RACHEL ROWLANDS

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world.  Welcome to RACHEL ROWLANDS.                   

Rachel, what’s your connection with Betterwrite? 

I’m a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and was invited to become part of the editorial team at Betterwrite. I was more than happy to get involved.

In Kamakura, Japan, with the Great Buddha

Tell us about your work. 

I work as a freelance editor, providing developmental support to authors as well as editing and proofreading services. I mainly work with genre fiction (I love fantasy and sci-fi, especially if it’s YA or middle grade), but I occasionally dip into commercial non-fiction. I’m a writer myself and studied literature and creative writing at university, so I love being able to help authors editorially as well as supporting their publication goals. I know first-hand what a difficult path it is!

What are you working on at the moment? 

I just wrapped up a proofread of a horror novel, and recently finished a manuscript assessment of a really promising YA sci-fi. Next on the agenda is an assessment of an adventure novel, which should be fun!

What do you like about your work? 

I get to do something I love all day, which is to read, and I get to do it from home! I also really enjoy helping people, so knowing that I’ve helped a writer with their project or their publication goals is so rewarding.

What don’t you like? 

Sitting down for long stretches of time! Telling an author their work isn’t ready for professional input can be hard, too, but sometimes an author’s work just isn’t ready, especially if it’s their first ever book. Advising them to hone their craft and keep practicing is sometimes in their best interests.

Have you got a personal bugbear? 

Info-dumping, although it’s a common problem in early drafts, especially among newer writers. But too much of it becomes a slog.

What has pleased you in your work? 

I’ve worked with some really lovely authors who take feedback gracefully and with a willingness to learn. I’ve also worked on some books that have become bestsellers, including a USA Today bestseller.

What didn’t please you? 

Very rarely an author will argue with me about everything. It’s fine to disregard some advice, of course, but part of being an author is learning to take feedback from professionals on board in order to improve. Disregarding feedback and refusing to listen doesn’t build the foundations for a successful career.

What amused you? 

Silly typos! And witty characters, especially in YA and middle grade.

Whose writing do you enjoy? 

I have always loved Samantha Shannon’s work – Priory of the Orange Tree (an adult fantasy) has such stunning writing. I also recently read The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero which was gorgeously written.

Favourite title? 

It’s difficult to choose, but Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon quickly became my favourite fantasy novel ever. The Harry Potter series also shaped my life, as I grew up with it.

What do you like about this author’s writing? 

Samantha Shannon’s work is very lyrical, especially in Priory, so I always tend to learn new words!

Give us a quote. 

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

What’s your favourite word in English? 

I find the word flibbertigibbet amusing! I also recently learned that a snaccident is a thing, at least slang wise, and I think it’s great.

Favourite saying? 

Don’t compare your behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel (applies to writers on social media for sure).

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got? 

Most of my ambitions involve my work (either writing or editing; I suppose I’m a workaholic)! But I’ve always wanted to visit New York and other parts of the US.

How will you do that? 

Keep saving up (and maybe become a bestselling author and go there on book tour – I can dream).

What have you learned about life? 

It’s unpredictable, and having gratitude is important.

What have you learned about people? 

They’re not as good as cats.

Tell us something quirky about yourself. 

I’m very nerdy. I love video games and Studio Ghibli movies.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words. 

One morning, I woke up and felt my hair tickling my cheek. I moved my hand to brush it away, but felt a crawling sensation and panicked. I sat up quickly, looked down… and saw a huge, hairy spider running over my pillow. I screamed, and my partner whacked it with the TV remote and squashed it. (True horror story.)

 

ALISON KNIGHT

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world.  Welcome to ALISON KNIGHT.

Alison, what’s your connection with Betterwrite? 

I learned about Betterwrite through the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and liked what I saw. I applied to join and after undertaking a test copy-edit was thrilled to be invited to join Betterwrite as an Associate Editor.

Tell us about your work. 

I’ve worked on various fiction and non-fiction projects over the past few years, but now focus on editing novels. I’m also a published author and teach creative writing, so I hope I bring a positive, constructive perspective to the novels I edit.

Stories open doors into new worlds

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m just finishing a developmental edit for a first-time author. It’s a mystery based around the time of the IRA bombing of the London Hilton hotel in London in 1975.

What do you like about your work? 

I know how hard it is to write a whole book, and how easy it is to miss little things when you’re so close to it. I love the fact that I can be a fresh pair of eyes for the author, helping them to make their manuscript the best it can be. Seeing a writer develop their story and grow in confidence as an author is very rewarding.  Having been nurtured by a wonderful editor for my own books, I feel this is my chance to give something back and pass on what I’ve learned to others.

What don’t you like? 

Having to tell an author that a beautiful piece of prose they’ve crafted should be deleted, as it doesn’t actually add to their story or move it along.

Have you got a personal bugbear? 

Rambling! It’s very easy to overwrite – to repeat and rephrase the same thing. I think unnecessary wordage is every editor’s nightmare. I look for crisp, clear narrative and dialogue with accurate punctuation (and not too many exclamation marks!!). Oh dear, have I just overwritten this point?

What has pleased you in your work? 

Being thanked by authors, and then seeing their books in print.

What didn’t please you? 

When I started writing and when I began to edit for others, I was working full-time in the charity sector and trying to fit everything around work and family commitments. It was stressful and frustrating. Now I’m in the situation where all my work time is devoted to editing, writing and teaching. Our children have also grown and left the nest and my husband is retired, so he takes on the lion’s share of the cooking and housework. How lucky am I?

What amused you? 

The assumption that, as an editor, I don’t need to have my own books edited. Wrong! When you’ve spent a lot of time writing a story, you’ll see what you expect to see and miss all sorts of errors. I wouldn’t dream of trying to copy-edit or proofread my own books.

Whose writing do you enjoy? 

Goodness, that’s a difficult question to answer! I have quite wide-ranging tastes in literature, so it’s impossible to choose just one. I know a lot of authors and try to read their latest books, but my bookshelves are full of all sorts of titles – contemporary, historical, crime, biography, fantasy, romance … the list is endless, although the space on my bookshelves isn’t. We keep buying more books and then more bookcases to house them.

Favourite title? 

It’s impossible to pick an absolute favourite. However, I do have a very soft spot for a book called The Green Bronze Mirror, by Lynne Ellison. It’s a time-travel adventure written by the author when she was still at school. I found it in my school library when I was fourteen, and loved it. I learned that Lynne Ellison was only fourteen when she wrote it. I decided then that I would be a writer too. Even when life got in the way, with marriage, children and work, I never forgot  that book. It took me a long time to become a published author, but The Green Bronze Mirror inspired my own time-travel story – Rosie Goes to War.

What do you like about this author’s writing? 

It’s a story about a teenager who falls back through time from the twentieth century century to Roman times. She has to be resourceful and brave. I found myself ‘living the story’ – worrying about the heroine’s plight, and cheering her on. It set a benchmark for me, so the books I enjoy most are the ones that take me into the narrative, enabling me to ‘live’ the story alongside the characters.

What’s your favourite word in English? 

Wonderful. I love the idea of being full of wonder.

Any other quotes that are special for you?

“You are the author of your own life story … make it a good one.” I have no idea who said it – I’ve got it printed on a cushion.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain.

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got? 

Apart from the usual things like lose weight, do more exercise and spend less money, I want to finish writing a four-book series based on a group of friends. Book one is done and has been published, numbers two and three are in the draft stages, and I’ve worked out the main plot for the final book. I’m also doing some major rewriting of a novel based on events in my family, set in the 1960s, and have plans for more time-travel stories for my character, Rosie.

I’d like to run more residential retreats for writers – I’m organising one in Somerset for October 2019. Details here: https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/writing-retreats.

I’m keen to do more travelling – we’re planning a trip to St Lucia next year, and I’d love to visit family in Australia.

I’m fascinated by my family history and would love to find out more about where we all came from.

How will you do that? 

Writing is a very flexible profession, so I write when I can.

I organise the retreats with a writer friend who is a joy to work with. We complement each other and offer a good level of support for the writers who join us for some dedicated writing time.

The travelling depends on income, so my editing work is helping to make that happen!

I’m going to add to my family history research by having an ancestry DNA test for my birthday this year. I can’t wait to see what the results will be.

What have you learned about life? 

That you can achieve just about anything you want to in this life if you’re prepared to work for it. Some things might take longer than others, some will be easier than others. Just don’t give up.

What have you learned about people? 

Everyone is unique, and we’re all full of surprises.

Tell us something quirky about yourself. 

I once spent the night in Windsor Castle when a friend of a friend worked there. I attended a party in a dungeon, and slept in the servants’ quarters. However, I didn’t meet any of the royal family.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words. 

When I was twenty-five, my husband bought me an Amstrad word-processor. I declared that I would be published by the time I was thirty. But I think someone ‘up there’ was listening, and thought I was getting a bit arrogant. Either that, or he had wax in his ears and misheard me.

Thirty years later, my first book was published. (60)

GWEN SCHWARZ

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to GWEN SCHWARZ.

Gwen, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?

I’m an Associate Editor with the Betterwrite team and have recently completed a development edit of a fiction manuscript about a Lebanese immigrant to the United States who was convicted of a crime he did not commit.

Tell us about your work.

I enjoy development editing, copy-editing and proofreading fiction and non-fiction, with a preference for editing fiction. I’m very familiar with the time and effort it takes to create words that seem to flow effortlessly, and I appreciate the opportunity to be a fresh pair of eyes for an author’s creation.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently looking at ways to expand my client base and to make my use of Microsoft Word more efficient. I’m also reviewing John Mullan’s informative book How Novels Work.

At the LAA in Venice

What do you like about your work?

From a broad perspective, I enjoy two aspects of my work: the high-level overview that is required for development editing, and the detailed approach that is needed for a good copy-edit. When I’m editing, I take a lot of satisfaction from being able to communicate changes that could help the words flow and take the reader into the world of the writer’s imagination, and a large part of this is knowing when there are either too many words or too few words. This is the art behind good writing and good editing.

I believe that a well-written book has the quality of being so engaging that the reader cannot put it down or does so only with a great deal of reluctance because the words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters have been chosen and organised with care.

Another aspect of my work that I enjoy is being able to collaborate with the author and to explain concepts such as theme or structure that the writer may not be familiar with. I appreciate the logic, research and organisation that contribute to a well-developed argument in non-fiction books, but I really enjoy and prefer becoming immersed in the world of well-written fiction.

What don’t you like?

I don’t enjoy the tedium of editing references.

Have you got a personal bugbear?

I’m resisting the popular trend toward using the plural pronouns they and their to refer to a singular antecedent. I realise that those words make things easier than using the his or her construction, but I’m not in favour of their usage.

What has pleased you in your work?

When I see a way for the author’s voice to be expressed in a more concise, clear and convincing way, I feel that I’m helping by explaining why a suggested change could improve his or her work. (As you can see, I resisted using their in that last sentence.) The author has the ultimate say, of course, but I’m happy to provide some guidance. I’m very pleased when an author confirms that my suggestion has helped to create a better story.

What didn’t please you?

My tendency to be a perfectionist can help in some areas; however, I need to know when the editing I’ve done is good enough and still maintains the author’s voice.

What amused you?

My tendency to take myself too seriously and go too far in my attempts to explain my editing decisions has created some interesting results. I once had a client thank me for my good intentions and then inform me that my thirty-five pages of feedback to an author were more than they needed. Sometimes less really is more.

Whose writing do you enjoy?

It’s difficult to pick one author. Dan Brown is very entertaining. Ian Fleming is great, and so is Arthur Hailey.

Favourite title?

The Da Vinci Code.

What do you like about Dan Brown’s writing?

Dan Brown does extensive research before he writes his books, and uses that basis to form engaging, wonderful scenarios in the reader’s mind that are based on fact. I find his talent for combining science with spirituality intriguing, and his scepticism about spirituality makes the reader think while being entertained.

Give us a quote.

“Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire” (The Da Vinci Code). I think some people look only at short-term gain and ignore long-term gain in many issues, such as climate change.

What’s your favourite word in English?

I use the word lovely a lot. It has a softness I like. I also like the rhythm of the word onomatopoeia. It amuses me that English has such a brainy-sounding word to define simple words such as buzz or hiss that were created to imitate those sounds.

Any other quotes that are special for you?

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart” (Helen Keller). I believe those same things are the meaningful experiences that endear people to us, and create memories that stay with us our entire lives.

Favourite saying?

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I try to apply this principle in my editing work. Of course, I would have to question whether I should edit the grammar in this saying if I encountered it in a manuscript.

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?

I would love to travel more and stay in one place long enough to transition from feeling like a tourist to feeling like I live there. My reading has included many classics, including Shakespeare, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, and I’d like to read many more.

How will you do that?

This summer, my husband and I will be spending a month in Venice and a month in Paris, absorbing the culture in both places and trying our best to feel as if we live there permanently with great sight-seeing, good food and fabulous wine. I may bring some classic reading with me.

What have you learned about life?

Life always supports you with what you need at exactly the time that you need it, with a helpful book, a smile from a stranger, a job offer, or an uplifting message in a dream.

What have you learned about people?

The people who teach you the hardest lessons are often the least likeable!

Tell us something quirky about yourself.

I have been known to keep up our Christmas tree and Christmas cards until Easter in order to add some colour and brightness to our Canadian winter.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words.

On our vacation in Rome several years ago, my husband and I joined the long line-ups to see the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Our anticipation about seeing Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling amplified as we entered the room.
Mesmerised by the beauty and depth of the artist’s work, we became separated from each other amid the hundreds of jostling visitors. Putting aside my panic, I decided to return to our hotel.
Outside the Vatican, I met two priests, who gave me directions to the subway. As I walked around a hedge at the station entrance, I was filled with relief at the incredible coincidence of seeing my husband walk towards me from the other end of the hedge. (119)

HELENA FAIRFAX

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to HELENA FAIRFAX.        

Helena, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?

Thanks for the welcome! I joined Betterwrite in early 2019 as an Associate Editor.

Tell us about your work.

I’m a writer myself, so as well as editing for others I know what it’s like to have my own work edited. A great editor can transform a novel. I enjoy helping writers develop their stories and make them the best they can be.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I have a few novels I’m working on at the moment – one is a sci-fi set in a dystopian future, one is a women’s fiction novel set in Saudi Arabia, and one a thriller set in the deep south of the US.  One of the pleasures of editing is the variety of stories I get to see.

Helena Fairfax is a freelance editor and author of women’s fiction. Her latest book is a step outside her usual genre – Struggle and Suffrage in Halifax: Women’s Lives and the Fight for Equality is a non-fiction social history.

Have you got a personal bugbear? 

I don’t have a personal bugbear regarding use of language. I edit according to the usual grammar rules, but the story is more important than the grammar. Besides, the English language is fluid and always changing. I do dislike seeing lazy stereotypes in novels, though.

What has pleased you in your work?

I’m very happy when the writer is happy!

What didn’t please you? 

Reading books all day is a dream job. I can’t think of anything better.

What amused you? 

Any eccentric or quirky characters who don’t act in the way the reader expects.

Whose writing do you enjoy? 

I write romance and women’s fiction and I read a lot in this genre – from Georgette Heyer to Marian Keyes, to classics like Jane Austen. I also love sci-fi, and my two favourite authors are Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem.

Favourite title? 

That’s impossible to answer! I have too many. Besides the authors above, my favourite novels include Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford, The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, and Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín.

What do you like about these authors’ writing? 

They either tell a cracking story, or else they make you look at the world in a different way, or both.

Give us a quote. 

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” – Kurt Vonnegut

What’s your favourite word in English? 

Yes.

Favourite saying? 

“Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got? 

To write a book I’m happy with.

How will you do that? 

Keep trying!

What have you learned about life? 

It’s too short sometimes, and too long at others.

What have you learned about people? 

I’m still learning about people.

 Tell us something quirky about yourself. 

I’ve never watched a horror film all the way through. They give me nightmares.

 Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words. 

A frog lived by a pond. He was an orphan frog, his parents having both died in a lawnmower accident. The frog whiled away his time croaking mournful songs among the reeds and imagining he was the offspring of nobility. One day a beautiful young girl took pity on him, the sad creature that he was, and knelt down beside the glassy green water to kiss him. After the kiss, the frog waited a moment. Then he checked out his reflection. Nope, he was still a frog. (87)

JANIE BRAYSHAW

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world.
Welcome to JANIE BRAYSHAW


Janie, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
I’m an Associate Editor with the Betterwrite team and recently copy-edited In the Face of Adversity by Martin Perks, a compelling novel depicting the tragedies and downfall of his main character, Billy.
.

Tell us about your work.
I copy-edit indie fiction and academic books, two very different aspects of copy-editing, but equally rewarding. I’ve just completed Geographies of Postsecularity for a multi-author academic team (and, yes, I had to google the meaning when I was first approached to take on the work).
I’m also an indie author. My first novel, The Widow’s Tale, is set in fourteenth-century Yorkshire and portrays the protagonist’s descent into madness as she confronts blocked memories of her sister’s mysterious death.

What work are you doing at the moment?
A novel entitled The Disappeared which is set in the present day. Eva Turner is on the run. She has left the devastating events of her life in London behind, but someone is coming after her. And someone from the long-distant past is following in their footsteps.

What do you like about your work?
I enjoy working in collaboration with other team members at Betterwrite to enable indie authors to realise the potential of their work. It’s like taking a rough diamond, cutting, shaping and polishing it to make it sparkle. I love words and how they all fit together to create a story.

What don’t you like?
Never having enough time.

Have you got a personal bugbear?
Negativity.

What has pleased you in your work?
Positive feedback from authors, managing editors, colleagues and readers.

What doesn’t please you?
My occasional air-headedness.

What amuses you?
My occasional air-headedness. I’ve always been able to laugh at myself, and if you can’t acknowledge your own mistakes, you’re not going to learn from them.

Whose writing do you enjoy?
Hilary Mantel. Ruth Rendell. Minette Walters. Sarah Waters. Stephen King. I could go on!

Favourite title?
This is a difficult one. It’s often the book I’ve just read or listened to on Audible –The Far Pavilions by M M Kaye – especially when it lives on in my mind long after I’ve finished it.

What do you like about this author’s writing?
She paints the landscape, colours and people of India. And it’s a fabulous story.

Give us a quote.
‘I really do literally put myself into a character’s shoes’ (Ruth Rendell).

What’s your favourite word in English?
Dork. (Actually, I think it’s American.)

Any other quotes that are special to you?
‘Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy’ (Saadi, thirteenth-century Persian Sufi poet).

Favourite saying?
Tell it like it is.

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
To live a long and fruitful life (sounding like a Miss World contestant now).

How will you do that?
By living life to the full.

What have you learned about life?
At times it is not easy, but everything passes.

What have you learned about people?
To accept them for who they are.

Tell us something quirky about yourself.
I was a wild child.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words.

There once was a five-year-old girl who was a bit naughty. If she was told to do something, she did the opposite. One day she and her sisters went to the big country show with her grandparents. And she got lost among the crowds because she was being naughty.

A policeman asked her if she was who she was, and she shook her head because she was terrified of his pointy hat. Then she heard a voice from the sky talking about her and she thought it was God and that she was dead. When the showground was emptying at the end of the day, she was found.

And she blocked that day from her memory for thirty years. (119)

JENNY WARREN

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world.  Welcome to JENNY WARREN.

Jenny, what’s your connection with Betterwrite? 

I’m a freelance editor working as an Associate Editor with Betterwrite. I recently completed a copy-edit of a complex and nuanced thriller that was a pleasure to work on.

Tell us about your work. 

I work across a wide range of fiction genres, although my favourites are probably crime, thrillers, literary and romance. I’m also a fan of a well-conceived time-travel novel! I enjoy variety, so I’m pleased to provide editing services to some charities and businesses too.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m copy-editing a humorous historical romance. Great fun.

What do you like about your work? 

I love working with fiction. It feels like a privilege to read books for a living. The freedom and flexibility of working freelance is a big plus.

What don’t you like? 

That frightening moment when you have to press send on a completed edit.

Have you got a personal bugbear? 

Sometimes a thesaurus can be over-used.

What has pleased you in your work? 

Positive feedback from authors, publishers and clients. The great supportive online community of editors.

What didn’t please you? 

When I got sent the wrong book by mistake and I didn’t realise until I’d nearly finished the edit!

Jenny in Santiago de Compostela. I prefer to be behind the camera, to be honest.

What amused you? 

I’m easily amused. My fellow editors often make me laugh.

Whose Writing do you enjoy? 

Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, Neil Gaiman, Zadie Smith, Alice Walker, Val McDermid, L.J. Ross, Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson, Elly Griffiths, Sarah Waters. Too many to list here!

Favourite title? 

I have a new favourite every month! But an enduring love is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

What do you like about this author’s writing? 

The beautiful, simple narrative style and the warmth and compassion of the narrator.

Give us a quote. 

“Things are always better in the morning.”

What’s your favourite word in English? 

Serendipity.

Any other quotes that are special for you? 

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

Favourite saying? 

“Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don’t do that by sitting around.” Katharine Hepburn

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got? 

To do lots of travelling to remote places.

How will you do that? 

We’ve just bought a campervan!

What have you learned about life? 

It’s a cliché – but kindness is the most important trait.

What have you learned about people? 

See above!

Tell us something quirky about yourself. 

I’m an introverted extrovert.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words. 

A girl sits on a train pretending to read because her heart has been broken.

A comfortable-looking woman catches her eye. “I can see the future. You will fall in love with a wonderful person and have three gorgeous children. And when you look back on this moment, it will feel like a scene from a book.”

She was right. (60)

JUDITH PASKIN

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to JUDITH PASKIN.


Judith in Venice, Looking for a Glass Turtle

Judith, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
I’ve worked as a development editor on a couple of novels for Betterwrite, including Richard Sotnick’s marvellous book The Gods Divided.

Tell us about your work.
I’m a freelance editor, mainly working with children’s books, but I occasionally branch out into adult thrillers when the offer comes along. I carry out detailed analysis of manuscripts, advising authors on things such as structure, pace/tension, characterisation and dialogue. I’m also happy to do minor rewrites, or even ghost-writing if requested.

Before entering the field of publishing, I worked as a broadcast journalist with the BBC for the best part of two decades. So I’ve been writing for many, many years.

What work are you doing at the moment?
I’m mentoring several authors of children’s books, working on my own picture book (Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Lunch?), and I’m about to start work on an adult thriller.

What do you like about your work?
I love the variety: one day I can be editing a funny picture book and discussing illustrations with the artist, the next I might be rewriting a romance scene in a thriller.

What don’t you like?
I take every job very personally – probably too personally! I’m passionate about helping the authors I work with to do well, and that often means having to be brutally honest when things are just not right. It can be daunting telling an author that they need to do major rewrites, but I’m glad to say they always end up thanking me in the end, and we remain friends.

Have you got a personal bugbear?
Authors who explain everything. Let the reader use their imagination. It’s why they bought the book!

What has pleased you in your work?
I’m fortunate enough to have worked with a few authors who have been very successful, been picked up by major publishers and had their books published worldwide. I felt particularly privileged to have worked with Adeline Foo who recently won the Asian Children’s Book Award for her picture book Tiny Feet.

What doesn’t please you?
I’m far too easily pleased. Give me a jigsaw and an audio book and I’m happy.

What amuses you?
My cat amuses me on a daily basis … mainly when she thinks I’m not looking.

Whose writing do you enjoy?
I’m a big fan of Philippa Gregory’s books, and I love historical fiction. But it has to be good historical fiction with a gripping plotline (which isn’t easy to write!). I also love Joanna Cannon’s two books, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things About Elsie. She’s a wonderful writer with a truly unique voice.

Favourite title?
It’s got to be my favourite children’s book, Alice in Wonderland.

What do you like about Lewis Carroll’s writing?
What’s not to like? It’s simply crazily wonderful!

Give us a quote.
“If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does” (Alice in Wonderland). Of course, that would put a lot of journalists out of work …

What’s your favourite word in English?
OK, I’m going to cheat here and say wuffling, which is technically not a real word and is in fact totally made up from the picture book I’ve just written. But how dull life would be if we didn’t give ourselves permission to invent silly words from time to time.

Any other quotes?
Winnie the Pooh has the monopoly on great quotes. Here’s one of my favourites:

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, ‘What about lunch?’”

Favourite saying?
You’ll have to ask my mother … she’s got so many. “Don’t trouble ‘trouble’ until ‘trouble’ troubles you” springs to mind. She should probably write a book.

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
To take more time out to relax.

How will you do that?
Let me sit down and have a think …

What have you learned about life?
Life’s too short for regrets, so take opportunities when they arise – even when they seem a bit scary!

What have you learned about people?
If you look for something bad in someone, you’ll always find it. So instead, look for the good in everyone.

Tell us something quirky about yourself.
I had my wisdom teeth removed and two more grew back. Yes, I’m that wise.

Give us a picture with a caption. And tell us a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end. Choose your length, up to 30, 60 or 120 words.
The picture shows me in Venice, looking for a glass turtle. Therein lies an interesting story:

Sparkling Venetian souvenirs: glass behind glass. I want a turtle. Not a mask. Not Pinocchio. My son’s favourite animal. To let him know that holidays aren’t the same without him. (30)

KATHY SWAILES

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world.  Welcome to KATHY SWAILES.

Kathy, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?

As a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) I was approached by Rob for editing and proofreading on behalf of client authors of Betterwrite. Subsequently, I’ve been invited to write some guest blogs, which has been a new experience for me, but I’m finding that I enjoy sharing my knowledge in this way.

Birthday celebration dinner with my husband, Cliff

Tell us about your work. 

When I first qualified and started editing, I expected to use my biochemical and pharmacological background to take on work in medical editing, but I kept being drawn to fiction editing. Now I’ve discovered that’s where my heart is, and I’ve immersed myself in all aspects of fiction editing including developmental, line- and copy-editing, and some proofreading. My preferred genres include fantasy, romance and science fiction – especially where these genres overlap – but I work in many other areas too.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m just finishing a line-edit of Book 3 in an epic fantasy series, but I’m due to start a developmental edit on a thriller, in which the author recognises they have a problem with perspective (POV, or point-of-view) in the middle, but they’re not quite sure how to resolve the problem.

 What do you like about your work? 

I love trying to help authors with the craft of writing, identifying what’s working well and checking other features that perhaps aren’t as snappy.

What don’t you like? 

I don’t like having to rush through a job because of unreasonable deadlines. I’m scared that by rushing I won’t be giving my best to the author, and that simply goes against my personal work ethic. But I realise that sometimes a balance has to be found between giving my best efforts and the cost of prolonged work hours.

Have you got a personal bugbear? 

I find in my work that I’m coaching an author in aspects of writing craft or simply in correct grammar (and where you can break the rules once you’re aware of them). But sometimes I find that after lengthy discussions on a subject, and the author saying they really understand, the same error is repeated over and over again. That annoys me, and I’d much rather the author ask me to explain in a different way.

What has pleased you in your work? 

I love coming across a new author whose work excites me, and then watching as the book is published in all its glory. If the resulting reviews are positive, that’s just the icing on the cake.

What didn’t please you? 

I’ve had a couple of interactions with authors who told me how long it should take me to do a certain job. In both cases the authors were fairly novice, so they had nothing to base their assumptions on. The gist of which is that it should only take as long to edit a book as it takes to read it – not allowing for time to take notes, make annotations, corrections, do a second read-through, or write an editorial letter. Whilst I’m not comparing myself with a doctor or lawyer in terms of their knowledge, we would never tell such a professional how long they should take to do their job, so it surprises me that a small handful of authors believe they know better than the professional editor they want to hire how to do the job.

 What amused you? 

I’ve not been amused by a particular event during my time as an editor, but I have had a number of authors whose writing is quirky, whose novels include lines and scenes that have made me laugh. I do adore those moments when I come across those funny lines in an otherwise straight book, as they come out of the blue and are such a surprise.

Whose writing do you enjoy? 

Jodi Taylor is one modern author who springs to mind when considering whose writing I enjoy. She writes straight fiction, but with an abundance of British humour including some gentle ribbing of the British way of life. But sometimes her books include pathos under the humour, and sometimes raise philosophical questions, all under the guise of a light-hearted story. In a completely different style I also enjoy authors such as Christine Feehan, Nora Roberts, Margaret Atwood, Janet Evanovich, and Neal Stephenson – an eclectic mix.

Favourite title? 

My favourite title is often the one I’m reading at the time. I read prolifically, often two or three books a week, so if I’m not enjoying something I’ll soon put it aside (unless it’s work, of course). But perhaps some of the fantasy and science-fiction books I read thirty years ago and more remain in my mind, such as Dune by Frank Herbert and Magician by Raymond Feist. More recent titles that I’ve recommended to others include the Frogmorton Farm series by Jodi Taylor, Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and Artemis by Andy Weir.

What do you like about these authors’ writing?

For each of these titles, what’s important to me is that they grip my interest from the outset, have believable characters and plots, and provide satisfactory closure. I say satisfactory, as sometimes a book may frustrate me at the end, but if the story works that way, or if it’s part of a series, then frustration is acceptable!

Give us a quote. 

“Do not fear making mistakes in life, fear only not correcting them” – Master Chen Yen.

And in a similar vein:

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” – Helen Keller.

What’s your favourite word in English? 

Quixotic: it always brings to mind the formidable Don Quixote of La Mancha, jousting with windmills.
I think today’s authors must be quixotic, believing in themselves, their writing and their stories.

Any other quotes that are special for you? 

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the Human Face” – Victor Hugo.

Favourite saying? 

Really?! (That one word, spoken with the right intonation, says so much.)

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got? 

To continue enjoying a wonderfully fulfilling life!

How will you do that? 

Continue living as I do with my two best friends, my husband and my dog, in my adopted country of New Zealand.

What have you learned about life? 

People matter. Always consider others’ feelings.

What have you learned about people? 

That they often see things in a completely different light than you do, despite looking out from the same place.

Tell us something quirky about yourself. 

I adore logic and number puzzles, rarely finish a cup of tea or coffee, and like dogs and elephants more than most humans.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words. 

All was quiet in the house following the chaotic rampaging of children’s feet and the parents’ frenetic efforts to herd the family off for the day. The kitchen door swung open silently, and in glided the newcomer on padded feet.

“Come over here,” purred the tall, dark stranger.

“Why should I?” squeaked the defiant response.

“I mean you no harm. I’m new here and only want to get to know the locals.” She held up one elegant, black paw and said, “See, no claws.”

So the little mouse, thinking there was no danger, crept out of the hole in the wainscot. And the cat pounced, snagging the little mouse with claws no longer retracted. Silly little mouse was no more. (120)

NIKKI BRICE

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to NIKKI BRICE.


Nikki, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
I’ve been an associate editor with Betterwrite since 2013 and have loved every minute of it!

Tell us about your work.
Stories are everything. Stories make us human. To be human is to create, to learn, to grow. Novelist Meg Rosoff once said, “Without stories we are trapped in static versions of ourselves.” Helping authors tell their stories just seems like the best job in the world! And working at home means there’s coffee and cake on tap; you can’t argue with that.

What work are you doing at the moment?
I’m working on a tremendous historical novel about a little-known member of a very well-known royal house. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy when it’s published in a few months’ time.

Nikki Brice – Shakespeare Lover

What do you like about your work?
One good thing about being an editor is that you can constantly have your nose in a book – any sort of book – and get away with calling it work! Every single book you read helps you become a better editor for your authors. I love reading everything from classics to new releases. I read across all genres.

What don’t you like?
Tax returns! Apparently I have to do them.

As an editor, have you got a personal bugbear?
The thing I probably dread most when I open a manuscript is seeing sentence after sentence running into each other, separated only by commas. It can take a lot of time unpicking and restructuring. But that’s part of what editors are here to help with!

What has pleased you in your work?
I love it when an author I’ve helped is pleased with the outcome and gets to see their work in print. An author recently thanked me in glowing terms in her book. She also sent me a gift in the post. I wasn’t expecting either and so they were lovely surprises.

Whose writing do you enjoy? Favourite title?
If I had to choose just one novel as my favourite – although I’d much rather I didn’t have to! – it would be The Lord of the Rings, which I reread about every five years. Having said that, the book I’d take to my desert island would be Shakespeare’s First Folio from 1623.

What do you like about Tolkien’s writing?
I think Tolkien had a great insight into some of the universal issues that dominate humanity, such as the nature of good and evil. I studied Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons, at university and fell in love with Old English poetry and Anglo-Saxon culture. Tolkien was the master of these sorts of now-extinct languages, which he used as the basis for his Middle Earth languages. His work is shot through with variations on the Old English language and the Anglo-Saxon culture.

Give us a quote.
“Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” (Gandalf to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring.)

What’s your favourite word in English?
Disingenuous. It comes in so handy and covers a great range of personal behaviour, from vaguely insincere to downright deceitful.

Favourite saying?
“There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.”
It’s from Hamlet, and it couldn’t be more true!

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
In my spare time, I teach Shakespeare to local primary school children, and write and direct short plays for nearby theatre groups to perform. One day, I’d like to publish my Shakespeare workshop notes and also my short plays so that others can use them too. I also want to put together, in a short book, all my family history research dating back to the Civil War, and give to it everyone in the family.

What have you learned about life?
It goes too quickly! And it’s very precious.

What have you learned about people?
You can’t predict what people will do next. We’re all full of surprises. Wouldn’t life be dull if we weren’t?

Tell us something quirky about yourself.
I love local history and stories about another world that perhaps just hovers at the edge of our own. I’m often to be found traipsing my young children around stately homes filled with stories of ghosts and strange happenings; or through the glorious countryside that is the Ribble Valley in Lancashire, looking out for the Pendle witches or the remnants of nearby stone circles; or across the eerie ruins of long-dissolved abbeys.

Tell us a story, up to 30, 60 or 120 words:
I once had to run for my life, quite literally, from an enormous falling tree on a stormy night when I was heading back to my car after work. I was still working in the law at that point.
I was pregnant and wearing high heels, so couldn’t run. Despite being propelled several feet through the air when the tree crashed down around me, baby and I were both unharmed.
The ambulance paramedic said that if I’d run just a foot or two to my left or right, an ambulance wouldn’t have been needed.
Three months later, I left the law and focused on editing. Since then, I’ve done my best to embrace every opportunity that’s come my way
. (119)

ROB MATTHEWS

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world, starting with ROB.


 

Rob, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
I’m a freelance editor. I wanted the Betterwrite website to be a shop window for our work. A designer friend set it up – I just supplied the words.

Tell us about your work.
I’ve done loads of non-fiction edits and proofreads.

What work are you doing at the moment?
Mainly fiction. And I work with other editors. When a job comes up I think: who’s the best person to do this one?

What do you like about your work?
Working from home. Long breaks with tea and cake.
And writers appreciate what we do to improve their work.

What don’t you like?
Correcting the same old mistakes in writing that come up time and time again.

Have you got a personal bugbear?
Fiction writers who don’t use contractions in their dialogue, with lines like “Do not go there.” No one speaks like that in real life. We say “Don’t go there.”

What has pleased you in your work?
I complimented a writer and they texted back: “I’m on the train. In my head I’m doing somersaults … your comments mean so much – I was scared you would tell me I was crap!” It’s nice to encourage someone. Writers need encouragement, like we all do.

What didn’t please you?
I worked for ages on a difficult edit, and the author ‘ghosted’ – just disappeared, and stopped communicating. I only got half my fee.

What amused you?
I told a writer to cut a gratuitous sex scene. His wife emailed to say: “I’ve been telling him to cut out those sex scenes for ages but he won’t listen to me – he’ll do what you say because you’re his editor!”

Whose writing do you enjoy?
I love Bill Bryson’s books.

Favourite title?
Notes From a Small Island, describing his adventures as an American arriving in the UK in the 1970s. He’s updated it in The Road to Little Dribbling.

What do you like about Bill Bryson’s writing?
I love his dry wit. He describes life’s simple pleasures: a nice cup of tea, a walk in the country, a lovely view. Then he catches you out with a shaft of dark humour.

Give us a quote.
At a tourist venue, he’s surrounded by a coach party of noisy, selfish old people. Then he adds: “I smiled benignly and stood back, comforted by the thought that soon they would be dead.”

What’s your favourite word?
Discombobulated. It just sounds great.

Any other quotes?
“…the multitudinous seas incarnadine”, from Macbeth. Wow, Shakespeare’s language is like music!

Favourite saying?
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
To enjoy our garden – it’s been a jungle for years.

How will you realise this ambition?
By following my wife’s instructions obediently. That works well in most areas of life, I find.

What have you learned about life?
It’s challenging and messy, but good overall. The first 70 years is just the warm-up act.

What have you learned about people?
It’s best to treat them just as you want them to treat you. (But I often forget!)

Tell us something people may not know about you:
I love World War Two Jeeps, and my younger son loves military tanks. We had a great day at the Yorkshire War Experience, watching these old vehicles in action.

Finish with a story, true or false, with a beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words:
My life was going nowhere. I went to a ‘deliverance service’ and met the love of my life. We’ve been married 17 years. We’ve done a low-maintenance garden together! (29)