Kathi and the writing and editing team of the book Curtain Call, author Lyneta Smith and editor Mick Silva are back to answer all of our questions about exactly what kind of editor we need. In the first episode they shared about how to find the right editor for you. In today’s episode you will learn:
- What are some attributes of a good editor?
- What kind of editor do you need?
- What are the different stages of editing?
- What are the differences between macro editing and micro editing and when to use them?
- What does the editing process look like prior submitting to a publisher?
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Don’t miss next week’s episode to learn about how to manage the costs and budgeting for editing.
Meet Your Hosts
Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO
Mick Silva is Senior Acquisitions Editor for Zondervan Books and has nearly 2 decades of experience working in Christian publishing. He lives in Grand Rapids, MI with his wife and two daughters.
Lyneta Smith has published several stories and articles in periodicals and anthologies. Her memoir, Curtain Call, released in 2019. She plans to continue writing books highlighting God’s redemptive power in stories. When Lyneta isn’t writing, you can find her at her local coffee shop or snuggled up with a good book.
Transcript of this Episode
Read along with the Podcast!
Writing at The Red House Podcast # 204
What Kind of Editor Do I Need?
Welcome to the Writing at The Red House Podcast, where we gather at the table to break bread, and tell tales with some of our favorite writers and speakers.
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Writing at The Red House Podcast, where our heart is to equip and encourage men and women to become the communicators that God has created them to be. I’m very excited, ‘cause we’re here for our second episode in our series How to Work with an Editor. We are here with the writing and editing team, Lyneta Smith and Mick Silva. Hey guys, welcome back to Writing at The Red House podcast.
Mick – Hey, Kathi.
Kathi – I’m so excited that you guys are here, ‘cause I want to talk about what kind of editors you need. I would say, if you asked me five years ago, if this topic would have been really exciting for me, I would probably have lied and said, “Yes! This is so great! I can’t wait to talk more about editing.” But can I tell you what I’ve discovered about working with a good editor? A good editor makes you more creative. I really thought, Mick, your entire job, and Lyneta’s also an editor, was to steal my joy. I really thought that was your entire job was just to say, “Your sentence is wrong. This is terrible.” But really, a good editor is, in some ways, a writing partner. Is that how you feel, Mick?
Mick – Yeah, that’s so good. Well, we are sadists, so there’s that.
Kathi – This is true.
Mick – So, I won’t deny that. Anyone who goes into this job has to be a little crazy, but absolutely, in terms of being a support, an advocate, someone who gets your message and wants you to success and wants you to do well. An editor is your best friend. So many times I’ve seen this in projects I get to work on, day to day. People who respect editing do so much better. They get so much further in their books, in their arguments, in their sales, and in their longevity. So, I definitely agree.
Kathi – Lyneta, I feel like when you and I work on a piece together, you often see the gaps that I have left wide open and say, “Hey! You just need to explain this one little part, then the rest of it will make sense.” Also, you’re someone who knows where to amplify and where to pull back. I feel like that’s a real gift in editing as well.
Lyneta – Some of my favorite clients are speakers. They know how to say things really well. It just doesn’t necessarily translate on the page. When you’re speaking, you can get your point across, but if you were to put those same exact words on the page, there are going to be gaps. Or there’s going to be repetition. So, you take out the repetition, or you go, “Oh, you don’t need all of that to prove your point on the paper.” So, you just get your voice on the page and then, I’ll make it sing. You can go ahead and use five hundred exclamation points if you want to, but I’m going to delete them, because you don’t need them and that exact same message will come across just perfectly.
Kathi – There are ways of just making it powerful. That’s really cool. So, on my last writing project, which was with Zondervan, which is who Mick is an editor for, now. I did not realize all the layers of editing that went into a Zondervan book. I thought I was being very impressive. Not only did my book go through Lyneta, it went through a reader team. So, we had a feedback team that it went through. It went through Lyneta. Then it went through an editor I hired, Ginny Yttrup, who is a phenomenal fiction writer. So, it went through those three layers. I thought, “Oh great. It goes to Stephanie.” Oh, no no no. So, it went to Stephanie, then, tell me the others. Stephanie is my editor, who acquired the book, but tell us the layers that a book at Zondervan goes through.
Mick – So, yeah, real simply. Three stage I think of are typically the acquiring editor is going to be the macro editor, your developmental editor. They are the cast-the-vision kind of editor. Big picture stuff. Chapter level things, moving big sections around, “Do we want to have an appendix?” that kind of stuff. Then, from that level it goes to copyediting and line editing. Line editing and copyediting tend to be paragraph level, flow of sentences, transitions, this types of things. Things to make it sound good. Then, what most people think of as all editing, is the copyediting. The vocab, the Grammar Nazis, as they call them, who we’re all very grateful for, because they keep us honest and speaking well. That’s actually the last part of editing. So, if you’ve skipped over all the other steps, and just start copyediting or proofreading, you’re missing out.
Kathi – So, it was the middle step that I had never really experienced before. The more paragraph stuff. The person who did it at Zondervan, by the way, who was just a dream to work with, she was keeping my back to the wall. “Where did you get this information? Where did this come from? What did you mean to say here, and is that the exact measurements you want to put?” I’m like, “Wow! Okay, we’re going to make this book watertight.” So, my question is, when you were originally looking for an editor, Lyneta, you actually had an editor before Mick, right?
Lyneta – I did. I hired an editor before Mick, and I think it was just basically a copyedit, like Mick was saying. There were some comments like, “This part’s unclear. Can you explain this?” Or whatever, and I suppose it was a little helpful, but I regret paying for that before I had a big content edit, because when I started working with Mick, I threw a lot out and started all over again. It was a really, really big rewrite, the first time Mick and I went through the manuscript.
Kathi – Yeah, having a microscopic edit before the macro edit? It’s like painting the walls of your house before a remodel. You’re like, “Why did I just spend all this time doing this when things are just going to get knocked down and moved around?” So, being able to have somebody do that macro first. Somebody with the talent to see, “Okay, this needs to be moved here and this whole section…” Did Mick kill any of your darlings, in that first thing? Did he take out whole swaths of lines and stuff? How macro was the edit?
Lyneta – He killed all of my darlings.
Kathi – I’m so sorry.
Lyneta – It’s such a better book now. What I was trying to do was, I had a structure that was, basically, a bunch of vignettes. They could have, really, just been a bunch of individual essays. I tried to string them together. So, what Mick and I worked on was structure, structure of a memoire. So, we went through a story arc, like you do in a novel. So, I had to learn a completely different skill. So, I took the stories I had in those vignettes, and I didn’t really have to come up with new material, but I did have to create this new structure. So, that was the first thing we did. So, my book, Curtain Call has got a lot of theatre thematic elements in it, so my cute little idea of having something start on a stage, then go in to real life and have those be related, just, “Nope! Toss that out! That doesn’t work.” Now, it’s a straight line story, but the comment I most get from people who say, “I read your book.” They say, “I could not put it down.” It’s fairly short, so they’ll say, “I read it in three hours.”
Kathi – Good editing carries you through. It buoys you. It say, “Okay, I need to continue with this.” It leaves places where you leave off and want to pick up. So, whether we are traditionally publishing or self-publishing, it sounds like there are four or five edits that all of us need to go through. Now, Mick, I’m curious. Do most of the authors you are working with now, do they have feedback teams, or are they just sitting in a dark room, writing to their computer, and sending their brilliance off to you? If they are, I don’t like them.
Mick – No, I’m pretty sure nobody’s doing that. That would be crazy. There’s obviously a team involved when we get these manuscripts in. Most of the time they’re coming from an agent, so, typically, that’s going to have been vetted through an agency as well. They will have hired out some editing. I could even just break it down into micro and macro editing. If you want to just go bare bones about it, get a macro edit. That’s a substantive edit, or a developmental edit. That’s going to set your vision. What are you trying to do? What are you trying to say? Is it effective? Did that work? An editor is trained in macro editing to tell you that. The micro, you can have that chapter by chapter. For someone who’s in a writing group, you know what kind of comments you get back, whether it’s hit people correctly, or not. I’d say, pay for a macro edit, be in a writing group to work on the micro stuff, then they you can submit to a writer’s conference. That’s typically the process these days. Without that, I’m not sure traditional publishing is even viable. Most people would go self-publish.
Kathi – I just have a couple more questions about editing that I feel like are going to help us understand this a little more deeply. So, we said nobody should be sending their first draft off to a traditional publisher. Most of us have gone through it a couple of times. Lyneta, would you explain what the feedback process was for my book, or somebody else’s book you’ve worked on, that happened even before it got to the publisher?
Lyneta – Sure. I have a few different clients who like to do this. So, what I do is, once the team is recruited, I section the book into pieces and I feed that to the team, just piece by piece, and with every piece I create a survey. So, they read the piece, they answer the survey questions, then I take that feedback and I give it to the author. Some authors just want a broad thing. Some authors want every single thing they said out. Whichever way you do it. The author takes all the feedback from this team, and that’s yet another revision for their manuscript. You’ve vetted it through someone. You want to pick readers, not necessarily writers, but readers. They’re going to be able to tell you what resonates. They’re going to do that macro stuff. So, whenever I run a team, I have to constantly say, “No thank you. Please don’t tell me the typos. Don’t tell me the punctuation. None of that. It is not time to work on any of that yet.”
Kathi – Doesn’t that kill people? It kills them to their very soul, doesn’t it?
Mick – It’s so hard.
Lyneta – Well, for you, so many people want to be on your feedback team, that I have a vetting process. One of the questions on the form is, I don’t use the term Grammar Nazi, but I word it that way, so I know. If they say ‘yes’, they’re not selected for the team.
Kathi – They’ll be miserable. They will be miserable, because they really are getting my first-ish, second-ish draft. By the way, if there’s a typo, I will never know. They’re going to bother you to say, “Hey, you’ve got to fix this.” You’re like, “No, it’s not in print yet, I don’t have to fix it.” It’ll just kill their very souls. I get that. We don’t want to kill anybody.
Mick – It is important to make that distinction. I’ve worked with editors who try to do both at once. I don’t understand it. Sometimes I’m trying my best to ignore some of those typos, because you really do have to look at big picture first.
Kathi – If you’re spending all your time on the small stuff, you’re going to miss the big stuff, and vice versa. That’s why it is so crazy important to have all those edits later on. If you have those typos in a book, it’s going to hang people up. It also undermines the credit of, not just yourself, but of your publisher as well. You have to have those things. It’s so funny. I have a favorite book. It’s a compilation book. It’s called The Tightwad Gazette. We don’t need to get into it, but there’s on typo in it, and I know exactly where it is. It’s this big, stunning, beautiful book, but I know exactly where the typo is. It’s so bizarre that our brains work that way. Well, you guys, this has been so great. What I want to talk about next week is, I want to get to that budget word. If we’re going to need a lot of different edits, and depending on what kind of project you’re working on, you’re going to need a bunch of different people for this, so I want to talk about, “What does an editor cost?” and how do you budget that? How do you make it worth your money? How do you not waste money on an edit? So you guys, thank you again for being here today. This has been such great information. I so appreciate you guys.
Mick – Oh, my pleasure.
Kathi – Listeners, I so appreciate you. Thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Writing at The Red House podcast. You’ve been given the most valuable message in the world. Now, go live it.
You’ve been listening to Writing at The Red House podcast. Thank you for spending a little time getting better at what God has called you to do.
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