Saturday, October 18, 2008

Editors: The Eyes of Eagles

I have two regrets regarding A Gardener’s Tale, my first published novel. My first, as previously mentioned, was working with a publisher who set too high a list price, and the second was not having the book professionally edited. I knew I should have, but I had no spare cash and a number of good friends who seemed pretty good and willing to help.

Everyone makes mistakes; the trick is to learn from them next time around. Having written Oilspill dotcom in the Queen’s (or UK) English, I decided to seek an editor from across the pond.

Online, I found the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), a professional organization based in the UK at, and sent a letter to about 20 editors who stated in the site that they work with fiction. About eight of them replied and sent me samples and, honestly, they were all impressive.

I don’t recall exactly why I chose Alison Walters above the others, but so far I have no regrets. I do remember that she was very clear about how much it would cost and how long it would take. I also liked that she sees this as a partnership and that it is not acceptable for the author to relinquish responsibility.

The goal of the editor is to point things out objectively, to see the manuscript with a detachment that the author can’t possibly have. I don’t even know if Alison likes my story or if she likes my writing style. There is no preaching in her work; she is simply trying to help me make my work better.

Most impressive so far has been her visualization of the timeline. She noticed that my main characters were having sex to an Alanis Morissette album that only came out a couple of years later. I think that only the most astute of readers would have picked this up and it wouldn’t have necessarily saved me from an embarrassing blunder. However…

… In one scene, my protagonist, on entering a restaurant and seeing a vibrant young crowd, tells us that he is sure their intense discussions are not about Dennis Bergkamp (one of my favorite soccer players) having a goal disallowed in Arsenal’s (my favorite soccer team) game that weekend.

Alison noticed that I have this scene taking place in 1992 and Dennis Bergkamp only joined Arsenal in 1995. She then suggested that I take an incident from an Arsenal game in the spring of 1992 and even supplied me with a link to a match report.

Speaking as a dedicated soccer and Arsenal fan, this would surely have been an unforgivable blunder; my credibility shot. Thanks, Alison!

Oh, and for those of you looking for a good editor, Alison’s professional email is:, but hey, get in line!

Good Writing,


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