Tuesday, May 28, 2013


So, has anyone noticed a pattern here? I'm not sure why, but a lot of the writers I've connected with have been from Australia. Hmmm. I wonder what that means. I haven't purposefully gone out to find authors from Down Under. I just connect with people that appeal to me, and funnily enough a fair few are from that part of the world. 

I didn't want to ask Philip the same questions everyone asks. He is not only a self-published author but offers his services for editing manuscripts at an incredibly low rate. So I wanted him to speak on both subjects. So, here goes...
What do you want readers to know about you as author? And as an editor?
It took a long time before I could finally call myself an author. I have been writing off and on since my early teens. At that stage there was a great deal of poetry full of existential teenage angst. Over the years I started many novels, often with a fantasy/sci fi theme. I read all the classic sci fi and fantasy books and wanted to emulate them. But I was never able to finish writing any of the books I started. There were also a few abortive attempts at non-speculative fiction, usually with a semi-autobiographical flavour. It was not until the beginning of 2012, when I was a young lad of 54, that I finally finished my first entire novel. A second followed quickly, and then a third. The first two are now self-published, but I am holding back the third until I have finished the fourth. What happened? It suddenly felt as though I had lived enough life to be able finally to say something worthwhile. All of the stories and ideas began to mature and coalesce. Et viola.
The idea for the editing business arose from the writing. I began to read some of the other self-published books out there – you may have noticed there are one or two these days. One thing that became apparent was that many of them required some serious editing and proofreading. At the same time, as a penniless writer myself, I knew how unaffordable professional manuscript assessment and editing services could be. I could not afford them myself. I decided to offer a much less expensive option and tap into a potentially large market. In addition to my fiction writing I have completed two doctoral theses (one in theology and one in biology) and published several scientific papers. These required very high standards of writing. As a post-graduate student (the second time around) I was employed to be a student advisor, helping other students to put the right words on the paper in the right order. I knew even then that I had a very good eye for detail, and would spot errors that everyone else had overlooked. Although I have no professional training as an editor I feel that my experience as a writer and a teacher, as well as my broad life experience, equip me very well for this line of work.
What is the biggest mistake you see authors make when you’re reviewing a manuscript?

Well, there are many common mistakes that authors make, at various stages of the process. I know, because I frequently make them myself! There are issues of structure, style, and the nitty gritty of grammar and spelling. It is difficult to single out one mistake as the biggest. At the grammatical level, people often have difficulty knowing how to correctly punctuate direct speech within a sentence; they also very frequently link sentences together with only a comma (the notorious comma splice). At the stylistic level, writers often use too many words to say something. They might say, for instance, ‘Fred stood up and decided to walk over to the door’, when all they really need to say is, ‘Fred stood and walked to the door’. On the other hand, people tend to write as journalists, rather than as creative writers. By that I mean they describe events as a reporter might – just the facts – instead of using more imaginative language. ‘Fred stood and walked to the door’ is a very factual description, and is OK sometimes. But it might be good to employ more colourful language from time to time. For example: ‘Fred rose in response to the summons from the door.’ It depends on the context, but language can be used to evoke feelings and create images, rather than just to describe events. I wouldn’t suggest that every line has to be a work of poetry; that becomes annoying and pretentious. But there needs to be variety, and there needs to be balance.
What services do you provide and what makes you qualified as an editor?
I provide a range of services from manuscript assessment (which some would call structural editing), to copy editing to proof reading. Manuscript assessment is concerned with the broader questions, such as the structure of the manuscript, the development of plot and character, and the general writing style. Copy editing concerns the nuts and bolts of sentence and paragraph structure. It is not only about grammar and spelling (although it can include that) but also about good sentence structure, removing unnecessary repetition and ensuring plot/character/timeline consistency. Proofreading is about correcting those grammatical and spelling errors that have inevitably been missed previously, or have occurred since rewriting. Although I believe that my academic and writing experience well qualifies me for these tasks, I would add to that my broad life experience and extensive general knowledge. Editing is about more than correcting grammar. I was reading a self-published book the other day which was set in Australia during the 1930s (note the absence of an apostrophe here! Another common error) and one of the characters bought something for so many dollars. Until 1966 the currency in Australia was pounds, shillings and pence. Having a broad general knowledge, knowing how and when to check factual information – this is just as important as understanding the ins and outs of writing and grammar.
I always like to know what people are reading. So what’s on your nightstand right this minute?
These days my Kindle is on the nightstand. I usually have a couple of books on the go at one time, with many more on the waiting list. At present I am reading Bliss by Peter Carey and a book by a self-published author, which I plan to review. I am also in the middle of reading the complete works of Virginia Woolf – I am in between her books at the moment. The next book on my list is the final volume of the Wheel of Time fantasy series.
Name 3-4 of your favorite, best-selling authors, their books, and why you like them.
This is a tough one. Most of my favourite authors are not necessarily best sellers. At a pinch I would say that my all time favourite authors are: D. H. Lawrence, Patrick White, Chaim Potok and Alice Walker. My favourite Lawrence novel is probably Sons and Lovers; my favourite White novel is Riders in the Chariot; my favourite Potok novel is The Book of Lights; and my favourite Walker novel is The Temple of My Familiar. There are many, many other authors that I also love. I like novels with some depth and substance. On the other hand, I still love reading fantasy and sci fi – if it is a fantasy or sci fi novel that also has some depth and substance, all the better!
I’m always searching for new indies to love. Do you know of any self-pub/indie authors that you would recommend? (And what’s the difference between self-pub and indie?)
There is this great up and coming YA writer called Su Williams you should check out (wink). I like what Colleen Sayre is writing. I particularly liked her recent novel, A Solitary Life. I recently gave my first ever five star review to TheDark Man’s Son by Meg Whitlock.
The difference between indie and self-published authors is not one I have really considered much before. There seems to be some suggestion that a self-published author basically does it all his or herself, while an indie author employs professional services for cover design, editing, ebook conversion, marketing and so on. There is clearly a whole spectrum in between. Indie authors often (it seems) also publish their own work via a company that they set up for the purpose. There are many of those notorious grey shades evident here.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned on your writing journey so far?
Probably THE most important thing I have learned is that I can produce a finished product. I always believed I could write well. What I couldn’t do was put it all together into a completed work. Now I know I can. This is 80% of the battle for me. I am still learning many things about the writing process, both from my own writing and from reading the work of others.
What website(s) have you found most helpful for both your writing and editing activities?
I tend to bounce around the internet from site to site looking for information. There is no website that I can point to as one I go back to again and again. I use the social media extensively, but I am yet to determine how useful or helpful that is. Among my other activities I write a blog, and I have found that Reddit has been helpful in getting some individual blogs to really take off. Not all of the blogs to which I have posted links have taken off; but the only blogs that have really taken off have had links posted there. This seems to be a useful way for my writing and my business to gain exposure.
Anything else we haven’t covered that you’d like people to know.
 I love chocolate, so if anyone wants to buy me a birthday present… (My birthday is June 21, btw.)

Sorry Philip, postage is mondo-huge to Australia, but I got you some really yummy pictures of chocolate to cue your salivary glands. Please be careful. I don't want you to chip a tooth trying to get at these sumptuous e-chocolates!

If you'd like to get to know Philip more, or learn more about his books or editing services, his links are below:

Facebook Page for one of my novels: Maybe They'll Remember Me
Twitter (as All-read-E)

Philip, thank you so much for visiting today. I truly hope some of my readers will make use of the services you provide. It's been a pleasure getting to know you a little better and wish you the best in all you do.

Who's your favorite indie author? Post their link in comments so we can all learn to love their work!

As always,
Dare to Dream!

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