Welcome back to another Interview! Today I have the lovely C.S.Plocher. She's an editor who also writes books. I am super excited to have more people interested in An Interview With. Don't forget to get in contact if you want a slot! Let's go!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I'm a freelance editor, but like most freelance editors, my path to editing was rather circuitous.
In college, I started out in Journalism, but the major was too fill-in-the-blank for me, so I switched to English. I did love all the required reading, but I felt pigeon-holed by the one-sided curriculum of classical literature, so I jumped over to Humanities, where I (surprisingly) got tired of all the nude paintings, then it was off to Spanish—turns out I'm no good at languages—after that was a spastic left turn into Outdoor Recreation, and before I knew it, I had graduated summa cum laude in Ancient Near Eastern Studies (don't ask).
I've tried my hand at a few other careers, like nannying abroad and teaching fourth grade (those poor children). Then one day I decided to write about writing, and I finally found my home.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My ambitions are two-fold: 1) to find my voice and 2) to help others find theirs.
Why did you start your website writelikerowling.com?
Write Like Rowling came about in 2012 when I started getting serious about my own writing. I wanted to create an encouraging environment where writers could develop authentic, original work by studying the elements of successful storytelling.
Much to my delighted surprise, the blog has taken off! In its May/June issue, Writer's Digest listed it as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers.
As an editor what services do you offer?
I do all three levels of editing—developmental, line, and copy—but I also help writers with their proposals, query letters, synopses, and websites, and I help them find the best agents for their work. Basically, if it has to do with writing, I'm interested!
How did you learn the skills to be an editor?
Being an editor is not like being a doctor—there's no set path to getting there—and that's one of the reasons why I love it!
I've always be an editor at heart, but it's taken me years to realize it. I was a voracious reader when I was a kid (still am), and I frequently won writing contests (you know, not to brag or anything). Even back then, people were asking me to edit their work.
I got my first formal editing job in college when I edited a professor's history textbook. I also coauthored a paper with him that I presented at an international conference in Vienna (woohoo!).
A few years later when I started Write Like Rowling, I met writer-editor Stuart Horwitz. He invited me to coauthor a chapter with him on Rowling's outlining techniques in his second writing book, Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula.
We ended up working so well together that he offered me an internship with his editing firm, Book Architecture. The internship morphed into an awesome year-long mentorship where he generously showed me the ropes of running a freelance editing business. (I wrote about the whole experience in a post called My Mentorship Story: How I Got My Writing Career On Track.) During that year I also took online editing classes from two wonderful teachers, Lourdes Venard from UCSD and Barbara Sjoholm from the Author-Editor Clinic.
Then in 2015 I finally opened up shop at csplocher.com. I haven't looked back since.
What would surprise people about the editing process?
Oh man, it's going to be hard to keep this to only one answer!
I think what would surprise first-time authors the most is that the personality of the editor is as important as the editor's experience.
Most of the advice out there on finding the "best" editor talks about experience. Experience is important, but only to an extent. An editor who's had ten years of experience might not have that much more to offer than an editor who's had five.
What it boils down to, then, is which editor suits you best—which one "gets" your personality, your approach, and your project.
Do you have a favourite part of the editing process?
This is another hard question because every project is unique so the editing process is always unique . . . I guess that's my answer! My favourite part of the process is that it's always changing. I'm constantly learning something new and honing my skills.
(In that vein, beware of an editor who claims to have seen it all and know it all. Like writing, editing is a craft you can never entirely master. The best editors are the ones who are also eager students.)
Do you have plans to write a book yourself? Fiction or nonfiction?
Yes to the first question; yes and yes to the second question. But that's all you're going to get out of me! I'm in the same boat as J. K. Rowling—the fastest way to kill a book idea is to talk about it.
What advice would you give to other writers?
Being a writer sounds romantic, which is probably why 200 millions Americans say they want to write a book, but the most successful writers are the ones who are ruthlessly business-like about it.
I'm currently reading Gabriela Pereira's wonderful book DIY MFA and she says:
Writing is a strange vocation. It seems like everyone in the world wants to write a book, yet relatively few ever make it to the finish line. Nonwriting folks operate under the misconception that writing is easy and that anyone can do it, unlike string theory, nanotechnology, or other fields people think are "difficult." The truth is that just about anyone could be a string theorist if they put in the time and focused study. The same is true about writing.
What advice would you give to people wanting to get into editing?
Editing is as much about working with people as it is working with words. Your job is to take a manuscript to the next level, but you won't get anywhere if you can't convince the author that you have her best interests at heart.
Above all, practice clearly communicating feedback in a way that keeps the author open to it.
C. S. Plocher is a freelance editor and blogger at the award-winning writelikerowling.com. One of her latest projects was contributing to Stuart Horwitz's third and final writing book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts: How to Write a Book, Revise a Book, and Complete a Book While You Still Love It. (And if the title itself hasn't convinced you how awesome it is, check out what I had to say about it in this blog post.)