, we’re there to interact with others in the industry—just like you. But don’t trap us for half an hour listening to you talk about yourself; engage us in meaningful conversation! (Piña coladas are an added bonus.)

  • “Oh, you’re Editor McEditor. You rejected one of my stories once, which was a huge mistake.”
      No good can come of this. If an editor rejected your work, I can assure you it was nothing personal. But if you introduce yourself to an editor for the sole purpose of saying something snarky or mean-spirited, you’d better believe they’re going to remember you from then on. And not in a good way.
  • “I’m working on a story about a man who meets a woman and they fall in love and then she gets pregnant but the twist is he’s an alien, and then it turns out she’s cheating on him with a centaur-turned-villain whose name is Henrick…”
      Unless we’ve asked you to, don’t pitch us your book on the spot. And then, if we do express interest, definitely don’t tell us the entire plot. Sum it up for us in a sentence or two (typically called an elevator pitch), and then, if we’ve requested it, email the manuscript for us to look at later, when we’re not surrounded by distractions. It’s not that we’re not interested in your work; it’s just that this is not the time or place to be getting so granular—again, unless we’ve specifically asked you to. (In that case, all bets are off: go wild!) One more thing: if an editor does invite you to submit materials, don’t forget to follow up and note when and where the connection was made.
      If an editor is obviously in the middle of a meeting with someone, don’t interrupt. Sometimes this is the only time we’ll have to see clients from other parts of the country face to face, so this time can be precious to us. If you’re only available for a short time, try signing up for a pitch appointment to be sure you have our full attention. If you can be more flexible, a quick “hey, can you chat for a few minutes after your 4 o’clock panel?” will suffice—as long as you’re okay with hearing “no.”

These are just some basics, but if you have specific scenarios you’re wondering about, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below (or shoot us an email).

And if you’re going to be at Balticon in a couple of weeks, let me know! I hope to see you there.

May the Fourth Spec Fic Authors Special

May the Fourth be with you! In honor of stories celebrating the speculative, the weird, and the fantastical, we're offering a special discount for speculative fiction manuscripts:

Book a speculative fiction project by 5/15 and get 15% OFF!

  • Manuscript must be speculative fiction. Any length or sub-genre counts!
  • Project must be booked by May 15 and must be scheduled to start by December 31, 2017.
    • Note that your project doesn't have to be ready by 5/15, but you do need to book a spot by then.
    • A signed contract and a deposit are required to book a spot in our schedule. For more info, see our FAQs.
  • The 15% discount will be applied to the final invoice.
  • Only one promotion can be applied to any one service.