The Woolf sniffs around some pros of prose.
A writer’s voice is the storytelling voice. I imagine I’m sitting across from my writer, staring over the campfire flames, listening to story being voiced out loud, and watching every inflection. Those nuances I mentioned earlier; how the writer subconsciously employs the various tricks, connectors, scene-setting techniques, tension pulls – those are the roads to unique voice and rhythm – writer’s DNA.
How do you immerse yourself in the writer’s voice?
I love this question. I have no magic formula, I have many years’ experience and I love language, art and science. I’m continually growing as a human being and this comes into who we are as human beings. I feel I’ve lived enough to have some terms of reference in both knowledge and language, cultures, characters, situations, attitudes, motivations and mentalities. It’s about tuning in and drawing on experience. Talent is a part of it, and I give great credit to my parents and teachers. Voice, words, rhythm, they’re all essential and work together in a grand choreography. Punctuation … I’m a huge fan. It’s microsurgery, but the slightest fixes can do wonders.
Keeping the author’s voice is fundamental, but it’s back to the dance. It can be quite a fine line, but if you’re tuned in, it happens. As soon as the ego comes in, you’ve crossed the line. Maintain a sense of perspective as to why you’re doing the work and for whom.
How would you describe a successful author/editor relationship?
For me, trust is the key ingredient. Unless the relationship is built on trust there will always be difficulties. As a writer myself, I know how important it is to seek feedback from people whose opinions I value, but who don’t expect me to follow their ideas blindly. I want my clients to feel the same way. When I make suggestions for changes, that’s all they are – suggestions. It is up to the author to decide how, or if, to follow through on the ideas.
Writers often agonise over blurbs and synopses. Would you be the kind of person who could help a writer distil the essence of a story?
I have a system where I show authors how to get down to the heart of their stories and will then work with them to produce attention-grabbing synopses.
What kind of editing do you do?
I look after the small stuff. It’s more proofreading than editing, so I’m less of an editor and more of a proofreader with attitude. Typos, spelling, consistency, layout, basic grammar and common sense. I often find myself making suggestions on word-choice and smoothing sentences off a little, but large scale structure, characterization and narrative arc are not my areas. I’m the guy who polishes what Stephen King would call your little red wagon before you drive it home.
What kind of genres do you prefer to work on?
Any type, because I’m so involved in the words that the story doesn’t matter. I’m not there to judge, I’m there to work, so it can be chicklit or science fiction, it’s not important to me. It can even have dragons in it if it wants. The blurbs I do for the German publisher vary wildly from bunny-books for five-year-olds to 700-page treatises on European philosophy through the ages.