Dennis Doty contacted me through a writers group. He’s an editor who I thought would give a good perspective on editing.
Tell us a little about yourself. After 10 years in the Marines, I spent two years in college and twenty-two years in retail management. I retired early for health reasons and found writing was my passion. I began writing seriously in 2004, had my first short story published in 2016. As I learned more about the craft, I found that I enjoyed mentoring and helping other writers to learn the craft and avoid the pitfalls. I now edit full-time and write in my spare time.
What is your background for editing? English was always one of my favorite classes in high school and college along with languages including Spanish, Latin and Korean. I seem to have a knack for it. A couple years ago, I was giving regular beta feedback in a small writing group I help Admin. A fellow member who had been both an editor and a ghostwriter for twenty years, said I should try freelancing and assured me that I was already doing the job and not getting paid. So, I hung a shingle on my website and posted a couple of notices that I was accepting clients. A couple of months later, I had a story accepted by a major genre magazine. The publisher called and said he’d seen my website. He asked if I would be willing to do some editing for them. Apparently, they like my work. I’m now the managing editor of the magazine and the VP-Acquisitions for the publishing house.
What are the most frequent errors you find? Commas, of course. Especially commas separating conditional phrases or direct address. These errors seem common to new writers submitting their first manuscript and seasoned veterans with over a hundred titles traditionally published.
What’s the number one thing you hate to see in a manuscript? Easily researched factual errors and anachronisms. I edit a lot of historical fiction. It drives me a little bit nuts to see items or phrases which were not in use at the time. For example, Levi’s weren’t sold east of the Mississippi until the 1930s. Many writers don’t know that the dictionary provides the first date of usage for a lot of words. Nothing tasted “fruity” until 1657.
What is something which has totally taken you by surprise when you’re editing? That happens quite a lot. I do some editing in genres I don’t normally read, and the quality of the stories, the characters and the delightful plots often surprise and entertain me.
If you’re also an author, do you do your own editing? No. I’ll admit that I’ve sometimes settled for a couple of very good beta readers for a short story, but for anything over a couple thousand words I use Jeremy Menefee, the long-time editor who got me into all this.
What can authors do to better prepare their manuscripts for an editor? Use the tools provided by Word to check your spelling and grammar. It won’t catch everything, but if there’s a squiggly blue line under a word, figure out why. Put your manuscript in proper manuscript format with one-inch margins, left justified and double spaced. If you’re old like me, remove all those double spaces they taught us in typing class. Use either Courier New or Times New Roman 12 pt font.
What format do you prefer? Standard Shunn format, either for stories or novels.
Do you look for a particular genre? No. I love to read and will work on anything except horror or erotica. I’ve even found some children’s that I enjoyed.
Do you attempt to develop a writer? Always. I think it’s the editor’s job to be a teacher. I try to leave clear and complete notes about why I’m suggesting a change or inserting a punctuation. If it is repetitive, I’ll mention it the first five or six times it occurs so that the writer knows it is something they need to work on. Also, all writers have their little quirks. When I identify one, I try to point it out so that they are more aware of it and can self-correct.
What advice do you have for authors? Writing is a career. Treat it like one. Reading anything, but especially books in the genre you write and on the craft is the professional development which would be required of you in another field. Don’t neglect it.
Write, then write some more. It takes roughly a half-million words to get proficient at this craft. Don’t procrastinate or you’ll never get there.
Vary your writing. The more genres you try, the better you’ll be at the one you really want to write. Before Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry wrote a half dozen episodes of Highway Patrol and over two dozen episodes of Have Gun Will Travel as well as many other shows.
At least give short fiction at try. Remember that half-million words I mentioned? The more hooks and denouments you can squeeze in there, the better writer you will be. If you only write novels, you get to practice those two very important parts of your story only six or seven times. If you write short fiction, you get to practice them around 150 times.
Don’t show your first draft to anyone. Always share your second or third draft with Alpha or Beta Readers and when it’s the best you can get it, hire a professional to really make it shine.
Please provide any links for your web site or social media you want posted. Dennis can be found at www.dennisdotywebsite.com/editing or www.facebook.com/authordennisdoty1. He blogs about writing at www.dennisdotywebsite.com/blog