Proofreader and Editor Marie Valentine discusses best clients, fave fiction, perks of the job, and her journey into editing
What do you like most about your job as a freelance writer/editor?
I am so lucky to do what I love. The best part is the variety of amazing manuscripts I get to read. I enjoy both nonfiction and fiction, and I have been lucky to read works by many talented writers.
What led you to becoming an editor?
I’m an editor because of my love of reading and my knack for the act of editing and publishing. I’ve worked in various arenas of publishing my whole career, both for myself and other companies. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It’s always been my clear vocational calling.
How would you describe yourself as an editor?
As an editor I’m vigorous yet hands-off: I will find errors and inconsistencies with an eagle eye, but I like to let the work stand for itself. I won’t change anyone’s work into my own – I strive to find each author’s unique qualities and make those sing.
What does a writer get from having her/his book edited?
Besides receiving the valuable critique of someone who is not the author – I am the first reader of many manuscripts – a writer will get professional advice on presentation. This can be as simple as discussions of formatting or as nuanced as query letters, agent submissions, marketing, and self-publishing.
How do you, as an editor, help a writer improve?
I help a writer by seeking his voice in the work and polishing it to a shine. I’m adept at finding the areas in a work the writer can boost and making constructive suggestions to fill in his manuscript. Together we can make it flawless in not only storyline but also format, spelling and grammar, while potentially adding juicy literary elements to embellish the tale.
Describe your perfect client.
My dream client responds to my queries in a reasonable timeframe. My dream client treats my work as she’d like hers to be treated: respectfully. My dream client can relax when the project is out of her hands and doesn’t take edits personally. Most of my clients are dream clients, because I am choosy regarding the projects I accept.
Describe your nightmare client.
My nightmare client is unprofessional and won’t stick to the contract terms. She is unavailable for questions about the manuscript, or emails new drafts and doesn’t give the editor room to work. She expects the editor to get her an agent. The nightmare client oversteps personal boundaries and is unclear on expectations.
What is a typical oversight you see when editing fiction?
I often notice a lack of defined setting. Where are your characters? If it seems like they’re floating in air, bring the story back to planet Earth (or wherever you may be, if it’s a fantasy/sci-fi scenario) with some sense details.
What are your top five favorite fiction books of all time?
Tricky question. I go on author binges in many genres. Most recently I read the work of Lorrie Moore. Before that was A.M. Homes. Joan Didion, Tom Perrotta, Jonathan Lethem, Mary Karr, Toni Morrison and many others have been my subjects of study.
If I define favorite books as those that I’ve read more than once, these are first to come to mind:
The Long Walk – Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
Cruddy – Lynda Barry
The Waves – Virginia Woolf
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Girl with the Curious Hair – stories by David Foster Wallace
What is the most common piece of advice you give to new authors?
Don’t be intimidated by the industry and DON’T GIVE UP. Write on!