As part of the book fair, Honno are offering writers the opportunity to meet an experienced editor for a 20 minute individual session. Caroline Oakley is currently working as a freelance editor for Honno, having recently resigned from her role as publisher after seventeen years in the post.
In advance of the event, I asked Caroline for her thoughts. Below is a taster of what you can expect if you decide to book a slot with her. If you want the full experience and a critique of your work, do please consider participating in a Meet the Editor session. These sessions have proved invaluable to a myriad writers; they have paved the way to a publishing deal for many women. Full details can be found here.
Thank you for agreeing to chat to us, Caroline and a big welcome.
Why do I need an editor?
All writing needs a fresh eye – it’s impossible to see what you’ve written with an objective eye. It gets easier with time, but it’s never 100 per cent… I always advise putting a manuscript away for three months minimum if you want to be able to read the words on the page rather than have your memory/subconscious fill in the gaps. You as the author know your characters and plot inside out and your brain will quietly fill in any gaps without you noticing if insufficient time has passed. An outside editor might also see room for changes – additions and deletions – that might never have occurred to you as the author. They’ll be reading from a reader’s point of view as well as that of a writer – which it will be very difficult for you to do (you might be more than somewhat unwilling to kill a few of your darlings; cliché but for a reason!). A good editor will help you see the work differently, perhaps point out facets to the story which hadn’t revealed themselves to you as the originator.
Do I need an agent?
That all depends… If you want to be published by a mainstream commercial trade publishing house, it’s likely you will, as many of them no longer have open calls for submissions (or slush piles as they used to be called). However, a number of increasingly successful small presses do have windows for submissions from unagented authors, or an open submissions policy; just check the publisher’s website for details of how they like to receive submissions, or give them a call and ask their preference. The same applies to literary agencies – check how they like to receive submissions and that your work is something they would consider. The advantages of a literary agent are that they take on the work of promoting and submitting your work to editors – and will have a current active network of editors they have working relationships with, and will know what those editors are looking for. Also a literary agent will take on the task of negotiating with publishing houses, and managing the income from your writing, leaving you to get on with the creative work in peace.
How would you describe The Author’s Voice?
Not sure about the capital letters here, but… Voice is made up of lots of things – vocabulary, point of view, thematic interests, tone, structure. All of these contribute to the ‘voice’ of a novel or piece of writing, as do the kinds of characters and personalities the writer inhabits. Your voice as a writer will be all of these things and also the sum of your experiences and your reading; it’s your interpretation of the world you want the reader to inhabit in written form.
What is the ideal length for a novel?
There’s no such thing, just the ideal length for the story you’ve got to tell. However, the average length for a published novel is probably somewhere around 90,000 words; but you’ll find short novels of 40,000 words at one extreme and great tomes of 150,000+ at the other. I would usually expect to see manuscripts of 60-100,000 words for a work of general fiction or creative non-fiction.
How important are outlines? Do you think they are necessary?
Outlines or synopses are a quick guide to the reader/editor of the type of book the author has intended to write and the likely audience or market for that book were it to be published. It needs to have plot and character development included in it and to outline where the book begins in the storyline, where the main events occur and what they are, and then how and when the book ends. The one thing it is not is a blurb to hook the reader in but not let them know how it ends.
Thank you, Caroline. We look forward to seeing you at the new
Honno Authors Book Fair
in Narberth on Saturday 7 May, 2022