EDITORS UNEDITED: Stuart Walton
This week on Editors Unedited we’re pleased to introduce you to Stuart Walton, an excellent non-fiction editor and potato salad connoisseur. Well-read and knowledgeable across disciplines, Stuart takes his credentials as an author and a book reviewer to provide insight on your manuscript that will make it sparkle.
Let’s see what Stuart 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.
I was very gratified to have my first novel, The First Day in Paradise, published in 2016. It marked a new departure for me after a career dedicated up to that date in non-fiction. I am also very proud of my potato salad, which has smoked bacon, chives and plenty of garlic in it.
Q: What brought you to the world of writing? What keeps you writing?
I have been writing since I could write. At junior school, I wrote funny stories that kept the rest of the class entertained. I actually enjoyed writing essays at university. What I have wanted above all was to use our beautiful, resourceful, endlessly inventive language to the best of my capabilities.
Q: Tell me about what you're currently working on.
I am about to write a study of love and romance, and everything that can go wrong with it. I have also completed a second novel.
Q: You’ve just received a new manuscript to critique: what’s the first thing you do? Walk us through your editing process.
I scroll through the first few pages to get a feel for the writer’s prose. If the topic is something I am not intimately familiar with, I do some internet research before I get started.
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 like being edited. A good editor is part of the writing process. The only thing I don’t like, and which is hugely prevalent in the publishing industry now, is the over-anxious worry that the level of any writing might be above people’s heads. Many people in publishing have forgotten that fine writing extends the reader’s intellectual and emotional aptitudes, rather than simply giving a fresh coat of paint to the fixtures and fittings in their eternal comfort zone.
Writers need to be aware that the revision process is not destructive. It is about improving the work, making it fitter and smarter, more fluent and more captivating. If you start out with the idea that every word is precious, you will fall at the first hurdle. The editor is your first ally in the process.
Q: What writing do you get most excited about working as an editor on? What really makes you intrigued by a submission?
I like innovative use of language that avoids exhausted cliché, writing with bounce and zip. I like it when the writer doesn’t address me directly as though I just rolled up to meet them at a wine bar to hear all about their new project. I like confident critical analysis that takes an objective view, rather than sounding like an opinionated blog. I like writing that teaches me something I didn’t know on virtually every page.
Q: What do you read for pleasure? Is this different to the writing you enjoy working on?
This is going to be embarrassing. I read a lot of critical theory and philosophy, particularly anything related to my own primary research interest, the work of the Frankfurt theorist Theodor Adorno. I read narrative non-fiction, including social history, art history and anything relating to food, drink and intoxicants. I sometimes read theology. I read fiction from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and a broad range of European writing from the dynamic period between the wars. I hardly ever read biography, contemporary memoirs, genre fiction, or anything with elves or spaceships in it.
Q: Finally, if you could only give one piece of advice to all aspiring authors, what would it be?
(1) Decide exactly what it is you are trying to achieve before you begin. Don’t just start rattling away at the keyboard and hope that it emerges. (2) Ditch the idea that you are talking to an imagined reader. You have no idea who the reader is. (3) Don’t, for all our sakes, keep dumbing it down.
That’s three things. Where is that good editor when you need them?
Is your manuscript ready for a professional critique? Stuart is one of 70+ Jericho Writers editors, so we’ll always find your perfect match.
Head over to our editing hub to see the services that we have on offer. Not sure which service to opt for? Drop an email to email@example.com and we’ll be happy to discuss which service would be right for you and your manuscript.