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Freelance Editor Month – Overview

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that over the last month, I’ve been taking part in a little prompt challenge of my own: Freelance Editor Month. This is essentially a challenge to get us editors talking more about ourselves and not just our authors (guilty!) So here’s a chance to get to know me a little better and understand what Rebecca Millar Editorial is all about:

Day 1: How did you get started as a freelance editor?

In-house to going it alone!

Well, I used to work as an editor at one of the Big Four (Can you guess which one?) But then, my partner (J) got a job in Australia, and so, more of necessity at the time (definitely by choice now), I decided to jump into the scary world of going it alone. I also moved from working on a mixture of non-fiction and fiction to specialising in my favourite genre of all – crime, suspense and thriller fiction – and haven’t looked back since.

Day 2: Your daily routine?

  • I normally start my day at around 6:30am – I am definitely more of a morning person (but now the nights are drawing in, that’s getting tougher).
  • I like to kickstart my day with a little movement, so I either go for a run, do a little strength, or simply walk to get the morning paper.
  • At my desk after breakfast, I check my emails to see if there is anything urgent before diving into a morning’s editing – my concentration is highest in the morning, so I can catch those errors, inconsistencies or potholes much more easily! (The caffeine from my one caffeinated drink a daydoesn’t hurt either!)
  • Then, after lunch I tend to reply to emails, do any admin before getting back to work.
  • The end of my work day is normally varied, based around J’s shift patterns – if he’s on a night, I can end up working until gone 9pm, but normally I like to finish just before dinner at atoner 7pm.
  • And then just before bed and a book (not work related!), I write my to-do list for the next day and start all over again.

Day 3: Show us your workspace…

As we’re currently living with my J’s parents, where I work is either his childhood bedroom, or the kitchen (when J is sleeping during the day for his nightshifts.)

Day 4: The most frustrating part of your job?

Those in the industry that give publishing professionals a bad rep. The charlatans that will do anything to secure an author’s money, give them selfish advice (also usually to get more money from them) and then do a sub-par job in the process.

I love my job, and it brings me such a great joy to deliver genuinely high-quality services as well as give out the beset advice I can based on the author’s situation. For example, if a manuscript is not ready for editing, I’ll always say so. However, dishonest and money-grabbing operators ruin the fun for everyone.

Day 5: Your biggest accomplishment to date

I could rattle off a number of different things that I’m proud of achieving in my first year or so of being freelance. Working with over fifty different authors and publishers; having books in the bestseller lists both in print and online; being able to pay my bills at the end of the month …

Really, I’m just grateful to be in a position to keep doing what I love.

But, I guess my biggest achievement is having so many happy authors who i’ve helped with my editing services – and who come back again for their next book – I couldn’t ask for anything more, really…

Day 6: Your favourite grammar rule?

Not a grammar rule as such, but my favourite piece of punctuation is the en-dash. Also know as the en-rule to our friends across the pond, the en-dash is one form of parenthetical punctuation; it’s there to help clarify, build and also bring life to a text. It’s essentially the cooler you’re sibling of the semi-colon.

Day 7: Show us your editing pets!

Sammy the Editorial Assistant Cat is always on hand to help me work on my author’s mansucripts. However, when I went to interview Sammy, he was most perturbed. ‘I thought you were my assistant?’ So today’s post is not about my editorial pets, but my ASSISTANTS.

Editorial Assistant Sammy helps me on a daily basis by prompting me with useful reminders. (‘Where’s my food?’), team support (‘I demand cuddles!’) and general morale (‘I said, where’s my food?’). However, he is partial to a good crime, suspense and thriller novel and is known to while away the afternoon as we work together – apparently closing his eyes helps him to understand the story better…

I should also mention my other assistants. With many thanks to my long-suffering partner, J – official title: Consultant Medical Officer – who puts up with my self-employed stress and my downright weird work-inspired medical questions: ‘I mean, would that actually kill someone?’ And my sister, JM – Chief of Accounting – who also puts up with me asking stupid questions before saying, ‘Ask your actual accountant!’ 

Don’t you just love them?

Day 8: Are you also a writer?

One of the assumptions about editors that often bugs me is they are simply failed or wannabe writers.

Well, not only is this just rude – shame on you – but, you cannot be more wrong. Writing and editing are entirely different skills. True, because of the world both jobs inhabit, often writers can be editors and editors can also be writers, but they wear different hats when they are doing the respective activities as each requires a different approach to the written word. For a real-world example, you could almost say the writer is an architect and the editors is the surveyor: the writer has the design and concepts of the book; the editor is going to tell if the ceiling is going to fall in.

That’s not to say they aren’t transferable skills – just look at the fabulous editors who are published authors too! And I would love to write my own book one day, but it highlights why it’s so important for a writer to work with someone else, an editor as when you’re wearing your creative writer hat, it’s very hard to swap to your editor hard hat on your own manuscript.

Day 9: Your biggest editing pet peeve?

My biggest pet peeve? When an author isn’t willing to listen to advice from industry professionals. You don’t have to agree with us, but at least listen – we’re here to help you and only want the best for you and your manuscript. Sometimes the advice is hard to hear, but sticking your fingers in your ears will help no one.

Day 10: Let’s go on a #stetwalk!

Check out my Instagram channel for stories of what I get up to on my daily jaunts. Whether that’s heading into town, meeting up the local goats (yes, goats), or simply attempting to go for a run.

Day 11: TGIF, editors! Show us what you’re drinking.

Tea, always tea. But after 9am it’s decaf because I’m a rubbish sleeper, so I try to keep the caffeine to a minimum.

Day 12: List your editing services

To find out more about what services I have on offer, check out the Services page. Also subscribe to my newsletter as I’ll be expanding the list soon!

Day 13: Hourly rate or per word? How do you charge?

All my services are bespoke, so I consider the author’s sample, the parameters of the job, how long it’ll take me to do it and I give my quotations out based on a set fee. That way, the author knows what they will be paying so that they can budget accordingly – which is very important if you’re a self-publishing author.

Day 14: Time to brag on your clients.

Well, this is quite hard because I absolutely LOVE all my authors and all the fabulous publishers I get to work with. It would be impossible to pick out just a few, so this is a shout out to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with over my career. You’re all so incredibly talented and make my job an absolute delight.

I’ve tagged just a few of them below, but check out my portfolio and testimonial pages on my website to see some more of the fabulous authors I’ve had the pleasure to work with – and you might just find your next read.

Day 15: What’s your earliest availability for new projects?

I am now fully booked for 2020, but super excited to be taking bookings for early 2021! The new year is looking so exciting.

Day 16: What are you most excited about right now?

Oooh, I have been working with a mentor these past few months, and with her help, I’ve been working on a couple of things to expand the business, so I can’t wait to tell you all about those. Plus, I’ve been working on something with some of my publishing friends, so look forward to sharing that with you soon.

Day 17: Work-life balance – are you good at it?

Okay, I’m going to put my hand up and admit it: I’m a bit rubbish at this. This is not because I don’t know how to balance the two, it’s just that I love my job so much and want to do the best I can for all my authors that I find it very hard to switch off.

I know it’s cheesy, but it’s true. Everyday, I have the delightful job of working with not only talented but dedicated authors, who are passionate about their writing. In this way, I believe that every author deserves to have a team working with them who is just as passionate about their book as they are, which is why I put my all into every book I work on. If you’re traditionally published, you have a small army of people championing your title, whilst if you’re an indie author, this is much harder as you tend to be the one wearing all the hats at the same time. Therefore, although I am only supporting the authors officially in one particular aspect of their publication journey – their editing – I want to make sure that they receive the highest quality service and to know they have someone rooting for them! This is why all my services are bespoke, because every manuscript is unique.

Saying that, there is also the added pressue of being self-employed with no guaranteed income unless I get my bum in gear, and it doesn’t help that as a medical professional, my partner works weird shifts and so I end up with a unconventional working week. But all this being said, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

However, I did just book a weekend away with my partner for my birthday so, I’m working on it!

Day 18. Your favourite book of all time?

Day 19: What’s for lunch?

Oh, normally leftovers. I’m not fussy! Something quick and light as I am definitely more a snack person.

Day 20: Show us your dream library.

Working from home has its perks and its failings. As I don’t have my own office yet, I am just begging for a room of my own with lots of natural light and desktop computer – my laptop screen is too tiny for so much text. (My poor optician…)

Day 21: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Professionally, in five years’ time, I would be happy to simply still be working for myself, helping authors both indie and traditionally published to publish the best manuscript they can. I have lots of ideas of how I can expand my offering, and I can’t wait to share them as they come a reality! I also wouldn’t mind ‘a room of one’s own’ as Ms Woolf would say.

Day 22: Happy Hobbit Day! Are you part of any fandom?

Do my authors count?

Day 23: Tell us about your dream client.

My dream client is an author who is excited and passionate about their writing. They want to take their writing seriously and progress it from a hobby to a serious endeavour. They understand that writing a strong manuscript takes hard work and time, but that’s okay because they are driven to do their very best. They are eager to learn and listen to advice, but also feel strongly about their writing vision and being true to their own brand. They understand that becoming a successful author in the modern day is not as simple as merely writing a first draft and sending it out into the world. It’s going to take time and patience but the reward is oh so worth it.

Day 24: It’s almost autumn. What are you looking forward to as the weather cools?

All the jumpers. I am a jeans and jumper girl all the way.

Day 25: When you were in school, what did you love learning?

English literature, obviously. I was lucky enough to have some inspiring teachers who ignited my passion for words (Mrs Heap, Mrs Rees, Miss Khachik, and the school librarian, Mr R, I can never be more grateful to opening up the wonderful world of literature to me!). But I also loved history too. I think I’m just curious about the human condition, how we experience the world around us and tell stories to understand that world. I’m fascinated by the concept of narrative… and I’ll shut up before I get nerdy about it.

Day 26: What is your biggest hang-up around money as a freelancer?

When clients want the moon, but aren’t prepared to pay for it. To put it bluntly, the best clients are those who respect the years of training and experience that editors have to offer and understand that we cost our services based on us doing the best possible job for them (without having to live on only baked beans). Editors work for different rates because they have different situations (levels of experience, whether it’s just a hobby, etc), but please don’t insult your editor by trying to negotiate a ridiculously low fee. It’s disrespectful, and just plain rude. No one likes to be told that you don’t think their services are worth paying for.

All editors understand that budgets are an important element for authors, so if you’re worried you can afford an editor, simply tell them what you have to work with and they’ll put together a package that works best for you and fits your budget. You might be pleasantly surprised what they can do.

But my best advice to authors is: if it feels too good to be true, it probably is.

Day 27: What is your greatest strength as an editor?

Anything crime, suspense and thriller. I specialise in commercial crime, suspense and thriller because I have always loved a good mystery – I blame my mother for Sunday night episodes of police and detectives dramas growing up! I can’t resist suspenseful narratives that compel you to turn each page, unreliable narrators that shock and I’m a sucker for a good twist. So, really, because this is a genre I love so much as a reader, as an editor I am in the best position to help you make your manuscript the best it can be for your readers because, in short, I am one!

Day 28: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Right now? Back home to Leicester as I haven’t been home since the beginning of the pandemic. But long term, I’m love to visit Japan, South Africa, San Francisco, Canada, New Orleans, Paris, Italy … oh the list is long!

Day 29: What are you reading currently?

I’ve actually just finished my book and have yet to choose the next one, but I’m listening to Strangers by CL Taylor on audio on my runs at the moment. So good!

Day 30: What are your goals for the month ahead?

To get my weekends back? Joke! Honestly, to focus on being able to bring you guys the best possible content as well as working my hardest on my author’s edits to help them become the best they can. I’ve also got some fun chats with fellow publishing friends which I can’t wait to share with you all.

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Book Review: TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH by Gilly Macmillan

📚Suspense fans—read this now!📚

By day, I edit crime, suspense and thriller, and by night, well, I read crime, suspense and thriller. It’s a genre that I have always loved; there is something about a complex, changing narrative of intrigue and mystery and a bloody good twist that I just can’t resist.

And an author who delivers on this level with every single book is the masterful Gilly Macmillan. Her latest novel To Tell You the Truth is my favourite yet (and I actually helped edit her previous book THE NANNY, so that’s saying something). Gilly has created a complex and fascinating character in Lucy – a novelist whose talent for imagination may have gone too far. She narrates a dark and multi-layered tale of deception, death and lies – or so you think. With twists at every turn, I was compelled to read the novel late into the night, desperate to uncover the truth.

Set in Gilly’s hometown of Bristol, I was transported back to my university days in a city that I loved, but this also added an extra level of intrigue as much of the action takes place on the other side of the Suspension Bridge from the city, which I actually only visited a couple of times. This created an otherworldy sense for me in a, which was unnerving and built on Lucy Harper’s complex world that Gilly has weaved together so well. (On an aside, this book is also a delight for those who work in the world of books and publishing; I couldn’t help but smile at Lucy’s interactions with her publishers – everyone loves a treat hamper!)

To Tell You the Truth by Gilly Macmillan publishes on 25th June 2020 in ebook and hardback. But if I were you, I’d preorder it now…

Thanks to the author and publishers for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

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Crime, Suspense and Thriller Reads by Black Authors – BLACK LIVES MATTER

Across the world, a revolution is happening as people are coming together to protest against racism and promote anti-racism.

I want to do what I can by amplifying the Black voices of my first love: fiction. I am, of course, a specialist in all things crime, thriller and suspense so I wanted to share a list of some of the brilliant Black novelists writing in the genre to add to your reading lists and to-be-read piles.

The below is just a limited selection of the fantastic array of crime, thriller and suspense written by Black authors – I wish I could fit them all in – so I would urge you to check out the Crime Writers of Colour website as well as the Black Mystery Authors Directory to discover even more fabulous writers, and hopefully your next read.

Dorothy Koomson

Dorothy Koomson is the award-winning author of 15 novels and has been making up stories since she was 13 when she used to share her stories with her convent school friends. Her published titles include: Tell Me Your Secret, The Brighton Mermaid, The Friend, When I Was Invisible, That Girl From Nowhere, The Flavours of Love, The Woman He Loved Before, Goodnight, Beautiful and The Chocolate Run.

Her next novel All My Lies Are True is out in July.

Eric Jerome Dickey

Eric Jerome Dickey is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels as well as a six-issue miniseries of graphic novels featuring Storm (X-Men) and the Black Panther. Originally from Memphis, Dickey now lives on the road and rests in whatever hotel will have him.

Angela Henry

Angela Henry was once told that her past life careers included spy, researcher, and investigator. She stuck with what she knew because today she’s a mystery writing library reference specialist, who loves to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations. She’s the author of five mysteries featuring equally nosy amateur sleuth Kendra Clayton, as well as the thriller The Paris Secret. When she’s not working, writing, or practicing her stealth, she loves to travel, is connoisseur of B horror movies, and an admitted anime addict. She lives in Ohio and is currently hard at work trying to meet her next deadline.

Rachel Howzell Hall

Rachel was born in Los Angeles, California fifteen days after Paul McCartney announced the split of the Beatles. As a child, she kept a pen in her hand, writing everywhere—in notebooks, on loose-leaf paper, in her big brother’s prep-school yearbook and on the back of church bulletins. But never on walls, buildings or freeway overpasses. That is graffiti.

In 2002, her debut novel, A QUIET STORM, was published by Scribner to great notice, including reviews from O Magazine and Publishers Weekly, with a starred review from Library Journal and also chosen as a “Rory’s Book Club” selection, the must-read book list for fictional television character Rory Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls.

Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than 43 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.

Malorie Blackman

Although not strictly thriller, as a teenager I loved Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, so couldn’t great a list without it.

An award-winning British author and dramatist, Malorie Blackman is a major voice in children’s publishing, holding the post of Waterstones Children’s Laureate from 2013 to 2015. She is best-known for her bestselling novels Noughts & Crosses series as well as Pig Heart BoyThief, Cloud BustingBoys Don’t Cryand Chasing the Stars. The fifth novel in the Noughts & Crosses series, Crossfire, was published in August 2019.

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Fiction in the Time of Corona: How the global pandemic may have messed up your plot, and why that’s not always a bad thing

Yesterday, I read a fascinating article by American novelist Ben Winters. I had the pleasure of working with Winters briefly whilst I was at Penguin Random House and found his unique predicament intriguing.

The article, published on Slate.com, is discussing how the global pandemic of coronavirus and COVID-19 has basically screwed the plot of his new book, The Quiet Boy. It begins in January 2020 and hurtles towards a finale in July 2020 – in a music festival. Well, that’s not happening any more . . .

So it got me wondering how writers and namely the plots of fiction novels have been affected by the pandemic. It must be soul-destroying to have worked so hard, giving up months if not years of your life to curate the perfect plot line, create the characters that you need and finesse the timeline just so until you have a novel that you’re truly happy with . . . for a global pandemic to make it no longer relevant.

But my question is, does it matter? The role of fiction isn’t about facts. As the dictionary defines it, fiction is ‘the type of book or story that is written about imaginary characters and events and not based on real people and facts’. Of course, the best inspiration comes from the world around us – and no doubt the market will be flooded with coronavirus diaries, novels, etc. (Although I question whether there will be a market for them after we emerge blinking in the sunlight post-lockdown – we don’t want to go through that again *shudders*.) But, what better excuse than the world going a bit bananas around us to make use of this fantastic tool that we have hidden deep in our brains: the imagination. There is no better time to let our minds wonder and think of what-if and how-about.

Winters has a point when he says that ‘Right now, we are in the middle of total and utter upheaval. What reader will accept that my characters blithely go about their business in Los Angeles in the spring and summer of this year we’re in?’ Perhaps we should have more faith in our readers. Every day, fiction asks us to suspend our disbelief and fall headlong into a world that isn’t real, not based on fact, the product of the workings of someone’s mind. Yes, it looks a little like the world we live in, but the fiction form is prism not a mirror, twisting the light of the real world into a kaleidoscope of colour – otherwise the sci-fi and fantasy genres would already be in deep water!

With this in mind, over the weekend, I had the delightful experience of kicking my heels up and devouring Rebecca Serle’s smash-hit novel In Five Years. The whole concept of the novel taking a classic interview question – ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ – and twisting it on its head. The novel is all about how no matter how much we try to plan our ideal lives and how we see ourselves in five, ten, even twenty years time, life has a funny habit of getting in the way. Serle’s characters begin in 2020 and happily work, live, love their way through to 2025 (when it starts getting a little pear-shaped), no mention of pandemic in sight. Of course, when Serle wrote her manuscript, COVID-19 hadn’t reared its ugly head, but the novel is no worse off for it. In fact, it might even be an added strength as it reminds us that although the world looks less than peachy at the moment, we’ll get through it, whatever happens.

Admittedly, there might be a new couple of new courses on the syllabus for future literature students – Pre, Post and COVID Literature – but I’m excited to see what new writing this situation brings us, and whether authors choose to engage or not – some already having voiced their claims of not touching the topic with a barge pole, Anne Tyler and Harlan Coben being among their number. I feel for Winters, who has decided to push the events of his novel back to 2019, but whether you choose to set your next writing project in a world affected by COVID or not, I think the readers are willing to welcome you with open arms. To be honest, we’re just thankful for something to read!

Meet the Editor, What Does an Editor Do?

NEW Weekly Writing Prompts Email – Sign up below!

How are you all coping with the UK in lockdown? It’s not that different to my normal working life as I am lucky enough to work from home, however I do miss the freedom of being able to go outside and explore and take inspiration from not only the world but the people around me. I love people watching – humans are such fascinating creatures. (Saying that, I totally appreciate our reasoning behind it and will support our amazing NHS all the way!)

But with the lockdown, this inspiration is hard to find. So, I’ve come up with the idea of creating writing prompts to help get you started on your latest writing project, whether that be simply exercising your creative mind or picking up a pen and making a start on that novel you’ve always wanted to write.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been posting prompts daily on my Instagram stories – do come check us out – but I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have these prompts delivered right to your inbox? So, I’ve decided to bundle up the writing prompts into a weekly parcel of inspiration to help you on your way.

Sign up to receive weekly writing prompt exercises!

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Stuck at home? Writing Prompts to keep the boredom at bay

We’re in the middle of some turbulent times. There is lots of uncertainty and anxiety around, and we’re having to adapt our daily lives. Many more of us are being asked to stay at home, practise social distancing and or being quarantined for fourteen days. In a world where most of us are on our feet go-go-go all the time, being cooped up at home is a pill proving hard to swallow.

However, amongst all this mayhem, there could be a silver lining. As we are encouraged to stay at home where we can to help protect not just ourselves but others we have a little more time on our hands. Not only that but feeling stuck in one place can lead to feelings of being both physically and psychologically. So rather than getting ourselves down, we should embrace this extra time for ourselves. It’s the perfect time to indulge in some self-care, dust off that yoga mat or pick up new hobbies or old!

Continue reading “Stuck at home? Writing Prompts to keep the boredom at bay”
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Back in Blighty – NOW TAKING ENQUIRIES!

Wow, it’s been a whirlwind month. So much for taking a rest, eh? I’ve had the past month or so off travelling with my partner in a green-and-purple camper van around the south island of New Zealand. What an experience!? I’ve learnt so much, read a few books and experienced some amazing things.

However, all good things must come to an end and so our Antipodean travels must draw to a close. After a year in Australia and then a month in New Zealand, we’re now back on British soil. We had the most wonderful time, went on so many adventures and met some lovely people but I must admit I am glad to be home. There really is no place like home, is there?

Continue reading “Back in Blighty – NOW TAKING ENQUIRIES!”