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.
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.
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)