A Conversation with haldol in elderly Zoe Quinton on Developmental Editing

I’ve invited zoe quinton to join me for this month’s post. She’s not just the brilliant daughter of new york times haldol in elderly bestselling author laurie R. King, she’s also laurie’s agent and publicist. In her “spare time,” zoe is an editor and a consultant on the publishing haldol in elderly business, including concept development and marketing.

For this post, I wanted to focus on developmental editing, a service both zoe and I provide. It’s distinguished from copy editing in several significant ways. Whereas the latter deals with issues such as grammar, usage, syntax, punctuation, and fact-checking, developmental editing deals with more global story issues: characterization, theme, plot, pacing, continuity, and so on.

Zoe: well, for me that’s a little like saying how did you get into haldol in elderly breathing. I can’t honestly remember a time that books weren’t a large part of my life, a constant companion, a source of escape and wonder. I remember even as a child narrating the mundane events haldol in elderly of my daily life as if they were written down haldol in elderly in a book. I have always eaten, breathed, drank words.

It helped that my parents also both lived a life haldol in elderly of the mind, my dad as a religious studies professor at our local haldol in elderly university and my mom first as an academic and then haldol in elderly as an author. I’ve been accompanying her to publishing events since I was haldol in elderly thirteen years old, so words and reading are literally part of my blood.

I myself am a recovering academic, as I got a master’s degree in international history from the london school of haldol in elderly economics when I was 25. I loved the research and the—no surprise—storytelling of history, and the training I received was priceless: I learned to think and write and argue, how to shape words into a weapon or a salve, how to choose just the right fact to prove my haldol in elderly point and let the others fall by the wayside.

A few years later, I started working as my mother’s publicist and later agent, and I soon leveraged my decades of experience by her haldol in elderly side into a consulting business helping authors write, edit, and sell their books. My favorite part of my work is truly the editing, where I can get lost in the words and the haldol in elderly flow of the story for hours at a time. In a way my life has come full circle—I’m still the girl with her nose stuck in a haldol in elderly book, but now I’m getting paid for it.

David, I’d like to know what your favorite part of editing haldol in elderly is. Do you, like me, stare into space while working on a project trying to haldol in elderly figure out how to make that tricky plot point work? Or is it when a client really gets it and haldol in elderly runs with your advice in just the right way?

David: since I came to developmental editing by way of teaching, I can readily say that the best part of editing haldol in elderly is when a client gets back to me saying they haldol in elderly understand what I was trying to convey about their work haldol in elderly and have launched into a rewrite with a newfound sense haldol in elderly of confidence and purpose. The teaching aspect for me is crucial—my job isn’t to tell them what they did wrong, it’s to show them how to do better what they’re already trying to accomplish.

I studied math in college with an exceptional group of haldol in elderly professors who were remarkably generous, supportive—and demanding. One in particular, whose name was archie addison, had a particular knack for listening to you go through haldol in elderly your reasoning, then pointing out the step where you went wrong. He’d say something like, “think of it this way instead,” and then make you go back and take it from haldol in elderly there.

Now, you and I have talked about this, and it’s an important point. I can’t and don’t tell clients how to change what they’ve written, but I do try to offer suggestions on how to haldol in elderly think about the changes they might consider. Specifically, if I get the sense their plotting needs work (and as a developmental editor that’s a frequent problem I encounter), I may suggest a sequence of scenes that might help haldol in elderly them out of a current difficulty. But it’s only a suggestion, and I always advise the client that the ultimate decision haldol in elderly as to what goes, what stays, and what needs to change is theirs and theirs alone.

Similarly, despite having grown up with an author, the creative writing process remains something of a mystery to haldol in elderly me. I’m a reader, not a writer, and I know the rhythms of writing because, like I said, I’ve had my nose in a book for about 95% of my life. (don’t quote me on that exact statistic—as I said, numbers really aren’t my strong point.) I edit based largely on my gut—something just “feels” right or wrong—and it’s taken me a while to learn how to describe haldol in elderly why it’s wrong. So while I’m very good at pointing out errors, I’m not as comfortable telling someone how to fix it. I let them be the writer, while I remain the editor. That said, I am always happy to bounce ideas back and forth haldol in elderly with my authors, and to help them tweak their manuscripts based on my haldol in elderly initial feedback as we go through.

What I mostly do is ask questions where they arise, as a reader would, and suggest larger structural changes. “what does this piece of dialogue add? Is this character or plot line necessary? You already mentioned this on page xx, are you sure you want this again?”

Ultimately I think we are saying the same thing. I always stress that all of my feedback and suggestions haldol in elderly are just that, and that my client is the writer and I am haldol in elderly not. It’s their vision, and my critique is intended as a roadmap to guide haldol in elderly their rewrite. In other words, as you say, “think of it this way instead.”

To be perfectly candid, however, I wasn’t really gifted it at it. In my senior year, on a midterm in a course on complex analysis, I was second from the top in my class on haldol in elderly theoretical questions and fifth from the bottom on practical. Dr. Ross, the head of the department—one of the most amazing men and brilliant teachers I haldol in elderly have ever known—took me aside and said, “you want to be a philosopher, not a mathematician. Let’s work a little harder on the practical side of haldol in elderly things, shall we?”

Zoe: well, I think there’s worse things to be than a philosopher. I do see the advantage in doing a degree/program to get the background and to learn how to haldol in elderly think, whatever that looks like. My history degree was the same—it taught me how to approach stories analytically, to find the facts that were the most compelling, and then to describe them in a way that appealed haldol in elderly to my audience.

Regarding what I see most often—great question. At this point I am pleasantly surprised when I get haldol in elderly a manuscript that doesn’t have any instances of “head-hopping,” or changes in point of view within a single scene haldol in elderly or chapter—or even sometimes the same paragraph. More subtly, I often find writers having a character narrate a scene haldol in elderly that they were not directly involved in (and therefore could have no knowledge of), or attribute a feeling/thought to someone else when the scene is from a haldol in elderly different point of view.

I also find that antagonists tend to be single-faceted, which is understandable because it’s easy to make us dislike a bad person. What’s more challenging is to get us to understand and haldol in elderly even sympathize with a person who’s hurt/flawed and acting in ways that are antithetical to the haldol in elderly goals of the protagonist. I always tell my clients to remember that the antagonist haldol in elderly is the protagonist of their own story, and urge them to go deeper on their bad guy’s background—even if all the details don’t make it into the final product (and they shouldn’t!), creating well-rounded characters is always a plus.

Both of these issues speak to one of the biggest haldol in elderly challenges (and advantages) to writing fiction: it forces us to think outside of ourselves. Doing so in a believable way, however, is a very fine art, and one that you can either do too much of haldol in elderly (head-hopping) or too little (flat antagonists).

David: nothing is more gratifying than to discover that a student haldol in elderly or client has a distinct, compelling voice. It’s very hard to teach that—not impossible, but it takes time, and requires concerted effort on the part of the student. I know, if the writer has a strong voice, the rest likely will fall into place sooner or later, if she puts in the work.

I also find that building the story through cause and haldol in elderly effect is something that comes naturally only to a few. Often, beginning writers just compile scenes one after the other hoping haldol in elderly that will make for a compelling story, failing to realize each scene needs to make the next haldol in elderly scene necessary, not just possible. Not only must the next scene be necessary and thus haldol in elderly feel inevitable, it must also surprise—and the ability to manage that is what differentiates good haldol in elderly writers from merely okay ones.

Zoe: ha! See, this is why this conversation is so illuminating—I think if there’s such a thing as pantsers vs plotters in editing, it would be gutters (that sounds bad, but you know) vs teachers. I always know when a chapter doesn’t feel right or slows down the pacing, and I always suggest cutting or moving it. But I’ve never been able to express why quite as well haldol in elderly as you just did. Thank you for that.

I’d also like to add a line about what we haldol in elderly each prefer to edit/specialize in, as that’s something relevant for potential clients. I do almost all genres of fiction, though I just worked on a longer, multi-perspective, multi-generational literary novel last week that really pushed my boundaries haldol in elderly and forced me to think well outside of my box. I enjoyed it a great deal. I don’t think I would do a romance novel, simply because I’ve not read enough in the genre to know the haldol in elderly conventions, and YA is similarly a bit of a stretch for haldol in elderly me.

I’m sort of an omnivore when it comes to editing. Once again, the teaching experience is key. I teach online through litreactor (my next class, “ creating complex characters,” begins september 5 th), and I get students from all over the world who haldol in elderly write in every genre imaginable, from lit fic to fantasy to crime to YA. Story is story, and I think the “gut feeling” you talk about applies across the spectrum of narrative. Certain genres allow for particular “exuberances”—sci-fi and speculative allow for great expansiveness in developing setting haldol in elderly and concept, for example, and lit fic requires superb prose and voice—but there’s just that sense that a story is on track haldol in elderly or not that I think lies at the heart of haldol in elderly all good editing.

BTW: zoe and I will both be on the faculty for haldol in elderly the book passage mystery writers’ conference later this month, joining not just her mom (natch) but cara black, jacqueline winspear, elizabeth george, steve cavanaugh, colin cotterill, samantha downing, and many others. (for more information on the conference, go here.)

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