Editing Chatter with Nerine Dorman

One person who almost always has a read-through on my manuscripts before they go to my agent is the wonderful Nerine Dorman.

I’ve known her for many years and watched her move from a career in journalism to writing. As an editor, she’s got a sharp eye for errors and a strong feel for story and character that makes her someone I really trust with my writing.

Since many of the writers I know are looking at self-publishing as part of a hybrid career, and know it’s always worth the expense of getting your work professionally edited, here’s one whip-cracking, red pen-wielding editrix I’d definitely recommend.

We had a brief chat about the kinds of things she sees as an editor, some words of advice, and what she loves about working with clients.

Q: You’ve been editing many years now, is there a moment in working on a client’s manuscript where you feel like your input has really made a difference and makes the effort all worth it?

A: Oh, I have a few of those every once in a while; I adorably call them my little sponges. They’re usually new writers who’re serious about knocking their manuscripts in shape, and they take what I have to give, absorb it and apply it. There have been moments when I feel that my epic editor letter may have chased them away, but then they’ve come back a few months later with a novel that’s vastly different (and greatly improved) from the one they initially laid down on my desk. They offset the authors who seem to pay me to tell them that their little darlings are perfect, who respond to my suggestions with a “thanks, but I like the novel the way it is”. This is also their prerogative, but I’m a voracious reader on top of my work that I do as editor, so I’d like to think that I’ve a good feel for a number of different genres, and can offer advice based on years of experience that may be of some use.

Q: What’s the single biggest error you see coming up time and again in the work you edit?

A: Most often, this would be point-of-view issues, which is usually the case with the newer writers who often write as though they’re watching a movie instead of writing a work of fiction (which once again brings home the idea that not enough would-be authors are devoted readers who have a natural feel or flair for the written word). While omniscient third isn’t wrong, I see (very) few authors get it right. Go read Terry Pratchett, see how he handles it. I’ve seen sex scenes written from both partners’ points of view… Which can be interesting, and not in a pleasant way. My advice to authors is Resist the Temptation of showing everything. Sometimes having a limited, unreliable narrator in first person or a deep third makes all the difference. (Less is more, in other words.) Write only what that character can hear/see/taste/touch/feel/think … Give readers a chance to wonder before you reveal important truths.

Q: I know you have edited your fair share of kinky erotica, do you ever, while editing, have to contort your body to work out how the characters got into *that* position?

A: I’ll admit to squirming in my chair because some of those positions the BDSM and dubcon authors bring to me involve whips, hooks, broken glass and barbed wire (no, I’m not making this up). That being said, my ladies who write erotica often make me wonder if certain anatomical interactions are possible, but considering the few times I’ve ill-advisably browsed videos in an adult shop, I’ve realised there are many more things possible than would make me comfortable. I’m very vanilla these days for a reason, even though my vanilla meter is long broken. [laughs] From discussions I’ve had with my erotica authors, I gain the impression that they know their stuff in the genre or are themselves immersed in the lifestyle, so I’m yet to call any of their contortions into question.

Q: You have a background in art and design – do you ever envision a time when you offer clients a full package of editing and cover design to save them from Cover Disasters?

A: I do, from time to time, offer a full package, but that’s usually because clients already know that I can design. And then depending on what’s required, it will either be just myself helping out, or a combination of me and the husband creature, who does graphics for the film industry and is an absolute wizard when it comes to photo manipulation and typography. I’ve certainly helped authors in the right direction, and some of the work we’ve done through the Skolion co-operative that I co-founded with a few other authors, we’ve put out some stunning book covers. It’s great being able to advise on a full package, considering I’ve edited the work so have an idea of what sort of style might be suitable. Also, I’m a bloody nit-picker when it comes to the typography on a front cover, and I’ve made graphic designers swear and/or cry. An independently published book must look as good, if not better, than its traditionally published brethren. But…sometimes I also just keep my mouth shut unless I’m asked for an opinion, even though I’m cringing inwardly.

Q: What’s your favourite genre to edit, and why?

A: Hands down, this would be fantasy, preferably the kind that is clever, textured and lush, with characters who’re unusual and drag me out of my comfort zone. I love fantasy because the author is free to mess with the rules of world building, so for me it’s very much about imagining other realities that differ vastly from our own. I love taking a break from the real world. After that, it’s science fiction, horror, romance in all its expressions, and historical. Also, I’m LGBTI friendly – I love seeing works that don’t follow the usual norms. I’m not huge on crime or thrillers, however, but will take on contemporary fiction if the story has an interesting premise.

IF you’re looking for a well-rounded editor at reasonable rates, contact Nerine and chat with her about your editing needs.

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