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EDITORS UNEDITED: Susan Davis

Susan has been with Jericho for 15 years, and in that time, she’s worked on countless works across genres. She could be just what you need for your psychological thriller, literary fiction, Victorian era or 20th century historical fiction, women’s fiction, or memoir.  


She’s got a wealth of knowledge, so over to her...  


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.  


There was one particular short story ‘Think Big’ which had unexpected spin-offs. First published in Mslexia with Fay Weldon as guest editor, it was then picked up by the BBC R 4 Short Story team and read on air. Later again, it was picked up by a young screenwriter for the British Short Film Awards. This was before I signed with agent or saw my novels published, so this was definitely a BIG thing for me at that time!  


My non-writing related thing is painting. I picked up a paint brush a few years ago and haven’t looked back. Quite a few of the works have found good homes to hang in, so that makes me kind of proud.  


Q: What brought you to the world of writing? What keeps you writing?  


I was writing stories at six years old. My first book, ‘Fanny Fanakapan and Curious Connie’ was bound with red knitting wool!  I just kept on writing and never stopped. 


Q: Tell me about what you're currently working on.  


I’ve been working on a memoir with a focus on identity and the search for my biological mother. The first chapter was longlisted by Fish Publishing, for their Memoir award.  


Q: You’ve just received a new manuscript to critique: what’s the first thing you do? Walk us through your editing process.  


The first thing I do is upload the document to my Kindle. Then I make a strong cup of coffee and start to read, making notes on my Kindle as I go along. I try to avoid reading the synopsis (if there is one) beforehand. It’s best to approach the work like an ordinary reader and allow a plot to surprise me. 


Every manuscript is different however, so my approach varies according to what the client needs. That said, I’ll always read the whole manuscript before writing the report. I try to work while the novel is fresh in my mind. This may mean spending an intensive few days at the computer, again depending on the level of help needed. Sometimes, the problems jump out and are straightforward to address. Other times, especially when plot is an issue it may take a while to find a solution. Often, I find solutions will come to me on a long walk, or in the shower. Or even when I wake up in the early hours.  


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’m no different to anyone else. That initial moment of panic is quite normal. There’s usually a rush of negative thoughts, that thing of ‘oh no, are they kidding? I can’t do that!’ Then you take a deep breath and give yourself a few days to let the suggestions percolate. Usually, you find that the thing you most objected to, begins to make perfect sense and can completely turn the work around. As a writer, I’ve had some very difficult edits where I’ve had to morph four main characters into three, and my last novel needed a very complicated re-structure of the narrative which made all the difference. A really good editor is like gold dust. I always try to get this across to clients. I also warn them not to rush into revisions, because that can make for superficial changes which skim the surface. It's best to take time to process the comments. You need a fresh perspective and above all the energy to get to grips with those fundamental changes needed. 


Q: What writing do you get most excited about working as an editor on? What really makes you intrigued by a submission?  


I tend to like first person narratives which pull me right into the protagonist’s inner world. It’s impossible to define what makes me sit up and take notice. That’s the mysterious special ‘something’ that makes a work stand out from the crowd. We don’t know what it is until we see it!  


Q: What do you read for pleasure? Is this different to the writing you enjoy working on?  


My reading tastes are eclectic. Recent stand-out novels have been Susanna Clarke’s ‘Piranesi’ and Gayle Honeywell’s, ‘Eleanor Oliphant is absolutely Fine’.  These two novels are very different genres, the first having a magical, philosophical element which can be understood on many different levels.  


I don’t read much commercial women’s fiction for pleasure, but if a manuscript is fun and well written, the genre is not so important.  


Q: Finally, if you could only give one piece of advice to all aspiring authors, what would it be?  


My advice is quite simply this: Do the TIME! Writing a novel is like any other craft or skill. It takes time and endless practice to master the tools and techniques which help you to get your ideas across. Don’t rush to publish before you’re ready. If you’re self-publishing, this is crucial. Be ready to recognize when something just isn’t working and let it go. Then move on to the next project. The manuscript that lies in the proverbial bottom drawer, is never wasted. It’s all part of the learning process.   


Is your manuscript ready for a professional critique? Susan 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 info@jerichowriters.com and we’ll be happy to discuss which service would be right for you and your manuscript.

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