|Elayne Becker, freelance editor|
ELAYNE: It's a bittersweet departure! A few things factored into my decision to leave, but what I will say is this: working in the publishing industry, while being rewarding in so many ways, is also tough. I love so much of the editor job, but unfortunately, it's also a recipe for burnout, particularly for employees working their way up from the entry level onward. Personally, I reached a point where that burnout became difficult to bounce back from.
I think that when you're waking up most days feeling uninspired by the day ahead, you have to start considering the possibility of change. (If change is within your means.) For me, I decided that meant pursuing a master's degree in Scotland, and potentially exploring work in other fields I'm passionate about, such as environmental conservation and women's advocacy. I doubt this is a forever farewell to the publishing industry from me-there are too many aspects of it that I enjoy to do that!-but I am looking forward to stepping away for a bit and seeing what else is out there.
ELAYNE: Yes! Working with manuscripts has always been very fulfilling-and fun!-for me; I truly love watching a story evolve from its earliest stages to the final, and helping writers achieve their visions. To that end, I offer editorial feedback on both the conceptual and line levels, as well as query and synopsis critiques. Fuller details are on my website.
JILL: Folks who know you as an editor might not realize that you're also a writer. What do you write?
ELAYNE: Fantasy will always be my first love, so that's the genre I'm writing at the moment. These days, I aim for a tone that's pretty, dark, and romantic, with a nature-forward aesthetic and a bit of a classic feel. One day, I hope to explore other genres as well! I'm a big history nerd, so I'd love to incorporate that into my writing at some point. Or maybe even some nonfiction-who knows.
ELAYNE: The heart of the answers is the same for both-I love storytelling! I love new worlds and characters I get to know inside and out. Editing allows me to exercise the detail-oriented, critical thinking part of my brain in a fun way, as I examine all of the story's pieces and help the writer assemble them in a way that maximizes the story's potential. It's a ton of work, true, but engaging work, like trying to solve a puzzle. Writing, on the other hand, provides an outlet for my creative side, an avenue through which I can give voice to the words and scenes playing out in my mind. It's also a great way for me to process emotions or life events.
The two roles definitely inform one another. Editing has expanded my understanding of the craft, which in turn has improved my writing. Likewise, writing enables me to empathize more with writers and better understand how they might have approached different aspects of the manuscript. In terms of conflicts, confidence is a big differentiating factor between the two. Every editor has had doubts at some point in their career, but for the most part, I'm confident in my ability to critique a manuscript and offer valuable feedback. With writing, I still struggle with imposter syndrome often. I can recognize talent in other writers very quickly, but I have trouble recognizing skill in my own writing, even if other professionals assure me it's there. I think this is likely because writing is more personal, and reflective of our creative selves, whereas editing is a more detached endeavor at its core.
ELAYNE: Aw, thank you Jill! Admittedly, my editor brain tends to interfere when I'm reading for fun more often than I would like. I find myself constantly taking note of which aspects are well-done and how I would have edited weaker aspects differently. I do think there's a lot of value in reading actively (spoilers for my next answer!), but in my case, it can be frustrating at times. I'm working on ways to shut this off just a bit, so that sometimes I can read critically, and other times I can simply enjoy the read.
My favorite non-client books! I will try to limit myself to a handful, because leaving it at one is impossible. Juliet Marillier is a goddess of prose, and I'm currently working my way through her bibliography, but I know Daughter of the Forest will always be my favorite. I don't even have the words to describe all my feelings on that book. Likewise, I will buy anything Ruta Sepetys writes in an instant; her books are beautiful. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings makes the cut as well, of course, as does Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl. Also a special shoutout to Swati Teerdhala's The Tiger at Midnight and Madeline Miller's Circe, which are two of my favorite books that I've read this year.
ELAYNE: Read actively, particularly in the genre you want to write. Think about what an author is doing that you find really effective, and what you find confusing or disappointing. Once you do this enough, you can use it as a tool to shape your own writing.
Share your work with beta readers or critique partners, and open yourself to their feedback. A lot of the time as writers, we're too close to our work to really see it properly. It's a great thing when you learn that feedback is meant to help you, not hurt you.
Finally: write, write, write, because you really do improve the more you do. Trust me. (And the reams of stories from my youth that will never see the light of day.)
Huge thanks to Elayne for this interview, and for participating in HOOK THE EDITOR! If you need more information, GO HERE. Remember, official submission guidelines will post tomorrow (September 17). Any questions that aren't answered there? Ask below in the comments!