Brittany Saunders, owner of Folio Freelance, is a 23 year old university graduate with a wicked home library and two crazy cats. She runs her editing freelance business alongside her 9-5 job as a medical secretary. She’s the editor behind books such as The Monsters Within by Des Fonoimoana, Neverlander by Elora Burrell, and The Bloody Maiden by S. M. Mitchell. Later this year Ink & Fable will be publishing an anthology of fairy tales edited by Brittany.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE AN EDITOR?
I’d be lying if I said that I’d always wanted to be an editor. I grew up wanting to be a vet but it turns
out that science just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until I went to uni to study Creative Writing and English
Literature that I realised that I enjoyed editing. I think I spent most of my three years editing my
friends’ essays. It wasn’t until I’d graduated and my friend Elora said that she was looking for an editor
that I seriously thought about going freelance.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT BEING AN EDITOR?
I think my favourite thing about being an editor would have to be when an author has a vague idea of
something that they want in the plot and they don’t quite know how to do it. It usually results in us
throwing a ton of ideas around to work it in. Nine times out of ten, the addition is something really
exciting that leads to a million other changes- but I do love a challenge!
CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR TYPICAL DAY OF EDITING?
Since I have my ‘regular’ job from Monday to Friday, I usually start editing at around half five in the
evening and work until I go to bed. It’s probably no surprise that I do most of my editing on the
weekends. On those days, I like to get up early and make the most of the day so I can relax later on.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE TYPE OF EDIT TO WORK ON? (dev edit, copy, line, proof?)
I always thought that my favourite edit would be the copy edit since you can really focus on the
individual words; I’m a bit of a perfectionist. But it turns out that I enjoyed the developmental edit the most. There’s something really satisfying about seeing the novel as a whole and fixing all the little inconsistencies.
IS A DEVELOPMENTAL EDIT OFTEN COMPLICATED OR TIME CONSUMING? IS IT
SIMILAR TO PUTTING A PUZZLE TOGETHER?
It’s usually pretty painless, though it is time-consuming. The first thing I do is read through whole the
novel and make notes. Most of the time, it’s easy enough to go through and tweak a few bits as I come
across them. They’re usually simple things like a character who has changed their outfit without
explanation, or when they’ve walked into a dark room at night and suddenly it’s the middle of the day.
That being said, there have been some more complicated storylines where characters that have been
killed off suddenly appear again (and they’re not supposed to). I would say that it’s definitely like a
puzzle- except sometimes you have to create new pieces to make it all fit.
WHAT ARE YOUR PET PEEVES THAT CROP UP IN MOST NOVELS?
I’m a pretty laid-back person so I don’t have pet peeves as such… but I suppose the one thing that
crops up most in novels is the lack of simple spell-checking. You can tell when an author has read
through what they’ve written and you can tell even more when they haven’t. Even though it’s an
editor’s job to pick up on mistakes, no matter how small, it’s always nice to have the job made easier.
HOW CAN WRITERS AVOID THEM?
It’s as simple as it sounds. Read through your writing. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to spot
mistakes, especially if you take it one page at a time. I know a lot of writers will struggle with this if
they’ve been working on their novel over a long period of time. The last thing you want to do after
months of staring at your own manuscript is read through it all again. If that’s you, then leave it to one
side for a few weeks (the longer you can leave it the better) and maybe work on something new. When
you’ve had a break, you can come back to it with fresh eyes. And if all else fails, get a friend to check it
through. There’s no harm in asking!
WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS AN EDITOR?
My biggest challenge as an editor is probably dividing up my time. Since editing is something I do in
my ‘spare time’, it’s hard to find a balance between my editing work and letting myself relax. I am getting better at it! Though I enjoy what I do even with the long hours, it’s still nice to have a lazy Sunday to myself every now and then.
WE EXPECT ALL NOVELS TO BE SELF EDITED PRIOR TO YOU WORKING ON THEM,
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS IN HOW TO SELF EDIT THEIR WORK?
As I said before, it really helps if you take a break from working on your novel before you come back to
edit. Leave it as long as possible so you can see it with clarity. One simple thing that you can do to self-edit is run a spell check, or invest in some editing software if you have the money. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. I use one called the Hemingway Editor. I love it because it breaks down everything for you and even tells you how easy it is to read from another person’s perspective. It certainly helps you simplify and cut down on those unnecessary words. Speaking of which, don’t be afraid to cut bits out. Get rid of whole paragraphs if you have to. If it doesn’t add anything to your story and it’s just taking up space, say good bye. Finally, know when to stop. Editing is great, don’t get me wrong. But once you start, it can be difficult to stop. When you see such instant results, you get hooked into thinking, ‘just one more… if I just tweak this bit…’ and then suddenly you’ve gone too far. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of making your novel better. Just know that your first draft is never going to be perfect, but that’s what editors are for! We’re here to help you get your novel to the best that it can be.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO BECOME AN EDITOR?
I’m not saying that you should take advice from me but I’ll tell you what I did. When I started up Folio
Freelance, I had a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature, and not much else besides a love
for reading and a knack for making other people’s writing sound better. That might sound like editing
to you, but it wasn’t novels that I was improving. It was emails, essays, and CVs- anything that I could
get my hands on. The degree part isn’t necessary but the love of reading and perfecting writing is.
Having a passion for editing might not seem important, but you’d be surprised at how often it gets
you through the last push towards deadline day. On the more practical side of things, the biggest piece of advice I can give is make sure you do your research! I spent hours looking into what editing is really like, the different types of editing, and probably the most difficult: ‘what should I charge?’ I looked for answers in professional editor blogs, LinkedIn (you’d be surprised at the wealth of information on there), and the CIEP website (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.) There are a million resources out there for those who want to do what I did and start up on their own, you just have to put in the work to find what works for you.