EDITORS UNEDITED: Caroline Hulse
This week on Editors Unedited we’re bringing out our go-to editor for your comedic work.
Caroline has been a Jericho editor for 2 years, and we’re delighted to have such a successful comic author on the team who can give insight into how humorous books work in the market today. Although she writes within character-driven and comedic book-club fiction, she’s also brilliant at giving insight on your literary fiction, crime/thriller, women’s fiction, and historical fiction.
Let’s see what she had to say...
Q: So that we can learn a bit about you, tell us about one writing-related thing you’re proud of, and one non-writing related thing you’re proud of.
In writing terms, I’m most proud that I kept going in the face of repeated and universal rejection! I had the opposite of overnight success – it took me five books and twenty years to get published, and I’m pleased and proud I stuck at it.
In non-writing terms, I used to play card games at quite a serious level, so I can pull out some cool chip and card shuffles when I want to!
Q: What brought you to the world of writing? What keeps you writing?
If I’m honest, I don’t know. Something deep down made me want to write and, more importantly, keeps me writing. I don’t think it’s always a decision made with the head, and there are certainly more straightforward paths than writing for a living! I gave up so many times over the years, just to concentrate on my day job… but then I’d find myself getting excited by a new project and the cycle would start again.
Q: Tell me about what you're currently working on.
I have just handed in a draft of my fourth book club comedy, so I’m generating ideas for my next book while waiting for my edits back. Which means, generally, wandering around and doing fun stuff and all the household chores I’ve been putting off, while making notes on my phone that make no sense when I come back to them!
Q: You’ve just received a new manuscript to critique: what’s the first thing you do? Walk us through your editing process.
I read and make notes, looking at the story shape first of all. I edit ‘big to small’, focusing on the big-ticket story and structure first, then character and the character arcs. I try not to think about the language and detail aspects until right at the end. I think a lot of people can write great sentences and even great scenes, but that the biggest challenge to authors is sustaining reader interest over the length of a novel. Story shape and overall proposition (What ‘is’ the book? And does it broadly meet the expectations of the intended genre?) are key factors in whether a book would be of interest to industry professionals, so this is what I focus on most.
Q: How do you manage being on the other side of the editorial process – when your own writing is being edited? What should an author who is receiving critique for the first-time be aware of?
I think I’m quite unusual here because I love being edited! I’m an extrovert at heart and, after working on a book on my own for so long, I’m so grateful to get a chance to hear the perspective of someone that isn’t in my own head. And I always remember the person giving me the feedback is on my side. That’s the key thing to remember.
Constructive feedback isn’t always easy to receive – especially not when you’ve worked on something for so long, and it feels so personal. But being able to take feedback well is a huge part of the job. I know a lot of professional writers, and not even number one bestsellers get editorial feedback like ‘it’s amazing – don’t change a thing!’ We are all told that our subplots aren’t fully worked through, that characters could do with developing, that pacing could do with some focus. I think successful writing is rewriting, and often that means being willing to consider huge changes. But always remember the editor is on your side when telling you this. They are not trying to pick at you – they are trying to help you lift your work to the next level by giving a different perspective.
Q: What writing do you get most excited about working as an editor on? What really makes you intrigued by a submission?
I like to learn about something I don’t know. If like it if there’s nuggets of authentic insight into a job or situation – especially if those nuggets are interesting and surprising.
Q: What do you read for pleasure? Is this different to the writing you enjoy working on?
I mainly read in the areas I edit. When I’m editing, I tend to read the book on my computer to draw a clear line between work reading and reading for fun.
Q: Finally, if you could only give one piece of advice to all aspiring authors, what would it be?
I’m giving two! Firstly, don’t get hung up at first draft stage, thinking this draft has to be brilliant. I believe great books are created in the editing process, and momentum is everything when writing a book. Keeping momentum flowing is much better than sitting in tortured angst, thinking you have to get each sentence perfect at this stage.
Secondly, for every book you want to write, read a thousand more! Reading will help you develop your skills – and if you want to get commercially published, it’s helpful to know where what you’re writing fits in the contemporary fiction market. Conventions and rules are there to be broken but, to break the rules effectively, you need to understand what they are. Reading helps you intuit all this.
Is your manuscript ready for a professional critique? Caroline is one of 70+ Jericho Writers editors, so we’ll always find your perfect match.
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