This next interview in our series takes us inside the mind of a professional editor. Here at Shadowspinners we usually look at things from an author/writer point of view, but this time, I wanted to explore how editors look at the art and science of writing and their intersection.
Garrett Marco is independent editor, as well as an acquirer for several small presses; he works mainly with science fiction, fantasy, and romance, and has experience with memoirs, travelogues, creative non-fiction, and many niche genres. You can find out more about Garrett here.
Garrett, what is it you love about editing? Why do you do what you do?
I love stories. I can always talk about narratives and characters and settings and whatever else until someone tells me to shut up. I want to get my hands in there and help dig meaning out of intent. I’m also motivated by the passion I see in my clients’ projects, and helping them bring those to fruition. I enjoy helping them tell their story in the best possible way, and working with them until the process is actualized. It’s all about the efficacy of communication. How effective is the writer at getting what is in their head out onto paper? Are they conveying what they want to convey? Do all the pieces fit together? Telling a good story is 10% writing, and 90% editing.
Mainly, I do editing for private parties — those self-publishers needing a skilled and affordable editor, and some who just want to learn how to be better writers through editing and revision. My services range from query critiques and line edits to narrative consulting and ghostwriting.
What motivated you to become an editor?
Circumstance. And a girl. I joined a campus lit journal to spend time with a crush then found out I had a bit of a knack for editing. Looked at a few essays for beer money, reading student stories, and writing terrible, TERRIBLE fiction of my own. After college, I joined a critique group, exposed them to my aforementioned terrible fiction, and made an impact as a critique partner. Another member of the group dropped my name in a conversation with another editor, and soon I was on contract with an indie press.
That led to freelance opportunities, which helped me cement myself as an ‘official’ editor. At the same time as these meatspace activities, I’d gotten involved with online writing communities. I found myself frequenting reddit.com and the /r/writing subreddit, where I found a niche as a competent voice of editorial reason. Now I help manage that community as a moderator — we have over 200,000 thousand subscribers and thousands of daily users.
That’s quite a journey. I’ve always wondered if editors think differently than writers.
Editing is interesting; you have to get technical about something that is creative. It is about structure, systems and knowing where you want to be at the end. When I was in middle school, I was introduced to scientific outlining, and it taught me how to organize my thought processes, and was a great help. I see an outline as a flower, from which the story blooms. There are other methods of outlining too, such as the snowflake method that are interesting and can help different kinds of writers. Breaking a story down, and putting it back together in a new way is a lot of fun. The funny thing is, when I write, I am a pantser. I create only a basic outline and go from there.
That’s surprising. Tell me about your creative process?
It’s all over the place. Completely dependent on the project and those involved. Emotional. I’m mutable, flowing — like water. Sometimes there’s an outline, and sometimes I use the seat of my pants as a flotation device after the inevitable crash. Then, once the easy part of the draft is over, I read and edit the story on and off until I feel good enough about it to put out there. Practically, I keep a specific time and place for writing to make sure I actually, you know, write.
What is the hardest thing you ever had to do as an editor?
Turning down work is the hardest thing to do as either a writer or editor. Having the vision compromised, you know? I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing, just the hardest thing.
If there was one thing you would like to tell submitting writers what would it be?
FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES!
Yes, I have heard that. Any tips on how to rise to the top of the slush pile?
Pay attention to what you can control and forget about what you can’t. Take care of those technical details, address the agent correctly, apply the same standards you’d give to your manuscript to your cover letters and queries, etc. An editor can’t evaluate the work accurately if you don’t make sure those i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed. We editors are robot people, and we appreciate functional organization and communication!
Since editing is an investment in time and money, it is an important decision for a writer. How does one find an editor, and how do you know if they are the right one for you?
Whenever I get asked this question, I point to this reddit post by Michael J. Sullivan. In short, you can find an editor like you find any other professional, and you know if they’re right when you find yourself arguing with them about punctuation for hours and come out still wanting to give them money.
Interviewing Garret made me think of this quote attributed to Steve Martin about editing, and after talking to him, I don’t think it has to be this way. We can move between the two seamlessly. What do you think readers?