Welcome to the four hundred and thirtieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with editor and fiction author Dorothy Davies. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Dorothy. Please tell us how you came to be involved in the writing industry.
Dorothy: When I began writing seriously over 30 years ago, there was no one to help me with story planning, article planning or anything else. I learned as I went along, mostly by rejection, working out how to make it better so it sold next time out. From there I progressed to teaching creative writing by post for two long distance learning colleges and from there, it seemed a natural progression to take a copy editing course and move into editing, which I did by contacting the company I wrote for at the time. I ended up with a full time editing job which I still do. I also edit for Static Movement, who specialise in dark / horror anthologies. I have a great many anthologies to my name now and more to come.
Morgen: I have a horror section on my blog’s links and submission information pages so I’ve added them and mentioned it on Facebook and Twitter. Is there a format (novels, non-fiction…) / genre that you generally edit?
Dorothy: I prefer short stories; they are the challenge to get right! I edit books at work, so really, anything that comes along.
Morgen: I write more short stories than anything else and yes, they’re tricky, although whether writing or reading them I like to be able to do the whole story in one go. A rather global question, but are there common mistakes an author can make?
Dorothy: Punctuation. Biggest problem of all. Many authors fall down with their lack of punctuation and I am not only talking of amateur writers here. I recently read a published book where the punctuation was diabolical!
Morgen: It really annoys me when I see proper signs (shop windows etc) with terrible spelling or punctuation. You would hope being printers that they’d get it right but I guess… <coughs> it’s a sign of the times. Do editors generally charge by the word or the hour?
Dorothy: I have a set rate for the paid editing, but for Static Movement it is free.
Morgen: Because they don’t charge. That would be fun, I’d think, a labour of love for sure, like this blog. I’ve heard numerous authors say they can self-publish without an editor – what would you say to that?
Dorothy: They can’t. No matter how many times you read something, you become word blind. I must have read the cover for my self published book Captain Of The Wight more times than I can recall and still it went out with the date 1442 on the back instead of 1482…
Morgen: Oh no… at least it’s easy to change the eBook version. How do you edit – on screen or on paper?
Dorothy: On screen. I get bored working with paper. On screen I can make the alterations immediately and do search and replace if an author is consistently making an error. One book I had the author had site for sight throughout, so I did search and replace.
Morgen: I used to print these interviews out and go through them with a red pen (does the pen being red feel so much more powerful) but would then make mistakes typing up my notes so it’s all done on the screen now… as you say, it’s instant. Do you write? If so, please tell us about that and does being a writer as well influence your editing at all?
Dorothy: I am a full time writer as well as a full time editor. I write extensively, short stories, novels, articles, all sorts. The editing influences the writing, I am aware of errors and try to avoid them and the writing influences the editing as I can see how it should be done and what flows.
Morgen: Having 30 years’ worth of experience must really help. These days an editor and agent are the key people in a writer’s life, do you think agents are vital to an author’s success?
Dorothy: Absolutely not. It is one of my soap boxes, the fact you do not need an agent. I have worked with three, only one did anything for me, and then she retired from that job and became a teacher, what does that say??
Morgen: That many are finding other avenues. I’ve had interviewees say they are wonderful, did little to nothing or retired, changed jobs. It’s certainly a changing industry and I think (hope) more on the side of authors, especially where we can go it alone, either self-publishing paper copies or electronically. What do you think of eBooks? Do you read them or is it paper all the way?
Dorothy: I read e-books. Most of my historical books are coming out as e-books because of lack of orders from outlets which carry ‘real’ books. I have a Kindle and won’t go anywhere without it.
Morgen: Are you involved in any of the marketing for your clients?
Dorothy: As I don’t have clients, as such, I fortunately do not have to market anything.
Morgen: You’re lucky. When I ask an author what their least favourite aspect of writing, invariably they say marketing. How important do you think titles / covers are?
Dorothy: Titles are essential, even more than covers, as Amazon and others are picky about covers and you might have a perfect one and have to change it, or the retailers don’t like it. Titles say everything. I work long and hard at mine.
Morgen: Me too. Writing a story a day for my 5pm Fiction slot, I try to avoid generic ones such as ‘The Journey’ but often pick phrases from the story itself so the titles are often the last thing. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Dorothy: The life of Katherine of Aragon, the life of Antony Woodville, Earl Rivers, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots and half a dozen assorted compilations of memories and messages from spirit people. The work is never ending…
Morgen: I know that feeling… although mine is less creative (dealing with c. 100 emails a day). Do you work every day?
Dorothy: I never stop working.
Morgen: Me neither but I enjoy what I do, so it’s worth it. I mentioned marketing as authors’ least favourite aspect, what’s yours of your editing life?
Dorothy: The worst thing is being bored by the storyline.
Morgen: They say that if a writer is bored with their story the reader will be too – I wonder if they were with the ones you read. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Dorothy: Remember the maxim, SHOW DON’T TELL and if you don’t understand that, find out!
Morgen: Absolutely. I usually give the example of ‘Andy slammed his fist on the table’ rather than ‘Andy was angry’. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Dorothy: As a medium and channel for spirit, I regularly speak with people from all eras, ancient Britain to today’s modern people. When we have dinner, it is cooked by one of the finest cooks I could find – and there have been no complaints so far…
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related?
Dorothy: I publish my own quarterly magazine for spiritualists. It’s called Circle of Light and I do everything from laying out the pages to taking the photographs. A labour of love and I love it.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not working?
Dorothy: I take photographs, tend my bonsai and read.
Morgen: I love photography (my father was a photographer and my uncle still is – my aunt / mum are artists and brother a web designer so it was inevitable I’d be involved in the arts somehow) and since I’ve been designing my own covers it’s made me look at how photographs are constructed (portrait with space for the title and name). Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Dorothy: The only books that are truly useful are Write Tight from Writers Digest, which shows you how to eliminate the rubbish that clutters up a book, and On Writing by Stephen King. I work – as in offer critiques – on two sites, Legend Fire and Bookrix. Otherwise I tend to avoid going on sites, they consume too much time that could be better used for writing.
Morgen: They do. Time and I are not best friends, falling out often. ‘On Writing’ is the most recommended book in these interviews. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Dorothy: I do not go on networking sites, apart from Linkedin, as I will not take part in data mining or allow anyone to target me through them. I have seen too many horror stories of cyber bullies to want to expose myself in that way. I have been on two forums and found that my beliefs attract a degree of criticism if not outright spite that I cannot tolerate. I will argue my beliefs with anyone but it always tips over into aggression for some reason. Hence my decision not to expose the work or myself on a networking site. It isn’t worth it.
Morgen: I can’t understand why some people just love to inconvenience others. Because of the amount I blog (3+ posts a day), I delete hundreds of spam blog messages each day (fortunately 99% filtered for me… WordPress is great!) and whilst most are just random text, some can be downright rude. There’s no need for it… but then I’m English and we have standards. What do you think the future holds for editors?
Dorothy: There will always be room for editors, no one is perfect. Even the spirit authors, who have had hundreds of years in which to plan their life stories, end up having it altered by my editor.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work? Do you take enquiries from authors directly?
Dorothy: I don’t take on outside work, as such, I am commissioned by one site to edit for him, I sometimes bring work home, other than that I spend my evenings writing. I am elderly and if I don’t stay on top of the work spirit have asked me to do, I will eventually go home with the task incomplete and that will not do!
Morgen: I work from home with many tasks incomplete – it drives me nuts. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Dorothy: If you like horror / dark stories, check out Static Movement, they have an amazing range of anthologies, from vampire to legends. They and I are always looking for stories. For love only but believe me, there is good exposure.
Morgen: Thank you, Dorothy, lovely to chat to you. Dorothy will return in February 2013 to talk more about her writing.
Dorothy Davies is a writer, editor and medium who lives on the haunted beautiful Isle of Wight where she writes her dark stories and historical books direct from spirit, where she speaks with spirit and lives a full and satisfying life. She can be found at www.notes-from-a-smaller-island.com, www.circle-of-light.co.uk and www.oneinspecyal.com.
Update March 2013: “I am over 3/4 of the way through a horror novel and have a publisher interested in seeing the whole thing when it’s done. I am currently taking time out of writing to do a line by line edit and revision. It’s surprising how much needs changing!”
Morgen: Good luck, Dorothy!
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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