Episode 31: All Things Editing with Hannah Sullivan

Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!

In this episode, I talk with author, and editor extraordinaire, Hannah Sullivan. Hannah shares her writing journey, and why she transitioned into editing. She shares tips for choosing an editor, editing your own work and getting it ready for an editor, common mistakes writers make, and key traits you’ll need if you want to be an editor too.

If you’re ready to learn more about editing and making your book the best it can be, then this episode is for you!

Connect with Hannah on Facebook: Hannah Sullivan, Author 

Learn more about Hannah’s Editing Services here: https://www.hannahsullivanediting.com/

Find Hannah’s books here: https://www.thunderstories.com/

Other Resources:


The Chicago Manual of Style 

Join Carissa’s FREE 3-Day Plan Your Series Challenge here.

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Find the full transcript of this episode below.

Episode 31: All Things Editing with Hannah Sullivan

Jo: Hello, my friends. I hope you’ve had a wonderful, prolific and fun writing week. Before we get started with today’s episode, I wanted to let you know about a wonderful 3-Day Plan Your Series Challenge that my friend, and best-selling author, Carissa Andrews is hosting early October. So if you’ve been thinking about writing a series, but just don’t know how to get it off the ground, then I seriously recommend you check out this 3-Day Challenge.

This challenge will be running from October the 3rd until the 7th, which is perfect timing if you’re signing up for NaNoWriMo in November and are wanting to take advantage of Preptober. And the very best part of this 3-Day Plan Your Series Challenge is it is FREE. Carissa always packs these challenges with so much goodness, to help you reach your writing goals, so I know you’re going to love it. Make sure you check out the show notes for the link to sign up.

Now, onto today’s show. Well, in this episode, I am chatting to one of my favorite people, who also happens to be one of the most influential people on my author journey. My editor. So we all know the almost supernatural power that a good editor wields in taking a mediocre manuscript and transforming it into a publishable piece of art. My editor, Hannah Sullivan, wields such power. I’m almost reluctant to share her with you because she’s just that good. I want to keep her to myself!

In this episode, Hannah is going to share her own writing journey and why she transitioned from author to editor. She’s also gonna share with us some tips for choosing an editor, editing your own work and getting it ready for an editor. Common mistakes that us writers make and key traits you’ll need if you want to be an editor too. This episode is just so much fun and is packed with so much great information. I can’t wait for you to listen.

So when you are ready, grab a drink, find a comfy chair, sit back and enjoy the show.

Hello, my lovelies. Welcome back to another episode of Alchemy for Authors. So today I’m chatting with author and editor extraordinaire Hannah Sullivan. Hannah’s greatest loves are her children and eating chocolate. She’s also an ardent runner and of course has an affinity for the written word. Hannah is the author of a YA fantasy novel and a memoir, both of which hit best seller lists. She’s also a very talented editor whom I credit in a large part for giving me the confidence to put my own words out in the world. So welcome, Hannah. I am so thrilled to be chatting with you today.

Hannah: Hi, it’s great to be chatting with you too.

Jo: Yay. So what’s really cool about this, just for the listeners out there is that we’ve chatted a bit backwards and forwards over the last couple of years through email, but this is the first time that we’ve actually spoken, which is really cool.

Hannah: It’s fun to hear your voice.

Jo: Yeah, it’s funny, isn’t it? Especially ’cause I’m on the other side of the world. So with the accents and things like that, you know, you don’t pick that up in email, so. Anyway, I would love if we could start off with you sharing just a little bit about your author journey, how you came to be an author, what inspired you and then where it has led you now towards being an editor.

Hannah: All right. Well, I guess it started off at the very beginning as me being an avid reader. I have loved books for, well, my parents used to read to me when I was little, so it started there.

And the whole reason why I wrote my first book was because my own children, I used to tell them stories and, um, I would makeup stories for them incorporating themselves into the story. And my daughter, I think she was a preteen at the time, for a summer vacation and she was an avid reader and she had read like all the books we’d been to the library. She had her own books and she’d read everything and she said, Mom, can you write me a book that I can read? And I said, okay. And so I did. So, um, that’s where the first book stemmed from. So I based it on the stories that I would tell my children. And, yeah, it kind of fell into place from there. And through writing that book for her, I had to find a writing community so that, I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t know how to put a book together. I didn’t know what would work. And so, I somehow through magic found people online who helped build me and guide me. We formed a little writing group and, uh, did beta reads for each other and helped each out each other out over the years. And, yeah, so that’s kind of where the writing came from.

Jo: And then you put out a second book as well.

Hannah: Yes. So, I’ve had six children and my third child died as an infant. And so, for all of my kids, I kept a pregnancy journal. So for him, I had a pregnancy journal. We found out when I was 20 weeks along that he had some issues with his heart. So we entered a whole medical realm of things that I hadn’t experienced before. And so I communicated through written word with my friends, with emails and letters and things like that. So when he died, I put everything together into a memoir. And actually we gave a whole bunch of copies to the hospital. We lived at a hospital for about five weeks. And the chaplain said that they could use the words that I had written to help other patients, not even patients that experienced infant loss, but just loss in general. And so from there. I gave it to, I think it was about four or five different hospitals in three different states, and they were able to pass his story along and kind of keep his journey going. And, yeah, so that was my experience with that one. That’s where that came from.

Jo: Wow. That’s so tough, but it’s so just cool that something so beautiful came out of something so tragic and heart-breaking.

Hannah: Yeah, exactly. Just the whole process with the pregnancy, the birth, his life, his death, the people that we met, the medical staff, the world you tap into. Almost every woman has had some sort of pregnancy loss, child loss, and it’s not talked about. And people feel like there’s a before and there’s an after. And there’s a big unknown of where people don’t feel like they can express their loss. They can’t still keep grieving because it’s been X amount of time. And so it kind of allowed me to go through this process and meet people and discover this whole other world of, you know, the club you didn’t wanna be a part of, but you are a part of and have that support system there.

Jo: So what’s really amazing too is so your first two books there, they’re so very, very different. They came from such different spaces and that too.

Hannah: Yes. I never really thought about that, but it’s totally true. Both inspired by children, but both totally split in, yeah.

Jo: Did you know as a child that you would one day be writing books? Did that ever cross your mind?

Hannah: No. Well, when I was a kid, I either wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. Ah, and I guess, that’s actually kind of where the editing comes a part of my life. The love of teaching. I never thought I would be an author because books have always just been such an enormous, magical experience. Like I can’t even fathom how authors do it and then to have actually done it and to see this, the process, the writing process and see the backhand process of the editing. And so much goes into it. Yeah. I would never have thought that this is where I would be.

Jo: From my very short experience of only having written a couple of books. I honestly, without having an editor, they’re just random words on a page. It’s a mess. Like I just, honestly, I think the real magic, it comes from the editing. Yeah. Yeah, honestly, it’s just mind blowing to me. Because I’ve worked with you, it’s mind blowing what I give you and then what I get back.

Hannah: Thank you for that. But yeah, authors are amazing to me. I don’t know how worlds, so many different worlds can exist in one brain. And to be able to express it in a way that makes sense, that makes people feel things. And then the cool thing about editing is cutting through all this stuff that might muddle it up for the reader and just making it shine so that they can just be in that world. It’s amazing.

Jo: Yeah. I think being a writer is, it’s a really unusual experience because I think from my experience, every story, every book comes very, very differently. Mm-hmm. And sometimes, and this might just be me and my crazy brain, but sometimes it’s really hard to, even when you’re writing fiction, to realize at the time that it’s fiction or to even see where the story was going. My last one, Unspoken Truths, there were times where I was going to my husband going, oh my gosh, this just happened. And I’ll be crying. And he’s like, but you’re the author, you know this? And I’m like, no, it came outta nowhere. I don’t know where that came from.

Hannah: Love that. And I think it’s so true. These characters are people. They have their own lives, they have their own way of doing things. And that actually is one area where authors can experience kind of a writer’s block or a stumbling stone, where they’re trying to get the characters to do what they want them to do, but the characters have their own minds and they’re going to do what they need to do. And so you might be writing something and just hating it, cause it doesn’t sound right. Doesn’t feel right. And you have no idea why, and it’s because you are getting in the way of what the character is supposed to be doing. And so you have to stand back, let the character show you. What it is that they would say, how they would respond, and then it can flow from there.

Jo: Absolutely. I totally agree with that. I want to go back to your writing process with your very first book in particular, what was that like for you? Did it just all come, and you just sat down and wrote out this magic book or what was the, you know, was it easy? Was it tricky?

Hannah: Well, it was interesting because at that time in my life, I was married and I had, I think at that point I had three children and I was taking care of some of my children’s teachers, children. And we were in the middle of moving. So I lived in Montana. My husband came down to Idaho, which is several states away. And so I was single momming. And I would write in the middle of the night cause I couldn’t sleep. And so I would take care of the kids cause I was a stay-at-home mom. So I’d take care of the kids during the day and then just stay up almost all the night writing. I wrote without anything planned. I had no idea what the story was gonna be about because that’s how I would tell the stories. I would just tell what came to me. And so I figured, Hey, it will the same for a novel, you know? So I wrote it out in order, chapter by chapter, whatever came to me and that’s how I wrote it. And I know some people write that way. Other people write, like they have to have their whole diagram made and they need to know their plot points and their character arches and all that. I cannot do that. I have to just put the words out there, otherwise the words aren’t gonna get out, and then go back and change everything.

But, yeah, it was just that beginning to end process. I didn’t know what the story was gonna be about. I didn’t know what was gonna happen. I didn’t know who the characters were gonna be. I didn’t know what the journey was gonna be. I didn’t know how it was gonna end. So it was very interesting to see what path it went on. I’m a runner, so I would get a lot of my ideas on my runs, and in my showers after my runs. And so then I would save it up until that night, and then go down to, uh, we had a basement, a full basement, and my office was down there. So tuck the kids upstairs, go downstairs and write for hours.

Jo: That is cool. That is cool. And I totally get, so I’m not a runner, but the shower thing… shower’s are magic for inspiration. They’re so good. How long did it take you to write your first book?

Hannah: Well to get the words down. Hmm. I don’t even know. It was probably, I feel like it was just a summer, but I know it was longer than the summer. So I’m gonna guess it was maybe about six months to write it, and then a little longer to edit it. Now, I didn’t know anything about the editing process at that point. It was kind of before I started doing that. And so I was relying on what other people said. It’s very important to get lots of people’s input, because 10 different pairs of eyes are gonna see 10 different versions of different things that you’ve written and be able to pick things apart. So I got as many readers as I could. And then I found an editor who I adore. And I realised, yeah, editing is super important.

And I would even now go back and edit it differently at this point in my life, because I know so much more. And the editing that I had done on it was more of the technical aspect of things rather than the storyline and plot point and characterization, kind of stuff. Which is what, I mean I try to tackle everything when I edit. So I can’t reread my book. I can’t reread other people’s books because my brain doesn’t stop editing. So yeah.

Jo: Yeah, I understand that. Once my book’s out there in the world, I’m like, I can’t touch it again because I’m going to find mistakes. I’m gonna find things that annoy me. So, can’t do it. Can’t do it. Totally get that. So then did you go traditional publishing or self-publishing?

Hannah: That’s something that I had to look into because I was such a newbie. I didn’t know what the process was and the process has changed so much over the years that just the traditional publishing was the way, that was the only way that you could make it before. And it was a whole different process of getting involved in that before. And so I kind of looked into it and I thought, oh my gosh, I cannot sell myself like that. I cannot. I can’t do that. So I was like, all right, I will self-publish, I will figure that out. And that’s the route that I took because I’m a little wimpy when it comes to putting myself out there, and it was easier just to do it on my own, my own way, rather than have somebody tell me, yeah, this is not gonna work, and we’re sorry.

Jo: So how did you, because there’s so much to indie publishing and self-publishing, and that, there’s so many different components to it, so how did you learn all of that? How did you find out all the information about how to do that?

Hannah: That’s a great question. Um, magic.

Jo: Feels like that. Yeah.

Hannah: I relied a lot on my friends who were at various stages in their writing careers, and had some brilliant minds, and were very much more technical than I was, and could sort through all the information because so much information is out there on the internet. Like you can look up, how do I self-publish a book? Well, 50 different articles are gonna tell you 50 different ways of what you’re supposed to do. And it can be overwhelming. And so for me, it was like read up on what I could, pick out what felt right for me, and then try to apply it. So that’s what I did. And then there’s different groups, different forums, different places you can go to get information and ask your questions. So I would try to find places that sounded like they knew what they were talking about. And again, just go by my gut. And so, yeah, I pieced it together and yeah.

Jo: That’s cool. And it obviously worked for you because I know going through your bios and that both of your books ended up on a best seller list or something like that. Is that right?

Hannah: Yeah. Within the first few weeks. And then, well, over the years, if you’re a self-published author you have to spend so much time and effort on advertising and being on the social forums and doing all the leg work of getting your book baby out there in the world. And I kinda lack that drive . So that’s where the editing suits me so much more at this point in my life. But at the beginning, things kind of just took off on their own, which is really awesome because I could only put so much effort into it.

Jo: Yeah, no, that’s cool. So even though you’ve kind of switched directions a little bit now, do you think you will write more books in the future?

Hannah: Perhaps, because I have more books in my head. I have more stories. The YA book that I wrote was actually the first of what was going to be a series, what should be a series. There are more floating around in there, but I just love editing so much. And I love other people’s words so much that it’s just, that’s my focus at this point. But I am not saying that I would never finish writing the series or write another book because that stuff is fun too.

Jo: Oh, that’s cool. So then what drew you to editing? What was it that really kind of lit you up when it came to editing and helped you decide to go that route?

Hannah: Well, so back when I was writing and I was with my friends and our writers’ group, and we would do our beta reads for each other, I just loved the process so much and I discovered I was good at it, and they appreciated what I was doing. It was all just for free, for fun ,for helping each other out. And then my life kind of imploded. And I had a surprise divorce, and I had five young children, and I had been a stay at home mom for 14 years, and I suddenly had to find out how the heck am I gonna support my family and myself in a way that I can still kind of be a stay at home mom, and take care of myself, take care of the kids, and learn how to adult on my own.

And it was like, what skills do I have? Oh my gosh, I can’t do anything. And then it was like, no, of course you can do things. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? And the first thing was, oh my gosh, well, people get paid for doing what I do for free, for fun. And they just call themselves an editor. So I can call myself an editor and learn what I need to learn.

It’s the area that I excelled in, in school. I always did well in the English aspect of things. And so with the background as a beta reader and just going through the different things I have in my life, it just was something I was able to easily get into. And so I had a friend help build a website and I just went from there. And again, magic is a great thing because somehow magically people from around the world found little old me on my website. And I’ve been able to really just dive in, and I love it so much because, I try to do it so that people learn how to get their words out more clearly and more cohesively, and more brilliantly, and it’s a great thing to feel like I can help somebody get better at their craft, and then it improves what I do, because then it gets harder for me to pick apart their stuff because they get better. And it’s fantastic. I love it.

Jo: That is so cool. And you really do an amazing job. I will share, I am always absolutely terrified sending any of my work to you. It is the scariest thing. It is the scariest thing because, you know, you edit your own work and I do a lot of editing myself and, you know, I did okay at, you know, pretty good at school with English and whatnot. And then I use ProWritingAid and programs like that as well, and I go through several times, but I know that when I send it, it’s just not right. And I always learn so much. But that part where it’s in your hands and then you send the manuscript back to me, it always takes me a long time before I can open it.

Hannah: Oh, no!

Jo: And you’ve always been so lovely, but I’m always like, oh my gosh, this is it. Like, it’s gonna be complete crap and you’re gonna go, I can’t even do this. Like I just, it’s so flawed. So I’ve always got that horrible nervousness, but I learn so much. And what I think is really, really cool, and I’m so glad that I came across your name on like a Facebook group or something like that, where somebody was raving about you. And I’m like, Ooh, Cool. Okay. I’m going to, you know, search you up. But what I think is really cool is that you do developmental editing, right? Like you look at all, all of it, character and plot and everything.

Hannah: Yes.

Jo: Can you explain a little bit about, just for people who maybe are listening to this who are new to writing books and that, what developmental editing is, or what the different types of editing are?

Hannah: Yeah, that’s, that’s a good one. Well, there are many different kinds of editing and you can get as basic as just proofreading. Just do you have the right amount of spaces? Do you have all of your periods and semicolons and all that stuff where they belong? And then you can just keep going deeper and deeper. And so for me, and you can find different definitions for these things online, but for me the developmental editing, what I do, is looking at the full gamut, the full picture, from the beginning of the book to the end of the book. And I look for everything. So if there are plot holes, or a character is suddenly called a different name, or is doing something that they wouldn’t do given who they are, it wouldn’t make sense for them to have this response. If the sentence has been used several times already in the story, if a description is repeated, if there’s a crutch word, if there’s one word that has been used a thousand times. There are so many different things that while we’re writing we don’t think about what we tend to keep going back to. Or we forget that we decided we were gonna have the character experience this at some point, and they’re either experiencing it again or acting in a way like they never went through it.

So I tried to capture all those things, iron it out, figure out how it can be melded together, or if something just needs to be dropped entirely. If we’ve gone off on a tangent, if we’re getting too much information. That’s actually an interesting thing that as an author you have to know so much background on your characters and on situations. The reader doesn’t need all that background information. And it’s really hard to separate ourselves from the knowledge that we have that we wanna give out, to what actually needs to be included. It’s like 10% of what we learned needs to be in the book. And so it’s trying to find out that balance of what enhances the story, what makes it lag. And I just, I try to point it all out. I try to do it in a way that the author can make their own decisions, whether they wanna change it or not, how they wanna word it. I’ll give suggestions on like, say something like this or things like that, and leave it open so that there’s like a jumping off point, to help their brain think of other ways of saying things, doing things. But it’s kind of a collaborative effort where I just give out the information and let the author let their voice come through, and let them make their choices about where they want it to go. So I don’t know if that answered the question?

Jo: Yeah, it does. It’s really amazing. And it’s so fascinating from my perspective. I had sent you my very first novel and so I’d never written a novel before, so I had no idea if it was on track. But there is so much that you miss when you are writing, exactly like you said. Because I just remember how many times, going through all of your notes and that, and just facepalming myself because I’m like, oh my gosh, he smiled, she smiled, they’re all smiling all the time. Oh my gosh. How the heck did they get past all my different edits? Yeah. But there was other things too, like, the word blonde, and I don’t know how I had no idea that it’s spelt with an E or spelt without the E at the end, depending upon the sex, right? Or gender. Yeah. And so, yeah, there was so much. But what’s really cool is that you put in a lot of links too, so that, you know, like it’s like almost doing a course in editing when I was getting feedback from you, which was just awesome, which is so cool. And I can’t promise, I won’t be making the same mistakes again. I will try not to, but, um, I can’t one hundred percent promise that. But yeah, it’s a very, very cool experience to go through.

And also, now I haven’t used other editors or anything before, so I don’t know if people do it differently, but what I liked is that you offered that whole package, but you also give that opportunity where you offer suggestions and then it’s up to the author, it’s up to me to go through and decide to use those suggestions or change things up or accept what I want or, you know. So at the end of the day, the power is still in my hands, but yes. Yeah.

Hannah: Yes. That’s what I want. I want you to feel that this is yours. This is your work. These are your words. This is a story you want to tell. How can you tell it in your best way possible? And you mentioned the links and things. I love giving that information, because I can describe or explain some things, but it’s really nice to be able to go back and look and say, okay, I understand it now because this says this. And you can keep track of the things, the information you get, you can like, oh, how do you use the semicolon correctly? Yeah. Okay. I can look it up and here’s a link. Because you can find information, that’s not quite accurate. And so you want reliable sources, and I try to make it as easy as possible for you guys, and try to be as positive as possible.

I know you say it’s so scary to open it and see all those markings. And I know. And that’s the cool thing about me having written first, because I got experience with what that felt like. And it’s horrible. And so it’s really good to have that horrible feeling so that I can try to make it as kind and gentle as possible for you guys. So it’s a learning thing, not a, oh, this book sucks, cause it doesn’t, it doesn’t. You had enough in you to write an entire novel or short story or essay or whatever it is that you have done. It’s part of you, it’s part of your soul. And who am I to shatter that, you know? It’s like elevate you. You have done this accomplishment and I’m just there to help, like build it up a little bit.

Yeah, but I know that fear, and I try my best to make it as, as unfearful as possible, as kind and as gentle as I can. And yet in certain areas be as firm as I can to really say, we really don’t need this here.

Jo: You’re so good at that. When I wrote my first novel, having only written short stories before, and some of those had been published in literary journals and all that, so I’m like, okay, I can do the short story. But I had nothing to say whether I could do a novel or anything like that. And so, when I got it back, I think I sat on it for a couple of weeks before I could even open the files, because I was just like, I just have no idea if I’ve got to rewrite this entire thing or, oh yeah, you know, what kind of mess it really was. And so it was really scary. And it’s also that, so you take something that’s really precious to you at the time, it’s your kind of baby, and you put your heart in soul and then you are giving it to a stranger to pull to pieces. Yeah. Intentionally. And you’re paying them to pull it to pieces and find all the things wrong with it. It’s um, it’s such a bizarre thing to go through it.

Hannah: It is. I mean, who else would do that? Who else would say, I poured my heart and soul into this? Tear it apart. Destroy it. And give it back to me all marked up. Sounds great. And I’m gonna pay you to do it. Yeah. Yeah. It’s just, it’s ridiculous. And it’s so important. It’s so important to get as many eyes as you can on your work and do your utmost to get it polished so you can have it out there.

Jo: Absolutely. I a hundred percent agree. I usually do at least two really hardcore edits. So I’ll do one where it’s like the development where I’ll cut out entire chapters. One of my books I think was originally about 110,000 words went down to about 90,000 when it went to you. And then less I think when I got it back. But I’ll usually do that and then I’ll put it through a final, like, ProWritingAid in case I’ve missed punctuation or something random.

Hannah: Yes.

Jo: And then it goes to you and then there’s like a million more changes. And then I give it to beta readers and then there’s more changes. And then it goes out in the world and then I, you know, might stumble across, or a lovely friend will go, Hey, did you know? I’m like, oh, I missed that as well. Fine So we do our best. We absolutely do our best, but it’s very rare that even with traditional publishing, I’ve read a book where I haven’t come across something that’s like, oh, that’s the wrong word. Or, oh yeah.

Hannah: I do that all the time. There’s always misspellings. I’m finding a lot of misspelled ‘waves’. Like just waving your hand. People are spelling it wrong a lot in actual like house published books. But in punctuation and things like that, there’s always something. And so I think, especially if you’re a new writer and you feel horrified that, oh my gosh, I made this mistake. I made this error. I spelt this word wrong. I can’t believe, how can I do this? Oh, my gosh, Steven King does this. And you have to know that the best authors out there, they did not start being the best authors out there. They had to have a beginning point. And they wouldn’t have gotten there so far without their editors, without their beta readers, without their self-editing skills, without being willing to chop their stuff up. There’s so much that goes into it, that, especially as I said, for the writers first starting off, give yourself grace. You’ve done something great. You know you’re gonna have to work on it a little bit, but everybody does. You’re not the only one who’s struggled with this aspect or that aspect.

Jo: Absolutely. Absolutely. So just outta curiosity, how long does it take you to edit the average size book? So maybe something between 60,000, 80,000 words? Like how many hours do you put into editing something like that, do you think? Roughly?

Hannah: I don’t even know because I don’t keep track of hours. Different editors do things differently and they’ll charge different ways. I’m straight up by the word. And so I don’t pay attention to like how many hours I’m on it. I know that a book of that length will typically take between two to three weeks right now, with the load that I’m carrying. Right now, actually, things are closer to three weeks out, from start to finish. But yeah, hour-wise I don’t know because I am still a single mom, and they’re busy kids, and so I fit things in. I’ll be at soccer practice and be editing on the sidelines and things like that. Which is one reason why I don’t go by hours because I’d always be forgetting to set the timer. Yeah. But yeah, about two to three weeks for something of that length.

Jo: Which I honestly find amazing. Do you do one project at a time or do you sometimes have two projects on at the same time?

Hannah: Yeah, it can depend on just how busy I’ve filled my schedule. Which is really cool to freelance stuff cuz you can take what you want to take and fill your schedule as much as you want. I keep myself pretty busy. I do as much as I can when I can. Yeah.

Jo: It’s amazing. My experience has always been, I think, um, you’ve always scheduled me in for a, either a two to four week block. And that to me is amazing just for the depth that you go into. I can’t even read a normal book in that kind of time. Like, I can’t imagine editing a book in that time, let alone with kids and everything else going on as well. So it’s incredible what you do. Do you ever feel burnt out from it? Is there any time where you are just like, I just don’t wanna do this anymore?

Hannah: No. The only times I ever have any kind of negative feeling about any of it, is when my computer decides to eat the work I have done. And then I just don’t even want the computer around me because I get very mad at it. It hasn’t happened recently, thank goodness. But there have been times that I have done almost an entire book. And there’s some weird glitch that happens and it changes random characters into random other things. And then I have to go through the entire thing and find all these things that my computer has decided to do and fix it all. And I have had things where my edit will just disappear and I’ll have to just start over again. In which case I contact the author and say, I’m so sorry. I might be a few days behind because this has happened. And then I work my tushy off to get it done within that window, because I know you guys want your stuff back so you can complete your process. So those are the only things that stress me out about the editing. I love reading and it’s so much fun to read a baby book, to see it get its feet underneath itself and grow into a full novel and be the real deal. And to be a part of that is incredible. And I feel so honored that people trust me with their words, with their thoughts, their ideas. And they offer it to me openly, like take this. And so I treasure ’em. I treasure these moments that I get with these books. It’s amazing.

Jo: I just love this. I just get so much passion from you about what you do. And I just want everyone to experience that with what they’re doing with their life and that, just to have that much passion for what pays the bills and that. That’s awesome. I love it.

Hannah: I mean, I love it too. I’m so lucky. I think all the time, it’s like, what kinda scam did I set myself on where I get to read for a living? You know? It seems like such a, a dream thing. Like it wouldn’t really, you can’t really make a living by reading, but you can. You can. You can.

Jo: Quite often we do see authors decide that they wanna do editing on the side or change route to go editing and that. What do you think personality wise you need to be a good editor? Obviously you need really good editing skills, but what do you think are some of the strengths that you need as a person to be able to be a good editor?

Hannah: I think that you need to be able to interact with humans on a level that you wouldn’t necessarily think. Cuz you think it’s just you and the computer and words, but behind the words is a human. And if you can’t interact in a positive, kind, teaching kind of way with a human, then it’s not the best position for you to have, where you’re given this piece of them to deal with and handle. And like, if you’re abrasive about things, if you’re blunt in a way that doesn’t make sense, if you can’t explain why you’re making the choices you’re making, then you’re gonna cut yourself short. And you’re gonna do a disservice to your author, because if they don’t understand why you’re making these choices, why you’re saying you can’t do it like this, then how are they gonna trust you with their stuff, you know, to finish the process correctly? So you’ve gotta be somebody who can work with others.

Jo: That makes sense too. And also, because I think, us authors are a little bit of a precious bunch, particularly when we’re just starting out. I hear so many people who, they get that one really bad comment, or somebody says something really, I don’t know, hurtful about their writing, and then it can turn them off from writing for so long, which is horrible, but it happens.

Hannah: It does happen. And it is horrible. And I actually have a close friend who had a horrible experience with putting her work out there. And you are in such a vulnerable spot, especially like if they’re self editing and you are the one pushing that published button on your own. Oh, my gosh. It’s such a big, scary thing to put yourself out there. And if from the beginning the people working with you are mean about it. Yes. You can stop. I have the power to like stop somebody’s dream. And how horrible would that be? You know? Yeah. It’s awful. And so you want to inspire, you want to build up, you want to say, oh my goodness. Okay. So this needs to change, but I love this line. I love this part of the story. This is great, you know, go with this. And guide them, so if they’re involved in the process of what decisions to make, what they want to do about a certain area that needs to be made stronger, whatever. Then it’s just, it’s building up opportunities, learning opportunities, and you get a lot further than if you just cut somebody short and say, no, this sucks and good luck with your stuff.

Jo: Absolutely. So, what do you think are the most common mistakes that us authors make? Like, is there something that really stands out that we seem to do a lot that you’re having to fix up?

Hannah: There are certain things that, well, everybody seems to have that crutch word. Mm. So it can be a different kind of word, a different kind of phrase for each individual person, but there are very often key phrases or keywords that are pretty much in everybody’s work. And it’s simple things. I’ll make a list for people about what the frequent offenders are. Yeah. But there will be certain things that a character, you want characters to have something that is theirs, but you don’t want them to reuse it. You don’t want all the other characters to reuse it. So, often an author, and it might be something from their own life that they use a lot, will have their character say or do something repetitively. So repetition is something that a lot of people do. Another thing that’s common is just the words that sound like that should be the right word, but it’s not the right word. Yeah. So, just basic things like that, where it’s just like, I think you mean this. I’m not sure.

Jo: I do know what you mean. I can’t think of examples, but I know just a normal, everyday speech I do that. Cause my husband’s always correcting and he is like, I think you mean that word. And I’m like, yeah, I do.

Hannah: Yeah. And then people will be like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I said that. I can’t believe I wrote that. I can’t please. And it’s like, it’s totally, we all do this. We all do this. Yeah. And when you’re close to it, when you read your own stuff, you read what you think that you wrote, not necessarily what you actually did write. And that’s how we, I mean, we’re just word blind to our own stuff, especially after so many rounds of self-editing.

Jo: Absolutely. That totally makes sense. I cringe. I’m like, oh yes, I know my crutch words. Cause I I’ve gone through my manuscripts after I’ve got them back from you and I’m like, oh, at this point you must be yelling at the screen, going stop using that phrase or that word or yeah. Like, oh gosh. So, with that then, what can us authors do to make an editor’s life easier? What’s some tips that you think we should do before we send it to an editor?

Hannah: I think that before you send it to an editor, you have to fully, fully, fully self-edit it several times to get it to be the absolute best that you can do. Some people, especially when they’re first starting out, like this is the first thing they’ve written, they think they can just write their first draft. Great. Now an editor can take care of it. And I’ve had those manuscripts and I’ve taken them and I’ve worked them up and I’ve sent them back, but it is a very long process to edit something that is in first draft format. So the more you can get readers, I know beta readers can come at different stages in the process. It can get a few other eyeballs on your work before you send it in. If you can put it in a manuscript format so that there’s proper spacing between the lines. Because even though nowadays everything’s like digital, back in the old days the editors used to have to write in between the lines and in the columns and stuff like that. But there’s still so much that I’m writing in that if it’s like single space, it would be, I can’t even imagine what it would look like. It would be so hard to follow what all the comments are and where they’re going. So properly format it, leave it in a manuscript form rather than book form. Edit it as much as you can. Have as many eyeballs on it as you can. Give it in the form that is your topnotch best effort. Rather than just I finished it. I hit the end. Now I can submit it.

Jo: Awesome That’s so good. I can’t even imagine sending you one of my drafts. Like they’re ugly, man. Like the one I’m working on, like at the moment and it’s just ugly. It’s because my first draft is always that brain dump, right?

Hannah: Yeah.

Jo: Like you get it all out. And I already know, I’m like well into it and everything, I’m looking back and I’m like, well, that first chapter totally needs to go. And then the second one needs a rewrite. I can already see that there is so much work that needs to be done before I’d even be comfortable sending it to you. It’s yeah, it’s ugly. It’s ugly.

Hannah: And it should be, it should be ugly because you need to get the words out and that’s, I think an important thing for authors to know too. Write ugly. Get it all out. Be redundant. Have it not make sense. Get the words out, because then you can see what the actual story is and you can go in and you can fix it. If you get stuck on writing the perfect book in the first draft. You’re not gonna get anywhere. It’s gonna take so long and be so stressful. And you’re gonna lose the spark of the story because you’re stuck on how to edit it as you’re writing it. Just don’t. Just dump it out.

Jo: I totally subscribe to that. I know there are some people out there who write clean copies first off. I can’t do that. I started writing through NaNoWriMo, was what got me going, which is just getting your words on the paper. And so even now my first draft is just all the words, and if I can’t think of the word at the time in the sentence, I literally write the word ‘something’ in brackets or highlight it, because it’s like, blah, blah, something. Um, yeah. And then it’s my edits where it starts to take shape. Is there any editing or writing resources that you would recommend or that you think authors should have, or are useful for pre edits or anything?

Hannah: My very favorite go-to source, and so I’m in America, so it’s an American English one. I work with different countries, so I have to be aware of different ways that people spell, speak, words they use, punctuation that’s used, and all of that stuff. Yeah. So that’s why I have to specify this American thing, but I love the Chicago Manual Of Style. They are like, the number one editing resource that covers everything. And they’re online. When I first started out, I got their book and I thought, oh, cool. It’s awesome. It’s a book. Writing changes. Mm-hmm. There’s so much fluidity that comes with rules and suggestions, and all of that, with writing. And so I got the online version too, which is the way to go because as rules and things change, so does the website. And, it covers everything. So I recommend that kind of book, especially if you wanna self-edit really well. And then get a good dictionary. A lot of things are up in the air, you can handle things different ways. So as long as you’re consistent, it’s fine. It works in your book, if you’re consistent. People aren’t gonna notice, oh, it’s like this, if you’re consistent with it. And so get a dictionary that you can trust, go with the spelling that is in there. There’s a lot of things also in the Chicago Manual of Style, where things are more like guidelines and stuff. And so if you’re picking and choosing how you’re doing it randomly within your manuscript, it makes it a hodgepodge. So find if you do use a resource to help you write something, stick consistently with how you are applying it.

Jo: Yay. That’s good. I’ve written this down, cause I’m gonna put a link to that in the show notes too, when this goes out. If people want search out your books or connect with you or for editing or anything like that, how can people reach out to you? Where can they find you?

Hannah: Well, I’m on Facebook periodically. They can find me under my name, Hannah Sullivan editor, or writer. I think it’s author. Sorry. I don’t even know what I am on there.

Jo: I’ll put it in the show notes anyway. I’ll find it.

Hannah: Excellent. See, we all need help. I have two websites. I have one for my author stuff. I have one for my editing stuff. They can contact me through there. I guess those are the main ways, it can be found. And I work solely by word of mouth. I don’t do any advertising. And so, if you hear about me and if you used me, then if you pass my name around, it’s awesome.

Jo: I have to, I’m very nervous about this episode going up, because even though I’m being that horrible client, that’s had to keep pushing back my deadlines, I don’t wanna share you with everybody else. What if I’m like, I’ve got more books to come and I can’t get a slot with you. That would be horrible. But, yeah, of course. It’ll be there in the world and I’ll just have to suck it up.

Hannah: That brings up another point, that I am typically booked up six to nine months out from current month. So, and I know a lot of editors book themselves out. That’s how we can make sure we have a schedule that we can cope with. Mm-hmm . So, especially if you’re a new author, don’t expect that you can write your thing, contact an editor and have it back within a few weeks within that month. Right? You need to make sure you give yourself time to find the right person for you. It’s so important to find somebody that you can connect with and trust. And you wanna get your free samples. If they don’t give you a free sample, might be a little bit leery of using them. People should be willing to show their work so you can see whether you can work together or not. But yeah, so I personally am six to nine months out.

Jo: Awesome. That’s cool. Yeah. And that’s awesome advice too. Thank you for sharing that. That’s good. Yeah. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much. It has been such a blast talking with you.

Hannah: Yes. Thank you.

Jo: I had so much fun chatting with Hannah and I hope you enjoyed this conversation too.

Some takeaways from today’s show:

1. First drafts should be messy, just get your words on the page. For most of us that works better than editing as you go.

2. There are different types of editing, from the basic proofreading to the more comprehensive developmental edits. Choose what is right for you.

3. Prior to sending your work to an editor, edit your work to the best of your ability and get other eyes on it. Your editor will love you for it, and it’ll make your overall manuscript so much better in the long run.

4. When self-editing look for your crutch words, and phrases, and too much repetition. Use a good dictionary and resources like the Chicago Manual of Style. Keep your edits consistent throughout.

5. When looking for an editor, always get a sample edit from them first, and make sure they are a person that you are comfortable working with.

6. Working with an editor should always be a collaborative effort, ensuring your voice is retained throughout the edits.

7. Ensure you send your manuscript in the format your editor has requested. Often this will be double-spaced, but check your editor’s guidelines.

8. Book an editor well in advance of needing them. Many are booked out six to nine months in advance.

9. Be kind to yourself when those spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes still slip through into your published book. It happens to all of us, even best-selling traditionally published authors.

And 10. For those considering editing as a career, not only do you need amazing editing skills to be an editor, but it’s essential that you can interact with your author, in a positive, kind, and guiding way. Your words and your feedback can build an author up or crush them.

So, thanks so much for joining me today. Make sure you check out the show notes for ways to connect with Hannah, and for some of the resources mentioned in this episode. You’ll also find a link to sign up for Carissa Andrew’s FREE 3-Day Plan Your Series Challenge.

And if you enjoyed today’s episode, please make sure to rate, review and share with a friend. And be sure to sign up for my newsletter for your free copy of Manifestation for Authors: Tips and Tricks to Supercharge Your Author Life Using the Law of Attraction. You can do that at www.subscribepage.com/manifestationforauthors.

So I’m wishing you a wonderful writing week ahead, my friends. Until next time.