Welcome to the second installment of the Editor interview series where I try to demystify the shy, studious and fastidious editors.
You can read the earlier post here.
The ones who ensure all your p’s and q’s are in order.
The same folks who are responsible for making your words shine and stories glow in the readers’ hands.
I welcome Dola Basu Singh, who is an editor, and author, and loves thrillers, and horror.
Her stories have wooed the readers with their surprise twists and endings.
“Dola Basu Singh is a cozy mystery author and a professionally trained fiction editor. Many of her short stories have been published and she has won an Editor’s Choice award from Indireads for her short fiction.
She lives in a small yet picturesque village in Punjab, India, and loves nothing better than to sit under the mango tree in her courtyard with a book in hand, sometimes day-dreaming and sometimes writing when she is not otherwise occupied editing manuscripts or reading storybooks with her son.”
Welcome to Eloquent Articulation Dola.
Q1. What pulled you into the field of editing?
Dola: Around six years ago, my friend Rubina Ramesh was having a tough time with editing her first book. She had hired an editor but was dissatisfied with the end product she got. As the publishing deadline loomed and she got more upset, I offered to help her by beta-reading it.
When I sent in my notes on my book, she told me that my free beta-reading was much better than the notes her editor had sent.
Now, I had enjoyed the beta-reading process immensely. I was doing something I had done all my life—reading books and making notes in the margins! Her feedback gave me some confidence that I could be good at this, but not enough to justify choosing it as a career.
When another friend of mine, Sonia Rao, who was already a well-known editor back Rubina up and told me I was good at it, I thought of getting professional training to upgrade my skills.
I looked up the best places I could get trained and chose an online course from the Publishing Training Centre, UK.
Once I had completed the training and got the certification, I had immense confidence in myself that I could compete with the best editors out there, and that I wouldn’t be a let-down to authors who would trust me with their work. That’s when I started offering editing as a service.
A few years later, I got a membership from a professional editor’s organization called The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (now CIEP).
Q2. What levels of editing do you offer?
Dola: I offer developmental editing, manuscript critique, and copyediting. I only offer proofreading to my repeat clients.
I enjoy developmental editing the most. Determining a character’s goal and motivation, and structuring the plot around the characters and their conflict is my favourite part.
The most popular service that my clients opt for is something I call complete editing. Basically, it is a combination of developmental editing and copyediting.
In complete editing, I do developmental editing during the first round and then the authors polish the manuscript according to the suggestions. Once they submit the manuscript back to me, I do a round of copy editing to sharpen the language.
Q3. Tell us about your typical workday?
Dola: My day starts at 4 in the morning, but my typical workday starts at around 10 am when I start editing. I edit for four hours total in 25-minute bursts with a 5-minute break in between each session. I’ve found that this technique keeps my perspective fresh and allows me to concentrate at an optimum level.
I don’t edit for over four hours unless it is an urgent deadline, as I’ve found that the human mind isn’t the sharpest after this.
Whenever I edit for more than that, I make sure that I go through the extra portion again the next morning to make sure nothing slipped by.
The rest of the time I’m marketing my writing and editing business or working on the second part of my book Editing Bootcamp or a new cozy mystery.
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Q4. Editors are usually voracious readers and book lovers. Are you a one or multi-book reader? What are you reading right now?
Dola: I’ve always been a multi-book reader. I always have three books that I’m reading at any point in time. The first is the manuscript I’m working on. The second is a fiction book that I mostly read at bedtime. And the third book is always a non-fiction, mostly related to the craft of writing, editing, marketing, or productivity.
Right now, I’m reading Kitty Confidential by Molly Fitz, which is a cozy mystery, and The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson.
Q5. How do you sustain interest in even the most mundane aspects of editing–proofreading, fact-checking, source-checking, etc?
Dola: Whenever I’m doing more mechanical work, I make sure that I do it in short bursts sandwiched between more creative work. That way, I get a change of pace and keep my interest up.
Q6. Share about your most confounding editing assignment to date. How it affected you as an editor?
Dola: The most confounding assignment has to be that time when I couldn’t find a lot of things to say about a manuscript except sing praises! I kept beating myself up as to what the author will think if I don’t send in enough suggestions (enough by my standards). Actually, it was at the beginning of my career and by then I was used to people often sending in their first drafts or even rough ones. I had a lot of things to point out in those. So, it baffled me when I came across this polished manuscript.
Finally, I trusted my gut and just sent in whatever suggestions I had. The client was a traditionally published author via a major Indian publisher. I kept worrying that my suggestions weren’t enough and that they might not like my editing. Turns out, it was the other way around. The author praised my work and signed a contract with me for editing her next three books!
That was, I think, the most valuable editing lesson I’ve ever learned: when something looks and feels right it probably is, so leave it alone. Or stet, as we call it in editor-speak 🙂
Q7. Please share one pro-tip for your writers?
Dola: Always read your story out loud when you are self-editing. What our eyes miss, our ears pick up! You can also have the story read out to you. MS Word comes with in-built narration. I’ve often found that listening to our words help us gauge if something isn’t right.
Q8. Where can writers reach you for editing queries?
Dola: The best way to get in touch with me is to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My website has more information about the services I offer: www.shiuli.com
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