The Editor’s Eye with Susan Opie

posted in: Where I live, Writing | 3

Editor Susan Opie giving insights into the publishing process

 

Editor Susan Opie has worked for Harper Collins as director of their commercial fiction list, and now works part-time for Macmillan Publishing.

 

I scribbled various notes during Susan’s session, most of which I now discover to be illegible! Therefore, if anyone who was present wants to add information in the comments section below, that would be fantastic. Likewise, if you have any questions, and if Susan covered it, hopefully someone will remember and be able to post a reply…

 

Over the course of the afternoon Susan gave us a comprehensive overview of the editor’s life, one apsect of which is the different forms of editing an author might encounter:

 

Desk editing – details such as spelling and punctuation as well as ensuring that the text fits the publisher’s house style.

Line editing –  a closer examination of sentence structure, elminating repetition etc.

Structural editing – bigger issues such as whether the book begins where it should? Is the hook enough to keep people reading?

 

Speaking personally, I recollect my first novel (A Rational Man) being pretty much ready to go to the printers when my editor rang me and said, ‘Just one more thing…I think we should open with paragraph three.’ Once she had pointed it out, it was blindingly obvious, how could I not have seen it? But then, that’s the point of the editor’s eye, as the author I was just too close to see for myself.

 

So, what is an editor looking for? Susan says she is always eager to encounter a ‘unique voice’. She has a particular interest in historical fiction and I was relieved to hear her say ‘you don’t have to be an expert’ as sometimes expertise can get in the way of the story being told.

 

At the end of the session one of our members asked Susan for advice for aspiring writers. This was her response:

 

  • Know your market
  • Be aware that you are unlikely to be an overnight success – and if you are, be realistic: it might not be the joy-ride you are hoping for
  • Above all, if you want to write, don’t be put off, do it anyway…

 

So, I think that’s all for the moment. Our thanks again to Susan for her time, enthusiasm and encouragment. Another great afternoon at The Longboat.

 

I really hope you’ve enjoyed this post – and if you have, please share by clicking one of the links below 🙂

3 Responses

  1. Linda Camidge

    A great write-up of a fantastic session with a clear message and no woffle from our excellent guest

  2. Victoria Osborne-Broad

    Points also mentioned – the difference between ‘literary’ and ‘commercial’ fiction; ‘house style’ e.g. ise or ize at end of words. A book may be very good but not fit into the ‘will it sell’ category. If an author has a successful novel in one genre the publisher wants them to stay with it e.g. not switch from historical drama to romantic comedy . Not to try to anticipate trends. A new angle on a tired subject – Hilary Mantel is a brilliant example of this.

    That’s all I can add from my scribbles. If anyone else has more please add to or correct these!

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