The Alchemist of Prose
Hello and welcome to the second event of the Put it in Writing Virtual Book Festival.
I know that before I was a novelist, I never gave a great deal of thought – as a reader – as to how a book comes to be ready for publication – other than the author writing it and the publisher publishing it. But now of course I know better. Many authors will tell you that writing the first draft of a novel is the easy part, and that having done so, that’s when the hard work begins. First of all there will be several redrafts and then when you think it’s perfect the manuscript goes off to the editor. And that’s when you discover your masterpiece is far from perfect.
Editors do an amazing job – spotting plot holes, inconsistencies, waffle and a whole lot more
So, today I’m pleased to welcome book editor, John Hudspith, to the festival to tell us a bit more about what the job involves.
John is the editor of all my novels and of hundreds more by other authors. And to me is the alchemist of prose. He’s a highly talented and skilled wrangler of messy manuscripts and I know that not only have I learned a lot from working with him over the last decade, but also that my books are infinitely better than they would have been without his unforgiving eye.
So, John, welcome! And let’s get started:
How did you get into editing in the first place and do you edit across all genres or stick to specific ones?
A request from a friend to ‘help’ with a novel over a decade ago saw me hooked on the editing process and from there my love for the creative storytelling mind soon had me changing my day job. And yes, I enjoy editing across all genres.
What does the editing process involve when you’re working on a client’s manuscript?
This depends on the individual writer. Some writers come to me after having spent a great deal of time and effort ensuring that, diligent research, multiple drafts, input from beta readers and so on, has brought them a wonderfully shiny product and thus my contribution will be minimal.
At the other end of the scale, a writer will come to me with just an idea, an outline, and so my input increases, helping with plot and character development etc.
How many books do you reckon you’ve edited so far and do you find it gets easier as time goes on especially when you work with clients you’ve worked with previously?
Novels, novellas, anthologies – I’ve edited close to 700 books and, like any craft, the more one works at it the ‘easier’ it becomes. Especially, as you said, when working with clients on an ongoing basis.
Anne: Yes, I must admit as an author it’s good to work with someone you ‘know’.
What are the best and the trickiest parts of the job? Is it a job you love?
In the beginning, I used to find blurbs tricky, although tricky is probably too kind a word. These days, though, blurbs are a perverse pleasure for me, picking the bones out of them and making them sing.
One truly great thing about the editing process, for me, is seeing the writer grow. Seeing the writer’s skills improving brings immense satisfaction. But the best thing of all, the very best thing, has to be the words. Working with words every hour of the day, words from myriad writers, words, words, words, day after day, week after week, year after year, is akin to sitting in the woods – do it for long enough and the woods will consume you, an unseen osmosis perpetually honing your learned perceptions. And not only that, but seeing our language evolve via the Indie author avalanche, Americanisms being the main influencers. Another decade into the Indie revolution and y’all might be speaking real purty.
Anne: I’ll get practising for y’all then 🙂
Not only are you an editor, you’re an author too. Tell us a bit about what you’ve published so far.
I’ve published two books – Kimi’s Secret and a sequel Kimi’s Fear – fantasy adventures for kids aged 10 to 100.
Kimi’s story was developed with some incredible help from a talented teacher and her class of enthusiastic twelve-year-olds. (Thanks, Anne and those crazy kids!)
(Anne is blushing and there’s a post about that collaboration here)
Are you currently working on a new book or is it all about the editing for now?
It’s all about the editing for me. I simply can’t get enough of the words.
Anne: All I can say is your readers’ loss is us authors’ gain 🙂
Thank you so much John for taking part in the festival today and for sharing a bit of what it’s like to be an editor.
John’s professional bio
John Hudspith edits novels and short stories from his cave in the UK. John has a keen mind for story and the understanding that every single word matters. John can help shape your work into the page-turning crystal-clear entertainment it deserves to be. Simply send him a sample and he’ll show you what he can do. John can be contacted via his website here
3 thoughts on “Virtual Book Festival 2019: Event 2 – An interview with John Hudspith Book Editor”
A good editor is worth their weight in gold. (pardon the cliche)
It’s only a cliche because it’s so true 🙂
Wow! I am an editor in Nigeria and I am so so encouraged by this. I ‘d also love to learn from John.